Friday, September 10, 2010

Shelly Manne Live At The Black Hawk

Shelly Manne (drums; b. 1920 - d. 1984)

I have to begin with the statement, I really didn't get into Shelly Manne until a few years ago. But I am glad I did.

Considered one of the best drummers ever, Shelly Manne was pure gift on the kit. Mainly known as part of the West coast outfit of jazz musicians, Manne originally got his start in New York in bands with Joe Marsala (clarinet) and Stan Kenton's (piano, leader) Orchestra until he moved out west in the early '50s. Shelly Manne had a driven rhythm and was dedicated and revered leader. His groups were super-tight and always came to play. He was one of those great leaders who lets his band get on with what they do best.

In addition to being a great leader he was also a superior session member. Manne worked with Ornette Coleman, Sonny Rollins, Benny Carter and late in his life with Tom Waits. Throughout his career Manne maneuvered between his group, session work and film projects (Hitchcock's Rear Window being one of the most known) but it was always his group and performing live that drove him.

There are quite a few best of compilations that are all worth picking up if you want the general overview. The most simply and affordable one is The Best Of Shelly Manne (Contemporary Records) which covers the most significant pieces. But for the real true experience of this dynamic performer I highly suggest jazz fans shell out the money for the four disc set Complete Live At The Black Hawk (American Jazz Classics).

Manne's group was one of the best bebop bands on the West coast and could rival anything coming out of the east at the time. The nights at the Black Hawk were beautiful and blistering. It's one of those live albums that puts you front and center of the action. There's some amazing numbers including "Whisper Not," "Poinciana," "Step Lightly," "Cabu" and "A Gem For Tiffany", all of which display a quintet at the peak of its power.

Shelly Manne recorded some amazing live albums including many at his own club, Shelly's Manne-Hole but Live At The Black Hawk has always been the one that I recommend to anyone. It's powerful, beautiful and stacked with superior performances. Consider this right up there as one of great live jazz albums of all time. I have a feeling some readers may not know much about Shelly Manne but I urge to find out more...

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