May 22, 2024

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The Fourmost Guitars, was a 1956 by Jimmy Raney, Chuck Wayne, and Dick Garcia and Joe Puma: Photos, Videos

The Fourmost Guitars, was a 1956, 12-inch release from ABC-Paramount that featured four different top jazz guitarists of the period.

At first glance, I thought it was akin to one of those Savoy samplers featuring a range of different artists who recorded for the label.

Back copy

But on closer inspection and a bit of research, it seems to be a more sophisticated package. Here’s how I believe this album came to be:

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In 1956, when producer Creed Taylor (above) left Bethlehem to join ABC-Paramount as head producer of the jazz division, he must have been given tape from recording sessions held the previous year. In all likelihood they were recordings from initial sessions to be held over multiple days but never completed. Perhaps they were done for singles or 10-inch LPs just as the record industry was switching to the 12-inch format.

Somewhat puzzling is the timing. Several of these sessions were held prior to ABC-Paramount forming in September 1955. Either way, the material was shelved or put on hold until the artists could be rounded up again to finish what was started.

I’m guessing that when Creed gave a listen, he realized many were quite good. Included in the stack of tape reels were three different sessions led by different guitarists—Jimmy Raney, Chuck Wayne, and Dick Garcia and Joe Puma.

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As he listened, Creed probably leaned back in his chair and concluded there were two ways to go. Bring in the different artists to complete enough tracks for three different 12-inch albums, which wouldn’t be easy given the schedule of musicians at this level back then. Or simply take the tracks that existed and create a guitar album. Creed chose the latter. The result was The FourMost Guitars. [Photo above of Dick Garcia and Brew Moore]

The cover featured an image of four guitars ablaze at night on a sandy beach, an eye-catching allegory signaling to the buyer that the guitarists playing inside were red hot. The back cover is telling. For one, while Creed was given credit in the bottom right-hand corner as the album’s producer, his famed oversized signature hadn’t yet begun to be used. That would begin later in the year with Know Your Jazz in ’56.

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Also interesting is that the cover design was credited to Fran Scott (above), who was Tony Scott’s wife at the time. She was an ABC-Paramount art director and would work closely with Creed on the covers at the label until 1960, when he founded the Impulse label for ABC.

As for the music, what we have here are fascinating examples of superb mid-1950s jazz guitarists backed by different instrumental configurations.

The three Chuck Wayne tracks—Easy Living, If I Love Again and You Stepped Out of a Dream—featured Wayne (g), Dave Schildkraut (as), Dave McKenna (p), Oscar Pettiford (b) and Sonny Igoe (d). They were recorded sometime in 1955.

The four Jimmy Raney tracks—Spring Is Here; Tomorrow, Fairly Cloudy; What’s New? and One More for the Mode—featured Raney (g), John Wilson (tp), Hall Overton (p), Teddy Kotick (b) and Nick Stabulas (d). They were recorded in May 1955.

The four Dick Garcia/Joe Puma tracks—Time Was, Li’l Basses, I’m Old Fashioned and Ain’t Misbehavin’—featured Garcia and Puma (g), Danny Martucci (b) and Al Levitt (d). These were recorded in December 1955.

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The swinging guitarists’ tasteful chords and lines are impossibly great. I’m always astonished at how many terrific jazz guitarists there were on both coasts in the 1950s. Clearly there was plenty of work to go around. On this album, we have the roundness and lyrical wanderings of Wayne, the plucky determination of Raney and the low-register togetherness of Garcia and Puma, especially on Time Was. In a funny way, this album anticipated iTunes—bundling a bunch of seductive guitars in one “folder.”

Chuck Wayne died in 1997, Jimmy Raney died in 1995, Joe Puma died in 2000 and Dick Garcia is still with us.

Jimmy Raney on Gone With the Wind…


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