MUSIC CLIP - OSCAR PETERSON TRIO (FEAT. HERB ELLIS), “MOONGLOW”
Welcome to Afterglow, I’m your host, Mark Chilla.
Any list of the greatest jazz guitarists of the 1950s is certainly going to include Texas-born guitarist Herb Ellis [who would have turned 100 years old this week]. Ellis first made waves in 1953 when he joined the Oscar Peterson Trio (in fact, it’s Herb Ellis’s guitar that you’re hearing in the background right now along with Peterson for Afterglow’s theme music). This partnership put Ellis in touch with many of the great singers of the 1950s and 1960s, and that’s what I’ll be focusing on this hour. Coming up, we’ll hear Ellis’s bluesy touches alongside notable singers like Ella Fitzgerald, Anita O’Day, Lou Rawls and more.
It’s Detour Ahead: Herb Ellis and The Singers, coming up next on Afterglow
MUSIC - ELLA FITZGERALD, “CRY ME A RIVER”
Ella Fitzgerald in 1961 with the Arthur Hamilton song “Cry Me A River.” That comes from her album Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie, featuring Herb Ellis on guitar. Both Ellis and Fitzgerald are much bluesier on their version of “Cry Me A River,” at least compared to the smoky original version performed by Julie London and jazz guitarist Barney Kessel.
MUSIC CLIP - JULIE LONDON, “CRY ME A RIVER”
MUSIC CLIP - OSCAR PETERSON TRIO, “THAT OLD BLACK MAGIC”
Mark Chilla here on Afterglow. On this show, we’re saluting guitarist Herb Ellis [whose centennial is this week] by exploring his work with notable jazz singers.
Herb Ellis was born in Texas on August 4, 1921, and although he grew up in the heart of country music territory, it was blues and especially jazz that drew him to the guitar.
In the 1940s, he made his professional debut with the Casa Loma Orchestra, and later became the guitarist with Jimmy Dorsey’s orchestra. Out of that orchestra came a smaller trio featuring Ellis on guitar, Johnny Frigo on bass and violin, and Lou Carter on piano, which the three dubbed “Soft Winds.” They performed under this name for several years, and even wrote a jazz standard together (more on that later).
As Soft Winds gained critical acclaim, it put them on the radar of another similar piano-bass-and-guitar trio, the Oscar Peterson Trio. Their guitarist Barney Kessel left the trio in 1952, and Herb Ellis was called up as Kessel’s replacement. Ellis stayed with the trio, alongside bassist Ray Brown and pianist Peterson, for about five years, making some memorable recordings together and performing with famous jazz artists both in the studio and on stage.
Let’s hear some of those trio recordings now with some singers. First up, this is a live performance from 1957 featuring the Oscar Peterson Trio, drummer Jo Jones, and the one and only Ella Fitzgerald.
Here is Ella live at the Opera House in Chicago with the song “Moonlight In Vermont,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - ELLA FITZGERALD, “MOONLIGHT IN VERMONT”
MUSIC - LOUIS ARMSTRONG, “MAKIN’ WHOOPEE”
Louis Armstrong in 1957 with “Makin’ Whoopee.” That solo performance comes from the duet album Ella And Louis Again. Before that, Ella Fitzgerald live in Chicago in 1957 with “Moonlight In Vermont.” That comes from her Verve album Live At The Opera House. The Oscar Peterson Trio was the backing band on both of those recordings, featuring Herb Ellis on guitar.
Herb Ellis, Oscar Peterson and bassist Ray Brown worked as a trio for the better part of the 1950s. Peterson referred to this particular trio as “the most stimulating” of any of its many iterations. They essentially became the backing band for Norman Granz’s Verve label, performing at Granz’s Jazz At The Philharmonic concert series, and on several Verve LPs.
Here’s another Verve recording featuring Ellis, Peterson, and Brown. This comes from the 1957 album Anita Sings The Most. This is Anita O’Day with “I’ve Got The World On A String,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - ANITA O’DAY, “I’VE GOT THE WORLD ON A STRING”
MUSIC - ANITA O’DAY, “OLD DEVIL MOON”
Anita O’Day with the Oscar Peterson Trio and the songs “Old Devil Moon” by Yip Harburg and Burton Lane and “I’ve Got The World On A String” by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler. Both of those songs were from the 1957 album Anita Sings The Most, and both feature Herb Ellis on guitar.
We’re exploring the work of Herb Ellis and the singers this hour, a guitarist who was part of the Oscar Peterson Trio in the 1950s. Here’s another track from Verve records featuring a jazz singer accompanied by the trio, although a singer not as well known as Anita O’Day or Ella Fitzgerald.
This is Toni Harper in 1956 with the Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown song “Singing In The Rain,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - TONI HARPER, “SINGING IN THE RAIN”
Toni Harper, alongside the Oscar Peterson Trio in 1956 with “Singing In The Rain,” a track off of her debut album for Verve Records.
Herb Ellis left the Oscar Peterson Trio around 1958, but continued to record with singers, backing Ella Fitzgerald on tour and becoming a reliable session guitarist in L.A. Here’s another track where he adds his delicate touch. This comes from the 1963 Peggy Lee LP Mink Jazz, featuring arrangements by Benny Carter. You can hear Herb Ellis and guitarist Al Hendrickson providing just the right amount of rhythm and harmony to several of the tracks on this album, including this next one.
Here is Peggy Lee in 1963 with Irving Berlin’s “I Never Had A Chance,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - PEGGY LEE, “I NEVER HAD A CHANCE”
Peggy Lee in 1963 with the song “I Never Had A Chance,” by Irving Berlin. That comes from her Capitol LP Mink Jazz, featuring Herb Ellis backing her on guitar.
