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Frank Rosolino Discography

Frank Rosolino was one of the all time greats in the world of jazz trombone. Born in Detroit in 1926, he played in the bands of, among others, Gene Krupa and Stan Kenton. His first notoriety came with the vocal "Lemon Drop" with Krupa's band, but it was with the Kenton band that he got his biggest public notice. After leaving Kenton, he eventually settled into the LA/Hollywood scene, making a living in the studios as well as outside jazz dates.He was a regular in Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse All Stars, as well as with many of Marty Paich's recordings, and in his later years was heard with the group Supersax as well as appearing on the Quincy Jones version of "Bluesette". Others he recorded with include Benny Carter, Mel Torme, Louie Bellson, Helen Humes, Zoot Sims and many more.

In November of 1978, Frank Rosolino shot his two young sons and then himself. One son survived but was blinded and severely disabled, and the other son died along with his father. The reasons why have never become known. Much has been written about his death, but we can only wonder why.

With a musician such as Frank Rosolino, often the best way to find recordings is to find his work as a sideman. This is where knowing a little history of the performer helps, and the resulting serendipity is the very pleasurable side result.

Here are some vintage recordings from various stages of his career.

 


WITH THE KENTON BAND

New Concepts of Artistry in Rhythm (Capitol Jazz CDP 7 92865 2)
Recorded in 1952, this is a good introduction not just to Rosolino, but also to many other well known musicians who started out in Kenton's band. Conte Candoli, Maynard Ferguson, Lee Konitz, Richie Kamuca and Bill Holman are just a few of the notable names on this band. Of particular interest are Bill Russo's "Prologue"(This is an orchestra!) and "Frank Speaking", also by Russo. The first is Kenton at his most pompous (even for a Kenton fan such as myself) as he introduces and talks about each of the players in the group. When he gets to Frank, he describes him as a musical extrovert (my words), and then Rosolino launches into about 16 bars of pure fire. "Frank Speaking" is a feature starting out with a nice up tempo swing section, followed by another even faster section. There are other charts which include him as a soloist within the framework of the arrangement, but those two are what make this set special in regard to him.

 


AS A LEADER - 1950s

The Frank Rosolino Sextet (LP only - Affinity - AFF61)
This LP reissue could conceivably come out on CD someday, since Affinity has re-released other of his works. This is probably one of the better known of Rosolino's solo albums, and the reissue actually consists of music from two seperate sessions in 1954. There is much to recommend on this set, but I'll focus on one cut in particular - "Pennies from Heaven". One of the two vocals from Frank on the album, it is the most blatant example of his sense of musical humor. He sings the head in a straight forward manner and goes into a trombone solo. Coming out of it, he sings "Ev'ry time it rains it rains..." and the band yells "WHAT?" In time he responds "Matzohs and meatballs!", to which they groan. He sings the next line, the same thing happens, and he does a nonsense scat lick, followed by another groan. He then laughs maniacally, goes into a double time scat solo, and ends up yodeling and laughing. It's very infectious and still fun to hear for me after many years.

Frank Rosolino - Free for All (Specialty - OJCCD - 1763 -2[SP-2161])
Recorded December 1958 with Harold Land, tenor sax, Victor Feldman, piano, Leroy Vinnegar, bass and Stan Levey, drums. Rosolino was upset that the album was never released, as he felt that it was his best effort up to that time. Pure bebop and pure Rosolino, it is worth seeking out for the efforts of all concerned. This is the easiest to find of any of his recordings as a leader.

 


AS A SIDEMAN - 1950s

The Music of Bob Cooper - Coop! (Contemporary - OJCCD-161-2[C-7544])
Also including Conte Candoli, Victor Feldman and Mel Lewis, this album features mostlty Cooper and Rosolino. Lots of nice stuff here. In the liner notes (the originals are reprinted with the set), Cooper says why he chose Rosolino for this recording."I work five nights a week with my favorite trombonist, Frank Rosolino, at the Lighthouse, and we've come to understand and feel each other's playing closely. I never get tired of hearing Frank play." A very solid set.

Stan Levey - Stanley the Steamer (Affinity - CD AFF 768)
Includes Vinnegar and Levey, as well as Conte Candoli on trumpet, Dexter Gordon on tenor and Lou Levy on piano. Sound quality isn't quite as good as the previous, but very representative playing.

Tutti's Trombones (Bainbridge - BCD2049)
This recording is no jazz classic per se, but shows how influential Frank was with his fellow LA trombonists. Boasting a true all star lineup of studio trombonists, this 1970 recording features such outstanding players as Dick Nash, Lloyd Ulyate, Gil Falco, Tommy Pederson and more. The producer and arranger for the session was Tutti Camarata. The soloists tend to continuously outdo one another, but the amazing thing is that they often sound more like Frank than their own work. Even though out on CD, this is a difficult to find recording, and will likely appeal more to trombone fans than those whose interests are more general.While not too profound, it is lots of fun.

Conversation (RCA TPL1-1509[LP only])
Not available on CD, this is worth looking for. Recorded in Italy in 1973 with an all Italian rhythm section and longtime fellow performer Conte Candoli. This is probably my favorite recording of Frank, as it shows everything that he could do. Each of the two 'stars' gets a chance to shine individually, but most of the cuts feature both of them. There is only one standard, "Star Eyes", and the rest of the tunes are originals. Of special interest is the ballad playing, a side of Rosolino that is too often ignored when people talk about him. I like everything about this album, and hope that someday it will appear on disc.

