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Larry Kart

Sauter-Finegan "Memories of Goodman and Miller"

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Another LP from the distant past that I found on my shelves— bought it used a few years ago and may not have ever sat down and listened to it before — “Sauter-Finegan Memories of Goodman and Miller” (RCA, 1958). Based on the personnel lists in the booklet of the one Sauter-Finegan CD I have, “Directions in Music,” an RCA compiliation that includes one track from the Goodman-Miller album (I have several other S-F LPs), the band here is a mix of S-F vets and some NY studio regulars of the time: Doc Severinsen, Al DeRisi, Joe Ferrante, tpts.; Rex Peer, Sonny Russo, Tom Mitchell, trbs.; Jay McAllister, tuba; Walt Levinsky, Phil Woods, Al Block, Al Klink, Wally Kane, Gene Allen, reeds; Lou Stein, piano; Nanette Norton, harp; Mundell Lowe, guitar; George Duvivier, bass;, Don Lamond, drms; Joe Venuto, per. — a formidable batch of executants, and do they play their asses off. And the writing is quite something too — not reproductions of Finegan and Sauter's vintage Miller and Goodman charts but more or less a series of inventive fantasies from S and F on the likes of “Little Brown Jug," “Clarinet a la King,” “Song of the Volga Boatman,” “Benny Rides Again," etc. Levinsky takes the clarinet solos on the Goodman pieces, expert playing but more Shaw-like than Goodman-esque, and there are a number of solos from unidentified others, although Woods is unmistakable and in fine form on “Volga Boatman.” My friend Bill Kirchner says, "From a jazz point of view, it’s probably the best of the S-F albums."

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Thanks for the review. I also have several S-F LPs here (including the "Directions in Music" LP so will listen in on the sample track you mention) and am still looking for "Sons of S-F" (admittedly for the Jim Flora cover too ^_^). Generally I like their charts but may well have passed up the "Memories of Goodman and Miller" LP when I saw one as I did not feel like needing another Goodman/Miller rehash (they were not the only ones in this field at the time). But your review definitely prompts me to make a note to check closer next time. :tup

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11 minutes ago, Big Beat Steve said:

Thanks for the review. I also have several S-F LPs here (including the "Directions in Music" LP so will listen in on the sample track you mention) and am still looking for "Sons of S-F" (admittedly for the Jim Flora cover too ^_^). Generally I like their charts but may well have passed up the "Memories of Goodman and Miller" LP when I saw one as I did not feel like needing another Goodman/Miller rehash (they were not the only ones in this field at the time). But your review definitely prompts me to make a note to check closer next time. :tup

I also thought it would be a rehash, which is why I didn't listen to it after I bought it for 50 cents or so. But a rehash it's not IMO. BTW, I found the Finegan-Miller tracks here more interesting than the Sauter-Goodman ones, perhaps because the former in their original form were more plain than the Goodman-Sauter originals and thus offered c. 1958 Finegan more room for variation-invention than the already rather worked-up vintage Sauter-Goodman pieces left room for c. '58 Sauter.

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If I'm not really jazzed by S-F in general (on the grounds that the writing is just too damn clever for its (or at least, my) own good, would this record be an exception that proves the rule? When I her/read the description "inventive fantasies", my spider-sense gets a little tingly.

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29 minutes ago, JSngry said:

If I'm not really jazzed by S-F in general (on the grounds that the writing is just too damn clever for its (or at least, my) own good, would this record be an exception that proves the rule? When I her/read the description "inventive fantasies", my spider-sense gets a little tingly.

Your tingly spider sense probably should be trusted, but this record, especially the Finegan half, is less over the top clever than other S-F music I know. As Bill Kirchner said, "From a jazz point of view, it’s probably the best of the S-F albums." But then your typical S-F fan probably doesn't have that much of a jazz point of view. OTOH, if you see the album used for a few bucks or less... I'll add that the Duvivier-Lamond bass and drums team keeps things swinging by and large, and that both the orchestral execution and the sound quality (on my mono pressing) are exceptional. 

