Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The GRamercy Five

I’m still listening my way through my dad’s CDs: Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, Ivie Anderson, Louis Armstrong, Fred Astaire, Mildred Bailey, Count Basie, Tony Bennett, Art Blakey, Ruby Braff and Ellis Larkins, Clifford Brown, Dave Brubeck, Joe Bushkin, Hoagy Carmichael, Betty Carter, Ray Charles, Charlie Christian, Rosemary Clooney, Nat “King” Cole, John Coltrane, Bing Crosby, Miles Davis, Matt Dennis, Doris Day, Blossom Dearie, Paul Desmond, Tommy Dorsey, Billy Eckstine, Duke Ellington, Bill Evans, Gil Evans, Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Erroll Garner, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman, Stéphane Grappelli, Bobby Hackett, Coleman Hawkins, Woody Herman, Earl Hines, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Dick Hyman, Harry James, Hank Jones, Louis Jordan, Stan Kenton, Barney Kessel, Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross, Peggy Lee, Mary Ann McCall, Susannah McCorkle, Dave McKenna, Ray McKinley, Marian McPartland, Johnny Mercer, Helen Merrill, Glenn Miller, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Thelonious Monk, Wes Montgomery, Gerry Mulligan, Red Norvo, Anita O’Day, Charlie Parker, Joe Pass, Art Pepper, Oscar Peterson, Bud Powell, Boyd Raeburn, Django Reinhardt, Marcus Roberts, Sonny Rollins, Jimmy Rushing, Catherine Russell, the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra.

And now, Artie Shaw, about fourteen hours of Artie Shaw. What a band. I had no idea. But also: what a small group, the Gramercy Five, its name inspired by Shaw’s telephone exchange. Here are two Gramercy Five sides:

“Special Delivery Stomp” (Artie Shaw). Recorded in Hollywood, September 3, 1940.

“My Blue Heaven” (Walter Donaldson–George A. Whiting). Recorded in Hollywood, December 5, 1940.

The links will take you to digitized 78s from the George Blood collection at (The RCA Bluebird Complete Gramercy Five Sessions presents the music with much cleaner sound.) On both sides: Artie Shaw, clarinet; Billy Butterfield, trumpet; Johnny Guarnieri, harpsichord; Al Hendrickson, electric guitar; Jud DeNaut, bass; Nick Fatool drums.

“Special Delivery Stomp” puts me in mind of Raymond Scott. On both recordings, the electric guitar and harpischord (which sounds at times almost like a pedal steel guitar) make me think of Western swing. Seventy-seven years after the fact, it’s amazing music. Ralph Waldo Emerson had the explanation, even if he didn’t get to hear the Gramercy Five: “This perpetual modernness is the measure of merit in every work of art.”

Artie Shaw was a curmudgeon’s curmudgeon. On the difference between Benny Goodman and himself: “I played music. Goodman played the clarinet.”

Also from my dad’s CDs
Mildred Bailey : Tony Bennett : Charlie Christian : Blossom Dearie : Duke Ellington : Coleman Hawkins : Billie Holiday : Louis Jordan : Charlie Parker : Jimmy Rushing

[Another ensemble whose name may have been inspired by an exchange name: the Stuyvesant Quartet.]

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