June Christy 1977 (Storyville/ STCD 4168)
This is one of those albums that I really enjoy despite the headliner.The reason is the band that backs up a tired sounding June Christy. Although she doesn't have the control that one remembers from the 50s, the group obviously enjoyed playing this one. Besides Rosolino, players include Lou Levey, Bob Cooper, Jack Sheldon, Bob Daugherty and Shelly Manne. Everybody cooks on this one, and Rosolino has some very prominent solos. On tunes such as "My Shining Hour" and "Autumn Serenade" he shows his customary fire and zestful playing, but he also comes off almost understated with a bucket muted background solo on "Everything Must Change". I've seen this one as another title, and I'll post it if I can find it.

Supersax
On many of the recordings released by this group,the soloists were Rosolino and Candoli. Very few of them are on CD; the only one of which I am aware is the release "Chasin' the Bird", which features Blue Mitchell instead of Candoli on trumpet. "Dynamite" (originally on the Pausa label), was recorded in April of the year he died. "Gloomy Sunday" is a Rosolino feature, and a grim reminder to all of us how he died at his own hand. Another, earlier LP which hasn't come out on CD was the "Supersax with Strings" album, containing tunes such as "All the Things You Are" and "If I Should Lose You". I'm not a strong purist when it comes to Supersax, and have enjoyed all of the work that the group has done. The soloists that they used are just a very nice bonus.

 


OTHER RECORDINGS AS A SIDEMAN

Zoot SIMS & Frank ROSOLINO (Vogue VG 655622)
The second of two sessions done by Sims in Paris, this one from 1953 while he and Rosolino were members of Kenton's band. A good set and worth having, but not my favorite from this period.Sound quality is only so-so. Both of Zoot's sessions are on this CD, so it is an excellent value.

Trombomania! (Affinity CD AFF 761)[dual set with Kai Winding/JJ Johnson]
A very good representative set recorded in 1956 with Sonny Clark on piano, Wilfred Middlebrooks on bass and Stan Levey on drums. The sound is excellent, and with the Kai & JJ stuff you can't really go wrong.

This One's for Basie - Buddy Rich and his Orchestra (Verve -817 788-2)
Recorded in 1956 doing Basie tunes with arrangements by Marty Paich.

Helen Humes - 'Tain't Nobody's Biz-ness If I Do (Contemporary/OJCCD-453-2[S-7571])
Recorded in 1959 with a group led by and arrangements written by Benny Carter.

Mel Torme - Torme(Verve 823 010-2)
Mel Torme Swings Shubert Alley (Verve - 821 581-2)
Mel Torme - The Duke Ellington and Count Basie Songbooks (Verve 823 248-2)
All three of these are good sets if you are anything of a Torme fan. As a vehicle for listening to some great soloists within the structure of the charts, they are also treasures. Torme and Shubert Alley are with the Marty Paich Orchestra, and although Frank has only a few solos on each album, he makes the most of them. My favorites are on the Shubert Alley set, on the tunes "Whatever Lola Wants" and "Too Darn Hot" which he shares with Art Pepper. Both are outstanding examples of his exciting style. This album also helped make an Art Pepper fan of me. If you like any (or all) of those three, it's worth having. Torme features Rosolino on "Gloomy Sunday" (which is depressing if you know the words) and "Blues in the Night", made famous on the Torme/Buddy Rich album about 20 years later. Excellent solos, but the album is more of a studio production overall. The last set is arranged by Johnny Mandel, and is good but not terribly special from the Rosolino standpoint. All were recorded late 50s/ early 60s.

Terry Gibbs Dream Band - Vol. 4: Main Stem (Contemporary CCD-7656-2)
Terry Gibbs Dream Band - Vol. 5: The Big Cat (Contemporary CCD-7657-2)
There are 5 recordings of this band available, and it is a group worth hearing. These were recorded live, and you can hear how much fun all involved had playing with this group. The charts and soloists alike are wonderful. I would give the edge to "The Big Cat", but recommend this group highly. Recorded around 1960, the sound on these live sets is excellent.(For what it's worth, the Penguin Guide prefers Main Stem to The Big Cat.)

Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse All Stars - Lighthouse at Laguna (Contemporary OJCCD-406-2{C-3509})
Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse All Stars In The Solo Spotlight (Contemporary CJCCD-451-2{C-3517})
An important west coast group, these recordings give a good cross section of what was a steady "house band" for several years. Besides Kenton, this was probably Rosolino's main ensemble identity throughout his career. The tunes on these sets don't feature him a lot, but are valuable to hear the overall sound of the group. Others who played with the Lighthouse All Stars include Conte Candoli, Bob Cooper, Bob Enevoldsen, Bud Shank, Claude Williamson, Stan Levey and many others.

Other recordings where Rosolino is featured, at least in part.
Vic Feldman on Vibes -(Mode Records/ TFCL-88908)
Richie Kamuca, Bill Holman - West Coast Jazz in Hi- Fi (Hifi - OJCCD-1760-2)

There are many other recordings which feature Rosolino as a sideman. Hope that this will win a few more converts!

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