Saturday, August 27, 2011

Leonard Bernstein's "jazz band"

On Thursday 25 conductor-composer-pianist Leonard Bernstein would have been 93 (he died in 1990). For this reason, a clip from his Omnibus series—from the episode devoted to jazz—has been unearthed again by jazz buffs. In this episode, broadcast live on October 16, 1955, Bernstein explained a few technical aspects of jazz and blues (blue notes, syncopation, etc.) and it ended with his own composition: "Prelude, Fugue and Riffs".

Some time ago I wondered about the line-up of this band, especially assembled for the programme. All we had at the time was a 15-second excerpt, which made things quite difficult (and led to mistaking Toots Mondello for Al Gallodoro on clarinet and alto sax).

Since then, the whole programme has been available on line (it's gone now) and we've been able to get some more names and also some stills of the show. My thanks go again to Hal McKusick, Kenny Berger, Bill Crow, Loren Schoenberg and the late Danny Bank.

Some of you will know these names from countless jazz (or jazz-y) recordings from the 1950s (check Miles Davis's recordings with Gil Evans, for instance) or will have heard them play without knowing who they were. These musicians, generally anonymous, were among the busiest studio hands of New York at the time, and footage of them playing is quite rare. The line-up is not complete yet, so feel free to post any suggestions you may have. It should be noted that, although it's been said otherwise, the personnel on the Columbia recording of the piece above—conducted by Bernstein, with Benny Goodman on clarinet—is not the same as in the TV programme.

You can now watch the whole programme, here.

So far we have:

TRUMPETS: Lou Oles, Bernie Glow, Al de Risi, Louis Mucci.
TROMBONES: Urbie Green, poss. Frank Siracco, ? .
SAXES: Danny Bank (bass), Boomie Richman (tenor), Romeo Penque (tenor and clarinet), Sam Marowitz (alto), Al Gallodoro (alto and clarinet).
VIBES: Phil Kraus.
PIANO: Bernie Leighton.
BASS: Jack Lesberg.
DRUMS: Sol Gubin.
VOCALS: Lu Elliott and Lois O'Brien. 

These are some stills from the programme (click on them to enlarge):

Richman, Gallodoro, Lesberg

Richman, Lesberg, Mucci, Gubin, and Green


Sol Gubin and Jack Lesberg

Lou Oles

Louis Mucci on trumpet. But who's on trombone?

Lou Oles, Bernie Glow, Al de Risi , Louis Mucci 

Al de Risi

Al de Risi

Bernie Leighton on piano
Bernie Leighton
Lu Elliott

Lois O'Brien


Anonymous said...

The singers were Lu Elliot and Lois O'Brien.

Fernando Ortiz de Urbina said...