Urbie Green - "East Coast Jazz Series No. 6"

Urbie Green • "East Coast Jazz Series No. 6" • 1955 • Bethlehem BCP-14
Recorded January 19, 1955

The Players:
Urbie Green - Trombone
Al Cohn (listed as Ike Horowitz) - Tenor Sax
Doug Mettome - Trumpet
Danny Bank - Baritone Clarinet, Clarinet, Flute
Jimmy Lyon - Piano
Oscar Pettiford - Bass
Jimmy Campbell - Drums
Osie Johnson - Drums

The Tracks:
A1. Mutation
A2. On Green Dolphin Street
A3. Just One Of Those Things
A4. How About You?
A5. When Your Lover Is Gone
B1. Three Little Words
B2. Sneaky Pete
B3. Melody In B Flat
B4. Sassafras
B5. Love Locked Out

The Music:

When I came across this record while flipping through the jazz bins it caught my eye primarily because of the excellent cover image of the great, but relatively unknown, jazz trombonist Urbie Green. As soon as I saw it was on the Bethlehem label, and that it was an original pressing (!), it pretty much was a done deal, especially at the $12 price tag. I was, of course, familiar with Urbie Green, but I didn't own any of the recordings he made as a leader (of which there were not many, he mostly functioned as an in demand sideman during the golden age of jazz). A quick spin on the store's listening turntable and I found East Coast Jazz No. 6 to be an excellent cool jazz outing that is quite an enjoyable listen.

The album retains a fair deal of the big band and swing sound that the players, and the arranger Marion Evans, had been brought up on, but it definitely has that up-and-coming West Coast Cool Jazz feel (a bit ironic, since it's titled East Coast Jazz). The album is made up of ten standards, none of which are written by the players involved, and while Green is in top form throughout, as is Al Cohn (listed here as Ike Horowitz), the real surprise of the recording is the obscure Danny Bank's playing on the clarinet and bass clarinet. His modern playing on these once prominent jazz instruments - instruments that would soon become rare on jazz albums - are what give the record it's soul, bridging jazz's swinging big band past with it's soon to be bluesy, soulful future.

A quick note on the cover photo: once I got home I quickly did some investigation into the photographer Burt Goldblatt, who it turns out had a distinguished career designing record covers during the Cool Jazz era. A nice article about his life can be found here and an overview of his work can be found over at Birka Jazz. I always love when picking up an obscure album gains me a little extra jazz knowledge in the process.

 Urbie Green - "East Coast Jazz Series No. 6" - Label

The Vinyl:

This copy is an original pressing, and as such has that beautiful red deep groove Bethlehem label, with the interesting notation of referring to the tracks as "Bands." The cover is a tad smaller than the norm and has the laminated front cover (which has begun to peel away along the opening seam) that was used on and off by various labels throughout the 1950's and 1960's. The sound is great, not quite up to the standards of some other recordings from this period, but still featuring strong highs and lows. As can be common with obscure recordings on collectible jazz labels, the prices will vary quite a bit, a check of eBay finds three recently sold copies going for $10, $41 and $82. 

A nice surprise when I got the record ready to clean on my vacuum machine was that it still had the original Bethlehem inner sleeve. As you can see from the pictures below, it has a message on "...what to expect from Your New Bethlehem Record," including noting that their records are "recorded at a standard low volume level" and "the sound you are hearing is the natural sound that existed in the studio." A nice bonus to an already impressive original vintage pressing.

Original Inner Sleeve. Click To Enlarge.

 Urbie Green & Benny Goodman

Urbie Green & Benny Goodman