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12 hours ago, Larry Kart said:

 But then your typical S-F fan probably doesn't have that much of a jazz point of view.

Who or what's a "typical S-F fan"? :lol: I don't consider myself one but I do have a soft spot for those 50s (and 40s, as it may be) "progressive" big bands too. And I confess I also have a soft spot for what Eddie Sauter did here in Germany, e.g. with the Südwestfunk radio big band. And this IS a "jazz point of view". ;)
As for "clever" (a rather abused term in this kind of debate IMHO), I take this to mean "overly calculated for effect" here. In some instances I cannot disagree but where would anyone draw the line ("one man's meat ...") about who'd fall into that category, particulary since I have also seen it used as the sort of musical antipode to "blowing sessions throughout".

Edited by Big Beat Steve

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Clever-carpenter.png

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This was one of a few Sauter-Finegan albums I unloaded years ago.  It idid not have the X factor, but I think condition played a role also.

Some of their stuff is too corny.  That stuff went also.  

The best SF albums have Jim Flora cover art.  

Why would you want to listen to an album with ugly cover art when you can listen to an album with bold, moderne cover art?

Edited by Teasing the Korean

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The great Sauter-Finegan album that has eluded me is Adventures in Time.  

 

17 hours ago, JSngry said:

 When I her/read the description "inventive fantasies", my spider-sense gets a little tingly.

I have the same reaction whenever I hear "from a jazz point of view." 

Edited by Teasing the Korean

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How much SF record was theres? They seem like a prime project for the "new Mosaic". Hopefully there's not enough material to invite them.

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23 minutes ago, JSngry said:

How much SF record was theres? They seem like a prime project for the "new Mosaic". Hopefully there's not enough material to invite them.

Quite a bit.  Several RCA LPs, at least 2 UA LPs, some singles not collected on LP.

This gives you an idea, but it is not complete.  (There is at least one more UA album.)

http://www.spaceagepop.com/sauterfi.htm

The existing CDs (that I've heard) do not do them justice.  Lots of sleepy, corny stuff for the Music of Your Life crowd, and few of the adventurous arrangements.

Of course, if Mosaic released this stuff, we would not get the Jim Flora cover art, so we would lose much of what makes this music cool to begin with. 

 

Edited by Teasing the Korean

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1 hour ago, JSngry said:

How much SF record was theres? They seem like a prime project for the "new Mosaic". Hopefully there's not enough material to invite them.

However much SF there was, I think that much of it has been reissued, singly or in sets, by Euro labels of the familiar sort. Thus the economic viability of a Mosaic set probably would be "meh."

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from your post to scott's brain

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6 hours ago, Big Beat Steve said:

Who or what's a "typical S-F fan"? :lol: I don't consider myself one but I do have a soft spot for those 50s (and 40s, as it may be) "progressive" big bands too. And I confess I also have a soft spot for what Eddie Sauter did here in Germany, e.g. with the Südwestfunk radio big band. And this IS a "jazz point of view". ;)
As for "clever" (a rather abused term in this kind of debate IMHO), I take this to mean "overly calculated for effect" here. In some instances I cannot disagree but where would anyone draw the line ("one man's meat ...") about who'd fall into that category, particulary since I have also seen it used as the sort of musical antipode to "blowing sessions throughout".

I wasn't quite there at the time -- that is, while I was  an adolescent jazz fan in 1954-5, I wasn't in the S-F crowd; the big bands I dug were Basie and Ellington-- but I think it's fair to say, on the basis of how the S-F band was marketed and seemingly received, that two of its major selling points to its fans were 1)"Hi Fi" sound (this both on record and in concert, where as you probably the music was reproduced to some degree through an elaborate portable mixer, operated by Finegan and devised by Sauter's brother, "an electronic's wizard" who worked for Bell Labs), and 2) its perceived and embraced by its audience "cleverness" (i.e. however "cleverness' is defined," significant aspects of S-F music were regarded by their fans of the time as notably novel/sophisticated/unconventional etc. and were pleasing to them in part for those reasons. From a latter-day vantage point, I do enjoy some of that S-F cleverness, not to mention the band's remarkable execution of those pieces, and I would think that some S-F fans of the time and later on sorted things out on a similar basis. 

