Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Manny Albam: A Response To Wild Style

Every generation has their musical innovators. I haven't figured out who that is in the KV of mine. Linda Babits was a major talent but I don't know enough about classical music to consider her an innovator. The same could be said of Judith Raskin. In addition she was of my parents' generation.
Anyway I have here for your consideration, as an innovator at least, Manny Albam. I can't place his exact whereabouts in NYC, but he graduated from Stuyvesant High School in 1938. Stuyvesant seems to be hot lately. David Axelrod, who ran Obama's campaign is a Stuyvesant grad, class of 1972, and now today, Eric Holder, class of 1969, has been pegged to be the next Attorney General.
From Albam's 2004 obituary and other sources:
Manny Albam, a 60 year jazz veteran, died of cancer on October 2, at his home in Croton-on-Hudson, NY. Mr. Albam was born on June 24, 1922 in Samana, Dominican Republic and raised in New York City. Albam started playing alto and baritone saxophone professionally while still at Stuyvesant High School. He became interested in jazz on hearing Bix Beiderbecke and at sixteen dropped out of school to play for Dixieland trumpeter-leader Muggsy Spanier, but it was his membership in a group led by Georgie Auld that turned Albam's career around. The Auld group included saxophonist Budd Johnson, then a primary arranger for the group, and Johnson mentored Albam as an arranger. By 1950, Albam had put down his baritone sax and began to concentrate strictly on arranging, writing, and leading. Within a few years, he became known for a bebop-oriented style that emphasized taut and witty writing with a flair for distinctive shadings. (Flute-led reed sections became something of an Albam trademark.) He became known for his work for forward-looking bandleaders Charlie Barnet and Charlie Spivak, before moving forward to collaborate with jazzmen as varied as Count Basie, Stan Getz, Bob Brookmeyer (who frequently appeared on Albam's own albums as a leader), Coleman Hawkins (particularly the tenor saxophone pioneer's late-life but spry recording of "I Love Paris"), Dizzy Gillespie, Freddie Hubbard, Hank Jones, Mel Lewis, Art Farmer, Urbie Green, and Milt Hinton, among others, on their recordings and on his own recordings as a leader for several labels. Albam also found an entree into the classical music world when he arranged Leonard Bernstein's score for West Side Story in 1957 ( a section heard above)---Bernstein was said to have been so impressed that he invited Albam to write for the New York Philharmonic itself, an invitation, according to allmusic.com, that led Albam to study classical music for a time and, in due course, write such works as Concerto for Trombone and Strings. He also recorded several critically lauded albums under his own name and wrote for films, television and commercials. He continued as an arranger into the late 1990's working most recently with Joe Lovano and Nancy Marano. In the latter part of his life, Mr. Albam focused on jazz education. He established a summer arranging workshop at Eastman School of Music in 1964. He later taught at Glassboro State College in New Jersey and the Manhattan School of Music and served as musical director of the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop.

By coincidence, i.e. in regard to Phil Woods, I remember hearing Manny play at the Paramount Theater in Peekskill a this concert. From the nytimes of April 1, 1990
At the Peekskill Paramount on Friday at 8:30 P.M., a concert of Latin American music features the Jibaro String Band, with the vocalist Dalia Chevre and Yomo Toro, a virtuoso on the cuatro, a small Latin American instrument of the guitar family. Then on Saturday at 8 P.M., Manny Albam brings his All-Star Big Band to the Paramount for an evening of jazz. His 17 performing colleagues includethe great alto sax player, Phil Woods. For reservations to either concert, call the box office at 739-2333.

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