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Music

BASIE PLAYS HEFTI

PARDON MY DOO-WAH

Epic 1959
Mono LN-3481 – Stereo BN-504
NEAL HEFTI & HIS ORCHESTRA

Composed, Arranged, Conducted by NEAL HEFTI

After Supper

Buttercup

Cherry Point

Chug-A-Lug

Cool Blue

Coral Reef

Kiss Me First

Li'l Darlin'

Oh, What a Night For Love

Ready Rudy

Splanky

Two For the Blues

Fads in lyrics may come and go (remember “ting-tang-walla-walla?”) but isn’t it reassuring to know that the old “doo-wah” goes on forever?

And isn’t it still nicer to have Neal Hefti dishing it out?

When Hefti & Co. take over a recording studio, the result can only be an unbroken series of the most joyous, swinging, easy-listening sounds this side of an album called “Singing Instrumentals” (by coincidence another Hefti album, circa 1954).

For this session, Hefti has added a few extra flourishes.

He has thoughtfully allowed five of his twelve original compositions (six if you count the delightful “Cherry Point”) to be further embellished with words. This is for the benefit of those who still think only words can convey meaning.

The lyric writers are Steve Allen, well-known pianist, short-story writer and Maverick tamer, and Jon Hendricks, who specializes in adding words to already firmly established instrumentals. He put new life in Woody Herman’s “Four Brothers” and, more recently, added words to a dozen of Count Basie’s arrangements.

In this set, Hendricks’ lyrics put new enjoyment in “Two for the Blues” and “Buttercup.” This is as triumphant an occasion as the moment when lyrics were added to “Lullaby of Birdland.”

Steve Allen’s contributions are “Cool Blue” (which you may have known as “Plymouth Rock” when Hefti wrote it for Basie); “Kiss Me First,” (formerly “Why Not” in the Basie book), and ‘Oh, What a Night for Love,” a summery melody that Basie cut as “Softly, with Feeling.”

Another distinguishing characteristic of “Pardon My Doo-Wah” is Hefti’s vocalizing on the aforementioned “Cherry Point,” a tune he describes as “a take-off on an old Boy Scout gag tune we used to sing around the campfire.”

The other confections in this package-all Hefti originals – are “After Supper,” “Coral Reef,” “Ready Rudy,” “Chug-a-lug,” “Li’l Darlin’” and ”Splanky.” These tunes, now sporting scat lyrics voiced by a chorus of eight (four and four), range from bluesy to bop-accented bright. And they all have healthy amounts of the secret Hefti ingredients that always make for a tasty treat. As Hefti said after the session, “It was a real happy one.”

Hefti, born in Hastings, Nebraska, Oct. 29, 1922, took his trumpet to New York soon after finishing high school and got his basic training with the bands of Bobby Byrne, Charlie Spivak and Charlie Barnet. In 1944, he moved into Woody Herman’s brass section and began knocking out his knocked out compositions and arrangements. Remember “Apple Honey,” “Caldonia,” “Northwest Passage” and “Wildroot?” All Hefti’s they were. Neal showed us how bop could be blended with swing to produce sounds that never grow stale. And he did it when most people were ridiculing the bop musician.

For a couple of years in the early ‘50’s, Neal and his wife, Frances Wayne (one of the best – and prettiest – of singers), toured with their own big band. Neal continued writing compositions/arrangements for Basie and other powerhouse groups and at present is one of the most sought-after arranger-composer-conductors in the land.

The man can be commercial, too. Witness his arrangement of a single titled “Sugartime,” which recently earned a Gold Record for three pretty sisters named McGuire

And Neal can pick talent. He always works with the best, it seems, and this time is no exception.

There’s Phil Woods, 26-year-old native of Springfield, Mass., one of the top alto sax men. He has worked with Barnet, Lennie Tristano, Richard Hayman, the Jimmy Raney quintet, and Dizzy Gillespie. That’s Phil on “Ready Rudy,” “Cherry Point,” “Kiss Me First” and “Chug-a-lug.”