BTW, as I said above, to the degree that I thought that much about S-F at the time, my musical "antipodes" to S-F were not "blowing sessions throughout" but Basie and Ellington, both the Basie and Ellington music of that time and their music of the '30s and early '40s.

4 minutes ago, JSngry said:

from your post to scott's brain

From whence it dribbles down the drain?

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which at that point is not either of our's problem

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I guess I would be a typical Sauter - Finegan fan,  Maybe all those Duke Ellington, Eddie Condon, Thelonious Monk and Jimmy Smith CDs on my shelf are just there to disguise my lack of a "jazz point of view".  What some might call "clever" writing/arranging, others might call "intelligent" and "audacious".

All I know is if you put a band of professional musicians on stage today and have them play arrangements like this, I will be there with cash in hand to see/hear that show.

Since I first posted that video to YouTube 10 years ago, some viewers have identified the following band members:  pianist: Chuck Hendry, drummer: Mousey Alexander, percussionist: Joe Venuto (the man on the vibes and other instruments here), trumpeters: Nick Travis, Bobby Nichols, Al Maiorca, tuba player :James McAllister, reed section: Harvey Estrin, Wally Kane, lead trombone: Sonny Russo, bass trombone: Tommy Mitchell, harpist: Edward Druzinsky (later to be the Principal Harpist with the Chicago Symphony).

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Love the look/vibe of Joe Venuto; not unlike Joe Pesci in "Goodfellas."

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Finegan alone, great. Sauter alone, great, and then more great. And then even more great.

Together, though...not for me.  Point of diminishing returns, perhaps.

But no questioning the excellence of execution of the band(s).

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A few months after I posted the above video on YouTube, I received a message from the wife of Joe Venuto.  She said he was delighted to see this clip as he had not seen it before.  It's from an old Abbott & Costello TV program in the days of "Live" TV, so if you were on the show, you didn't get to review your performance unless there were some kinescopes made like this.  I believe Ms. Venuto said he was retired and they were living in the Las Vegas area at the time.

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On 1/22/2019 at 10:21 AM, Larry Kart said:

Another LP from the distant past that I found on my shelves— bought it used a few years ago and may not have ever sat down and listened to it before — “Sauter-Finegan Memories of Goodman and Miller” (RCA, 1958). Based on the personnel lists in the booklet of the one Sauter-Finegan CD I have, “Directions in Music,” an RCA compiliation that includes one track from the Goodman-Miller album (I have several other S-F LPs), the band here is a mix of S-F vets and some NY studio regulars of the time: Doc Severinsen, Al DeRisi, Joe Ferrante, tpts.; Rex Peer, Sonny Russo, Tom Mitchell, trbs.; Jay McAllister, tuba; Walt Levinsky, Phil Woods, Al Block, Al Klink, Wally Kane, Gene Allen, reeds; Lou Stein, piano; Nanette Norton, harp; Mundell Lowe, guitar; George Duvivier, bass;, Don Lamond, drms; Joe Venuto, per. — a formidable batch of executants, and do they play their asses off. And the writing is quite something too — not reproductions of Finegan and Sauter's vintage Miller and Goodman charts but more or less a series of inventive fantasies from S and F on the likes of “Little Brown Jug," “Clarinet a la King,” “Song of the Volga Boatman,” “Benny Rides Again," etc. Levinsky takes the clarinet solos on the Goodman pieces, expert playing but more Shaw-like than Goodman-esque, and there are a number of solos from unidentified others, although Woods is unmistakable and in fine form on “Volga Boatman.” My friend Bill Kirchner says, "From a jazz point of view, it’s probably the best of the S-F albums."

Are these from that album? I like it well enough and would pick it up as a cheap used lp, probably. But all I hear, really, are the essentially the same charts as the originals with occasionally thicker voicings and some extra "clever" instruments thrown in like mallet instruments and harp, and the occasional BONK. Clever. Kinda of strikes me as the musical equivalent of a colorized movie. It's a novelty to my ears.

