|Norma Carson and Clark Terry go blow for blow in a promo shot, possibly taken around the time of the recording featured in this posting. Photographer unknown|
I don't know about you, but I'm not a real fan of concept albums. The organizing conceit usually causes the music to play second fiddle, with the resulting whole often sounding less than the sum of its parts (if that makes any sense). But this record piqued my interest when I saw it offered at shopgoodwill.com and I had to pick it up. Girls vs. boys in a best-of-four jazz donnybrook? Find out which sex plays better jazz!
Ridiculous, I know. But still, haven't you always wondered what a direct performance comparison between male and female jazz players would sound like? No? Well, me either until I got this disc. After listening, I was surprised to find that the differences were ... essentially nil. Each group swings, plays well together and solos with conviction. That was a surprise, especially considering the line-up for the guys' team. Clark Terry? Lucky Thompson? Horace Silver, Urbie Green, Tal Farlow, Percy Heath AND Kenny Clarke? That just didn't seem fair.
As I was listening, I did a little research into the feminine side of the personnel – and came away very impressed! Terry Pollard, for instance. I knew she played with Terry Gibbs, but not much more. Check this out:
Wiki says she also performed with Coltrane, Bird, Miles, Duke, Nat, Dinah and Ella. I can see why. It's a mystery that we don't have more recordings from her. But then, with this record we do.
Then there's Corky Hecht. Or maybe I should say Merrilyn Hecht. Or Corky Hale. I'd heard her name before and knew she played harp (she's on an obscure Kitty White record that I have), but that was about it. Turns out she's a monster talent on multiple levels: harpist, pianist, singer, actress, producer – and centerfold! At nearly 40, she did some demo work for the songwriting duo Lieber & Stoller and wound up marrying Mike Stoller. Around that time, she was a regular on Johnny Carson. Dig:
Mary Osborne we all know (or should). She got her chops directly from Charlie Christian, sitting in with him long before Benny Goodman had ever heard of him. Here's Mary with a few of the boys in an excerpt from Art Ford's Jazz Party in 1958:
And then there's Beryl Booker and Norma Carson, both veterans and both very underrated players. You get to hear them go up against the fellas, tune for tune. Producer Leonard Feather has other critics act as judges and they wind up calling the match a draw. I would agree. See what you think.
This LP was originally issued as an EP with just the "cats vs. chicks" material. When MGM repackaged it as a 12-inch album, they added six more tunes featuring Terry Pollard in trio and quartet settings. She plays both piano and vibes in an impressive set of standards and originals. A most welcome addition.
So here's a concept album that I think we all can appreciate. As always, these files come right from the original vinyl with very little cleaning of the sound required.
Cats: Clark Terry, tp; Lucky Thompson, ts; Urbie Green, tbn; Horace Silver, p; Tal Farlow, g; Percy Heath, b; Kenny Clarke, d.Chicks: Norman Carson, tp; Terry Pollard, vbs; Corky Hecht, harp; Beryl Booker, p; Mary Osborne, g; Bonnie Wetzel, b; Elaine Leighton, d.New York, NY, 1958
1. Cat Meets Chick (Cats)2. Cat Meets Chick (Chicks)3. Mamblues (Cats)4. Mamblues (Chicks)5. The Man I Love (Chicks)6. The Man I Love (Cats)7. Anything You Can Do (Both)
Terry Pollard, vbs, p; Terry Gibbs, p; Ernie Farrow, b; Frank DiVito, d.New York, NY, 1958
8. Good Bait9. I Remember You10. Terry's Blues11. That Feeling12. Terry's Romp13. Emaline
Find it here: https://www.mediafire.com/?homa8suwxp1fy8x