Thursday, June 5, 2014

Frank Rosolino, I Play Trombone, 1958

That trombonist Frank Rosolino is not better remembered today is perhaps puzzling. His tragic end (look it up if you must) in the '70s probably did not help things. But for a time he was well-admired as one of the major jazz trombonists of the era.

He first came to a wider public notice as a member of Stan Kenton's outfit in 1953-4. His combination of lyrical elements, his fine tone and original stance, as the great Julian Priester commented the other day on social media, and his sometimes muscular attack all made him a player to be heard.

He was surely at a peak when he entered the studios in 1958 to record an album for the then flourishing Bethlehem Records. I Play Trombone (Bethlehem 26) has finally been reissued. I never saw it in the bins over the years so I assume it has been unavailable since its initial release. Either way it is primo Rosolino playing with passion in a very conducive quartet setting.

Rosolino alternates between muted and open horn and sounds absolutely terrific. A huge element in the mix is the presence of Sonny Clark, a pianist then at a peak himself, spelling Frank with hugely expressive, beautiful bop soloing. Stan Levy swings along nicely on drums and one Wilfred Middlebrooks sounds very capable on bass, though most of us have forgotten him rather thoroughly by now, alas.

The band handles a few standards with commitment, does a nice version of Rollins' "Doxy" and gets into a couple of Rosolino blowing originals.

It is an album I have the feeling I'll be coming back to again and again for Rosolino and Clark's hipply together presence. It is an album thoroughly rooted in the music as it was unravelling then--not cool, but hot, hard-boppishly aggressive in something of the way Miles was doing at the time, yet also lyrical. It's a blowing date, a very together, well thought-out one.

Frank sounds wonderful here. If you don't know his work, this is a great first stop. Everybody else, you are going to dig it! The reissue apparently is available as a 12" LP as well as a CD.

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