Friday, October 17, 2014

Battle of the Sexes

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 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. 

But I love Mary Osborne, the little I've heard of her playing (there isn't much), and I've always appreciated Terry Pollard and Beryl Booker (the little I've heard of their playing – not much of that either). So maybe the match-up was more equal than it first appeared.

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 vs. ChicksClark Terry, Terry PollardMGM E3614
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:


  1. Great to have you back David! And what an interesting share you come back with. I have a version of this that also contains another Feather production that had Dizzy Gillespie's Cool Jazz Stars vs. Jimmy McPartland's Hot Jazz Stars. That contest is interesting, but fits the battle of that time (Modern jazz vs Dixieland, if you will). The material that you share is of course a battle that has gone on since the beginning (man vs woman) but I found significantly more interesting because I knew very little about the women performing. As you share, they are very talented and swing the tunes like nobody's business. I look forward to this download to hear the bonus material of Terry Pollard. Thank you for yet another interesting share.

    1. Sorry for the long wait between posts, JC. I've been busy working on a bio for the University of Texas Press and by the end of the day I'm too beat to digitize the many albums I've set aside for this blog. I'll try to be a little more regular. I've seen the Gillespie/McPartland LP but have yet to acquire it. As you say, it's the kind of comparison one would expect. The gender-based one-on-one is much more risky, methinks. And therefore more interesting. Enjoy! More to come.