I mean, the band plays great (if I do pick up the record, it would be just to hear that) , and the writing for the core is fine (as it was to begin with!). I do appreciate the difference in tempos, but the whole "hi-fi" angle, good god, no, that sounds like a record waaaay more than it does a band. You know, I grew up hearing all the Miller stuff and most of the Goodman stuff echoed up and shit, and the fiorst time I heard "In The Mood" in good oldf ashioned undoctored mono, that was like whoa, why have they been keeing THIS a secret from me?

And all that "extra" stuff..."clever" indeed and to my ears, it adds nothing. If anything, it detracts. I mean, the originals were plenty badass, they stand on their own. And I know, Ellington revisiting etcetcetc, but that far more often than not illuminated rather than trivialized. I wonder what drove this band to be created and then what drove it to be like this. Because both of those guys could do better (or certainly different) from this.

But yeah, no "fantasy" needed on these.

There ya' go, they got it right the first time. More than right, actually.

 

 

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Phil Woods on "Volga Boatman"? Otherwise, sorry if my comments were misleading.

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I don't feel they were misleading. To me they read like they're quite in tune with how to see the S-F orchestra and place that record within the S-F opus of that period.

As for those Youtube clips, I for one do not feel they are novelty-ish. The originals are the originals and these are these. They could indeed have been more adventurous and by S-F standards they ARE relatively restrained and conventional IMO. But "clever"? Nah. Just a bit edgier.

But what's that "cover" that Youtube character put up there? Why would anyone want to dig out a Jim Flora cover of "Bix and Tram" on Columbia when there are so many great (and REAL) Jim Flora S-F covers around? Silly ... and pointless ...

Anyway ... this thread prompted me to spin "Inside Sauter-Finegan" again last night. Quite a bit of variety, some more straightforward, some more adventurous ...

Edited by Big Beat Steve

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I'll take Sauter-Finegan over Goodman or Miller any day.  Then again, as a child of the postwar era, I prefer my music with a dash of space-age sparkle. 

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4 hours ago, Big Beat Steve said:

As for those Youtube clips, I for one do not feel they are novelty-ish. The originals are the originals and these are these. They could indeed have been more adventurous and by S-F standards they ARE relatively restrained and conventional IMO. But "clever"? Nah. Just a bit edgier.

Could have been more adventurous? How, and more importantly, why? The originals were - ARE - perfect within themselves. and more than "adventurous" enough, then and now!

What we have here is not something like Masterpieces by Ellington, where originals are totally repurposed/reimagined/whatever. No, this is not that. This is taking the original arrangements and doing nothing more than tweaking them with some pings boops, bops, and hi-fi swirlishness.

I get that some people like this sort of thing, and ok, good for them. If it's all about the space-age reverbpinginess, ok, that makes sense. But if the angle is that these are actually new/different/better do-ings of the original charts, sorry, I can't go there with that.

I've yet to see a Bill Finegan/Glenn Miller set (or any attempt to collate Miller by arranger - and that's a huge wasted opportunity; between Finegan, Jerry Gray, and Billy May...attention could/should be paid at that level, please!), but there are some dedicated Sauter-Goodman discs that deliver a focused/dedicated look at (most) all that. That's where the steak of this S-F sizzle is going to be found.

Listening to big bands as "swing era" is predicated on nostalgia. When applicable, I suggest listening to those bands separately from just "entertainment" and/or "period" conceits. There's some very serious composing/arranging/playing/interpretation going on, actual orchestral mentalities going on a the most serious of levels. That's what works for me, not clever reverbpinginess diluting the genius of the original writings.

 

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40 minutes ago, JSngry said:

That's what works for me, not clever reverbpinginess diluting the genius of the original writings.

I'm assuming that SF's audience at the time was listening to SF within the context of the originals, and the SF versions provided a sense of contrast.  Someone listening to SF today, assuming anyone listens to them at all, may be listening to SF on their own terms, and either liking them or not.  

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