MUSIC CLIP - HERB ELLIS, “JUST BLUE”
We’ll have more from Herb Ellis and the singers [in honor of Ellis’s centennial] in just a bit. Stay with us.
I’m Mark Chilla, and you’re listening to Afterglow
MUSIC CLIP - HERB ELLIS, “CONVERSATIONS”
MUSIC CLIP - STAN GETZ AND THE OSCAR PETERSON TRIO, “DETOUR AHEAD”
Welcome back to Afterglow, I’m Mark Chilla. We’ve been exploring the work of guitarist Herb Ellis this hour, one of the most frequently recorded jazz guitarists from the 1950s and 60s. [Ellis would have turned 100 years old on August 4th].
One of the most prominent vocalists that Herb Ellis worked with in his career was Ella Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald worked closely with three guitarists, all legends in their own right: Barney Kessel, Joe Pass, and Ellis. He was her primary guitarist on tour in the late 1950s and early 1960s, he recorded with her alongside the Oscar Peterson Trio on a few key Verve recordings from this time period as well, and Ellis also showed up on a few recording sessions with Fitzgerald in the early 1960s. Here’s a couple for you now.
First up, this comes from Ella’s 1963 album of all blues songs called These Are The Blues. Herb Ellis was one of the bluesiest jazz guitarists working in studios around this time, so he was a natural fit for the session. Here are the two of them on the old blues standard “Trouble In Mind,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - ELLA FITZGERALD, “TROUBLE IN MIND”
MUSIC - ELLA FITZGERALD, “THIS YEAR’S KISSES”
Ella Fitzgerald and two recordings that featured Herb Ellis on guitar. Just now, that was the Irving Berlin song “This Year’s Kisses” from the 1961 album Clap Hands Here Comes Charlie and before that, the blues standard “Trouble In Mind” from the 1963 album These Are The Blues.
As I talked about earlier, Herb Ellis was the guitarist for the Oscar Peterson Trio between 1953 and 1958, alongside Peterson on piano and Ray Brown on bass, and the three of them made many recording for Verve Records, including many with singers. When singer Blossom Dearie recorded for Verve in 1950s, the trio was called up to back her. However, Dearie was herself an accomplished pianist, so Peterson backed out and Ellis and Brown stayed. Let’s hear a few of those recordings now.
First up, from her debut album recorded in 1956, this is Blossom Dearie with the Fred Rose and Walter Hirsch tune “Deed I Do,” on Afterglow
MUSIC - BLOSSOM DEARIE, “DEED I DO”
MUSIC - BLOSSOM DEARIE, “BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA”
Blossom Dearie in 1957 with Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler’s “Between The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” from her album Give Him The Ooh-La-La. Before that, the song “Deed I Do” from her self-titled album, recorded in 1956. Both of those songs feature Herb Ellis on guitar.
Throughout the 1960s, Herb Ellis became a reliable session guitarist, both in live performances and in the recording studio. He could lay down both a harmonically rich backing for a jazz ballad and wail on some bluesy riffs, and that versatility made him perfect for those artists who toed the line between those genres. Ellis was then a natural choice for soul singer Lou Rawls on his iconic live LP recorded in 1966, one of his most electrifying performances.
Here are two tracks from that live LP now, both featuring the deft touch of guitarist Herb Ellis. First up, this is Lou Rawls and the Johnny Mandel and Paul Francis Webster theme from the 1965 film The Sandpiper, the song “The Shadow Of Your Smile,” on Afterglow
MUSIC - LOU RAWLS, “THE SHADOW OF YOUR SMILE”
MUSIC - LOU RAWLS, “I’D RATHER DRINK MUDDY WATER”
Lou Rawls live in L.A. 1966, from his album Lou Rawls- LIVE!, with the blues standard “I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water” and the song “The Shadow Of Your Smile.” Both songs featured Herb Ellis on guitar.
To close off this Herb Ellis tribute, I’m going to feature the guitarist’s one and only contribution to the Great American Songbook, the brilliant song “Detour Ahead.” Ellis wrote this back in the late 1940s along with Lou Carter and Johnny Frigo, fellow members of the trio they dubbed Soft Winds. It’s a great little melody, and they wrote the lyrics too, which encapsulates the feeling of that early automobile era in the 1940s, comparing hitting the open road to a bumpy love affair.
Many singers have recorded this tune, including Billie Holiday, Anita O’Day, Ella Fitzgerald, and Sarah Vaughan. Although I couldn’t find any recordings that also featured Ellis, the songwriter on guitar. So, here’s one featuring one of Ellis’s fellow great jazz guitarists, and frequent collaborator, Joe Pass.
This is Ella Fitzgerald in 1974 with the Herb Ellis tune “Detour Ahead,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - ELLA FITZGERALD, “DETOUR AHEAD”
Ella Fitzgerald and guitarist Joe Pass in 1974 with the song “Detour Ahead,” a song co-written by fellow jazz guitarist Herb Ellis.
Thanks for tuning in to this Herb Ellis [centennial] celebration edition of Afterglow.
MUSIC CLIP - HERB ELLIS, “DETOUR AHEAD”
Afterglow is part of the educational mission of Indiana University and produced by WFIU Public Radio in beautiful Bloomington, Indiana. The executive producer is John Bailey.
Playlists for this and other Afterglow programs are available on our website. That’s at indianapublicmedia.org/afterglow.
I’m Mark Chilla, and join me next week for our mix of Vocal Jazz and popular song from the Great American Songbook, here on Afterglow.