Buddy DeFranco this week. His Quartet and singer Helen Forrest in one of several sessions DeFranco did for the Navy Recruiting radio show The Navy Swings, and recorded in Los Angeles in May of 1957.
DeFranco had been playing Clarinet since he was nine. He broke into the business, working with Big Bands, just around the time Big Bands led by Clarinetists were in a state of decline. But it was also a time when small group Jazz was coming into prominence and Bop was sweeping in. So DeFranco joined up with Count Basie‘s Septet in 1950, and it led to forming his own groups, starting in the early 1950s with a group featuring Sonny Clark and Tal Farlowe and a recording deal with MGM, which led to an association with Norman Granz‘ labels Norgran and Verve.
He teams up here with Helen Forrest, who was a prominent singer during the Big Band era, but whose career hadn’t brought about a hit record since 1946. This teaming up with DeFranco is an interesting counterbalance between two eras; Forrest with more conventional tunes, sung in a more conventional way and DeFranco who was actively practicing Bop and the nuances of post-Bop. And although you might be hard-pressed to describe Forrest as a Jazz Artist, DeFranco coaxes out a stretch and the result is pleasantly surprising.
These sessions, of which there are many featuring a vast array of artists, were recorded exclusively for the various branches of the Service. And rather than believe these were “needle drops” (commercially available discs), these are sessions that, for the most part, haven’t been available commercially. Recently, several of these Navy Sessions were issued by a Japanese label, but by and large, these haven’t been available in any form since they were first broadcast. And even though the artists and the repertoire don’t get too “far out”, they are nonetheless interesting glimpses of newly discovered material.
Enjoy – and stay tuned for more in the future.