Seldon Powell, heard here on “Splanky,” is rapidly winning new fans with his tenor sax (he also plays a mean flute and piccolo). Hefti helped give this young New Yorker a boost when he added him to the big band he formed in 1952.

Jerome Richardson, another versatile jazzman, put his flute aside and stayed with his alto horn for this date. A Lionel Hampton alumnus, Jerome now spends most of his time in New York free-lancing. You’ll hear his big sound on “After Supper” and “Oh, What a Night for Love.”

Sonny Russo on trombone is another lad who traveled with the Hefti-Wayne crew some years ago. He also fitted into the Sauter-Finnegan era. Now in a Broadway musical’s pit band, Sonny is always called upon for record sessions such as this.

Frankie Rehak is another solid trombonist whose credentials list Dizzy (for the Pakistan and Far East safari) and Charlie Barnet. A sample of his horn is included in “After Supper.”

Ernie Royal, whose trumpet is herein heated on “Splanky,” “Chug-a-lug” and “After Supper,” came out of Los Angeles to play with Hampton, then with the Phil Moore Four and, after three years in the Navy during World War II, with Herman and Ellington. Ernie helped the Stan Kenton crew blast off on many a date and started free-lancing about five years ago.

Al Cohn, another busy-as-he-wants-to-be-because-he’s-so-good tenor man. Only 32, Al is a Brooklynite who saw the world with Joe Marsala, Georgie Auld, Buddy Rich and the fabulous Herman Herd, vintage ’48 and ’49. Neal, hip to Cohn’s horn work, always includes him in his plans.

Joe Wilder, the fabulous Philadelphian who saw action not only with the Marines in our last Time of Peril, but with Hamp, Luncefore and, of course, the Count. That’s Wilder on “Coral Reef,” with a muted trumpet.

Milt Hinton, the granddaddy of this ensemble, was born in Vicksburg, Miss, in 1910. Milt grew up in Chicago, playing his beloved bass fiddle in high school, later with Eddie South, Zutty Singleton and Cab Calloway. His service record also includes honors with Basie, Satchmo, Benny Goodman and scads of top-flight albums (of which this is one more).

Joseph Galbraith and his impeccable guitaristry, out of Pittsburgh, has been free-lancing around New York, doing studio work after traveling with Red Norvo, Teddy Powell, Claude Thornhill and Hal McIntyre. You’ll find one sample of his touch on “Li’l Darlin’.”

Lou Stein, pianist, another Philadelphian who started out as a saxophone player. His past associates included Buddy DeFranco, Ray McKinley and the Glenn Miller band of U.S. Air Force days. Be it traditional or modern style, Stein delivers.

Billy Byers, Los Angeles trombonist, did studio work in Hollywood before moving eastward with Georgie Auld, Buddy Rich and Benny Goodman. Now quite busy, thank you, as a free lance.

Mel Davis, a relative newcomer to the front ranks, recently cut an album of his won for Epic called “Trumpet with a Soul,” which is as apt a description of his sound as you can find.

Charlie Persip, another Gillespie alumnus, is free-lancing at present and helping to make jazz albums that much more popular with his tasteful and pulsating stick work.

Sol Gubin, drummer for all but four of the 12 numbers included here (Persip sat in on “Li’l Darlin’,” “Cool Blue,” “Kiss Me First” and “Oh, What a Night for Love”) has done mostly studio and TV work around New York. He has, nevertheless, impressed more and more of the older jazzmen with his drive and style.

George Duvivier, a Conservatory of Music and Art alumnus in New York, has built the rhythm with his bass for such as Nellie Lutcher, Lena Horne, Pearl Bailey and Mr. B, Billy Eckstein. George is a composer and arranger in his own right. He’s there on “Coral Reef,” “Buttercup,” “Two for the Blues” and “Ready Rudy.”

That’s the lineup as you get set to hear Neal Hefti’s “Pardon My Doo-Wah.”

As for us, we’ll pardon his doo-wah anytime.

FRED DANZIG