You, me, the music, and me.

Monday, February 20, 2006


Verve V-8497 (1962)

Shelley Manne is so closely identified with the drum sound of such early big-band swing ensembles as those belonging to Raymond Scott, Woody Herman, and Stan Kenton that it's easy to forget that he's also one of the most versatile, creative, and downright musical drummers who ever lived. Equally at home with the traditional sounds of Les Brown or the forward-looking Ornette Coleman, Manne is in perfect sync with pianist Bill Evans, another musician with the ability to sound at home in various musical situations (Miles Davis' Kind of Blue band, various trios, and overdubbed duets with himself).

The album itself covers a wide swath of styles; "The Washington Twist" is a staccato blues with a polite Dave Brubeck-like theme that breaks into some smooth and swinging soloing from Evans. Manne is nearly inaudible beneath the calm surface of "Danny Boy", providing just the right amount of support and momentum to the sentimental ballad. "Let's Go Back to the Waltz" finds Evans and co. returning to one of his favourite dance rhythms; bassist Monty Budwig gets off a full-bodied solo before the gentle 3/4 time suddenly breaks into a rapid four-on-the-floor shuffle, then returns to a slightly faster waltz tempo at the end. The traditional standard "With a Song in My Heart" gets an avant-garde makeover near its end, as the trio seem to improvise freely over the feel of the song (in a manner similar to Ornette Coleman's).

Empathy almost seems like too obvious a choice of title for this album; so relaxed and in tune with each other are the three musicians on this record that it sounds as if it were made by one person (with three distinct personalities).


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