COMPOSERS: Gil Mellé
LABELS: Blue Note
WORKS: The Complete Blue Note Fifties Sessions
PERFORMER: Gil Mellé (bs, ts), Eddie Bert, Urbie Green (tmb), George Wallington (p), Joe Manning (vb), Tal Farlow, Lou Mecca (gtr), Clyde Lombardi, Bill Phillips, Oscar Pettiford (b), Max Roach, Joe Morello, Ed Thigpen (d), Monica Dell (v)
CATALOGUE NO: 7243 4 95718-2
This is a gem from the Blue Note Connoisseur Series, one of six albums devoted to material formerly issued on ten-inch long playing records. This material has not seen the light of day since its original issue, from sessions between 1952 and 1956.
Mellé was arguably the first jazz musician to replace the piano with a guitar in a jazz ensemble, although the first session, comprising four sides, retains George Wallington on piano. Even so, Mellé’s writing is strikingly modernistic, combining tenor, trombone, vibes and piano with the voice of Monica Dell used in an instrumental role within the ensemble textures. Later sides use a tenor trombone and guitar front line, and exemplify an extension of the musical language of bebop, rather than operating within the clearly prescribed boundaries of style that overtook the music. For that reason, this music is truly valuable and, as Max Harrison has pointed out, this ‘fusing of exuberant fantasy with precise detail should have met with a kinder fate than to have been nearly lost in the swamp of discographical fact’. Stuart Nicholson