June 13, 2024


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Oscar Pettiford was one of the finest jazz bassists and cellists in New York: Photos, Video

Back in the 1940s and ’50s, Oscar Pettiford was one of the finest jazz bassists and cellists in New York. In the mid-1950s, he formed a big band with the city’s top jazz musicians and arrangers and recorded two albums for Creed Taylor’s ABC-Paramount label.

The albums were Oscar Pettiford Orchestra in Hi-Fi, Vol 1.and Vol. 2. The first was recorded in June 1956. All of the compositions and arrangements remain spectacular.

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The first of the three sessions for Hi-Fi Vol. 1 was recorded on June 11 and featured Ernie Royal and Art Farmer (tp); Jimmy Cleveland (tb); Julius Watkins and David Amram (fhr); Gigi Gryce (as,arr); Lucky Thompson (ts,arr); Jerome Richardson (ts,fl); Danny Bank (bar); Tommy Flanagan (p); Oscar Pettiford (b) and Osie Johnson (d). The songs recorded that day were Gigi Gryce’s Nica’s Tempo (Gryce’s arrangement) and Lucky Thompson’s Deep Passion (Thompson’s arrangement). [Photo above of Oscar Pettiford]

The second recording session was held a day later on June 12. Harpist Janet Putnam was added and Whitey Mitchell was featured on Smoke Signal (written and arranged by Gryce). The other songs recorded were Sunrise Sunset (written by Pettiford and arranged by Gryce)Not So Sleepy (written by Mat Mathews and arranged by Gryce) and Perdido (arranged by Thompson).

The final session was held on June 19. Dave Kurtzer (bar) replaced Danny Bank in the band. The songs were Speculation(written by Horace Silver and arranged by Gryce), Two French Fries (a showcase for French hornists Watkins and Amram, and written and arranged by Gryce), The Pendulum at Falcon’s Lair(written and arranged by Pettiford), and The Gentle Art of Love(the band’s theme written by Pettiford and arranged by Thompson).

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As you can hear, the band is first rate and the music is romantic and majestic. The soloists are spectacular, especially Pettiford plucking the higher-pitched cello. And the arrangements are blissful. A perfect album.

Oscar Pettiford died in 1960.

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