Warming Up

Warming Up

Monday, January 24, 2011

Guess The Trumpet Player Winner

The winner of the second installment of the Outside Pants Guess The Trumpet Player contest is……..”Anonymous” of Philadelphia, PA (although James Primosch did identify Gil Evans as the arranger).  And the correct answer is…….Johnny Coles. 

The tune is called “Davenport Blues” and it was written by Bix Beiderbecke and arranged here by the great Gil Evans for an amazing 1959 album “Great Jazz Standards.”  “Davenport Blues” was a tune associated with Bix (Bix was born in Davenport, IL), but the great, and mostly forgotten trumpeter Red Nichols also had a hit with the tune in 1939.  Both Bix’s and Red’s

versions are in a fast swing style.  Gil Evans slows it down and arranges it masterfully for the warm sound of Johnny Coles.  Something about Johnny’s style here just really blows me away.  It’s not bravura virtuosity, but there is a virtuoso quality to his phrasing and the way he manipulates his notes.  So much feeling here it’s almost painful.  Listen to his cadenzas.  And listen to how Gil sets up the cadenzas or, even better, how the arrangements “finish” Johnny’s cadenzas.  And Gil’s piano comping when everything drops down is so crazy and pure Gil.  It’s a great study to compare and contrast this album of Gil’s with the ones he was doing (at about the same time) with Miles Davis.  All such amazing music.  And like Gil said, all he was doing was “writing arrangements for great singers of songs.”  And the singer on “Davenport Blues” is Johnny Coles.

If you aren’t familiar with Johnny Coles, or only slightly familiar, you might hear comparisons to Miles Davis.  I don’t really think this is fair.  Sure, both players often had sparser styles than players like Dizzy Gillespie or Clifford Brown.  And neither had that brassy trumpet sound.  And Coles and Davis both sure had the ability to say a whole lot with one note.  But I think the comparisons really end there.  Johnny Coles only sounds like Johnny Coles.  His lines and phrasing can be really strange, almost sneaky.  His articulation can be blunt and almost stuffed up which makes him sound like he’s playing way behind the beat sometimes.  He bends notes in the hippest ways.  His vibrato is absolutely singular.  And he just sings through the horn.  So while Johnny Coles, a guy who spent many years living in Philadelphia, is certainly under the radar for most people, musicians in the know are very aware of what Johnny Coles can do.  Just ask Charles Mingus, or Herbie Hancock, or Duke Ellington, or Art Blakey.  Or Gil Evans. 

So, nice work “Anonymous” – I do know who you are. There’s a copy of Outside Pants Vol. 1 – Old School Players coming your way!  Another Guess the Trumpet Player is coming this Thursday so stay tuned.

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