Monday, December 28, 2015

Gil Mellé - Complete Prestige Recordings (1956-1957)

As a baritone saxophonist, New York City native Gil Mellé should rank among the greatest of his era, alongside his hero, Sweden's Lars Gullin, or Americans Gerry Mulligan, Pepper Adams, and Cecil Payne. He should also be considered one of the great composers of post-bop. Sadly his name is considered a footnote, and remained so up to his passing in 2004. But in the heyday of jazz in the mid-'50s, these complete sessions for the Prestige label confirm he deserved upper echelon honors. Compiled from the albums Mellé Plays Primitive Modern, Quadrama, Gil's Guests, and three extra cuts from an unfinished LP, this double CD provides more than enough evidence of what a brilliant author, bandleader, and musician Mellé was. His greatest asset was expressed in a clever, disparate, expansive way of choosing to deal out progressive jazz in a personal way, one that took cues from Béla Bartók, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Gigi Gryce, and Stan Kenton without copping any of their approaches. It might be suggested that his astounding style and technique cleverly trumped them all if you listen closely to the complexities he had undertaken. The first of the five sessions is a trim and lean quartet with guitar and bari sax, driven by drummer Ed Thigpen playing abstract yet tasteful lines. "Adventure Swing" starts slow and sexy, then elevates to bop, a "Dedicatory Piece to the Geophysical Year of 1957" espouses wondrous freedom and symmetry in easy swing with counterpoint chatting, while "Iron Works" is a Charles Mingus like hot calypso bop. Bassist George Duvivier and drummer Shadow Wilson are swapped out for the second quartet date with two standards, including the off minor treatment of "It Don't Mean a Thing," the simple original blues "Full House," and the suspended pedal point bass driven, unrushed "Rush Hour in Hong Kong." Thigpen returns for three tracks with the first in a triad of septets. It is headed by Mellé, trumpeter Art Farmer, French horn master Julius Watkins, and alto saxophonist Hal McKusick, as they collectively advance the modern primitive precept to a different multi-layered/timbred arena. "Tomorrow" is louder and brash, closer to the progressive sounds of Mingus, Oliver Nelson, and Gil Evans. McKusick's solo work marks him a preeminent Lee Konitz, but in fact he retains his own individuality — he's special. The outstanding "Soudan" closely mirrors the influence of Bartók, with brass up front and Mellé in a support role. A second seven-piece combo with tuba player Don Butterfield and Kenny Dorham in for Farmer is highlighted by the contrasting, darker, mysterious piece "Still Life," a brash and outspoken bopper "Sixpence," and an eastern or Eurasian feel during the in-and-out-of unison line for "Ghengis," again showing the ingenious Bartók touch. One more mid-sized group with Wilson, Duvivier, Farmer, McKusick, tenor saxophonist Seldon Powell and vibraphonist Teddy Charles offers a sly, smart blues "Funk for Star People," the three in four beat start-stop "Golden Age," and the sped up bop of "Herbie" for Herbie Nichols. Joe Cinderella (yes, that's his real name) is the guitarist throughout. He's an exceptional player rivaling fellow Joe Pass, leaving the jazz scene three years later. Shortly after these albums were released, Mellé also left the jazz world, moved to Los Angeles, was involved in film scores and explored electronic music, returning to jazz in the early '90s. While it is a shame he did not stick to his guns, this intellectually stimulating, oft times amazing music and timeless jazz deserves more accolades, even if well after the fact.
Michael G. Nastos

Source :

Gil Mellé
Complete Prestige Recordings


1 Adventure Swing  6:04
2 Mark One  4:50
3 Dedicatory Piece to the Geophysical Year of 1957  4:46
4 Dominica  5:57
5 Ballet Time  6:48
6 Iron Works  3:58
7 Walter Ego  3:24
8 Jacqueline  5:18
9 It Don't Mean a Thing  6:20
10 Full House  5:16
11 Quadrama  3:35
12 In a Sentimental Mood  4:49
13 Rush Hour in Hong Kong  6:52


Cd. 2

1 Tomorrow  6:12
2 Soudan  6:24
3 Block Island  5:00
4 Still Life  8:14
5 Sixpence  5:56
6 Ghengis  3:49
7 Funk for Star People  6:39
8 Golden Age  6:49
9 Herbie  4:41

All Compositions by Gil Mellé
except cd. 1, # 9 & 12 by Ellington, Mills


[Cd. 1, # 1-6] from the 12" LP "Plays Primitive Modern" Prestige PRLP 7040
Gil Mellé - bs
Joe Cinderella - g
Billy Phillips - b
Ed Thigpen - dr
Recorded same place as above ; April 6, & June 1 [# 4-6], 1956
[Cd. 1, # 7-13] from the 12" LP "Quadrama" Prestige PRLP 7090
Gil Mellé - bs
Joe Cinderella - g
George Duvivier - b
Shadow Wilson - dr
Recorded same place as above ; April 26, 1957
[Cd. 2, # 1-3] from the 12" LP "Gil's Guests" Prestige PRLP 7063
Gil Mellé - bs
Art Farmer - tp
Julius Watkins - fr hrn
Hal McKusick - as
Joe Cinderella - g
Vinnie Burke - b
Ed Thigpen - dr
Recorded same place as above ; August 10, 1956
[Cd. 2, # 4-5] from the 12" LP "Gil's Guests" Prestige PRLP 7063
Same as above, except
Jukius Watkins is out
Kenny Dorham - tp, replaces Farmer
Recorded same place as above ; August 24, 1956
[Cd. 2, # 1-3] from an unfinished Prestige 12" LP
Gil Mellé - bs
Art Farmer - tp
Hal McKusick - as
Teddy Charles - vb
George Duvivier - b
Shadow Wilson - dr
Recorded same place as above ; January 18, 1957


Melanchthon said...

Com'on Ruskaval...

steve said...

Hey Mel, thanks for this listen. Melle doesn't get the exposure deserved!

wouter said...

thank you very much, Mel! this looks very appealing!

danair said...

Thanks Mel,nice collection.

blbs said...

nothing new...except I love Fresh Sound reissues... Thank you Mel!

5 cents said...

Thank you Mel. The collection was new to me. Most appreciated. Getting cooler in Sacramento Valley...only 90F today.

Tibau said...

Great.!! Great.!!

deGallo said...

Wonderful! Thank you.

ProfessorCalculus said...

Fantastic.....I can rest my lps. Many thanks for all the great posts..I mean every one is a great post.

Paco's brother said...

Il commence à y avoir foule sur l'île Bouvet!
Vu le climat, c'est sûr que la musique doit y être bonne!

lucky5 said...

Great post, Mel!

Jazzsoulman said...

Thanks a lot

jazzcat1228 said...

Very nice! Thank you, Mel.

Benjamin Riley said...

Hello, Mel: Thank you for such a great blog. Would you consider reposting these Gil Melle files on ZippyShare? Thank you--Benjamin

Melanchthon said...

Benjamin Riley said...

Hello, Mel: Thank you so very much for these reposts. You are the best. A very happy new to you. Warm regards from Benjamin

Fred Archtop said...

A discovery for me. Thanks Mel.

rambert said...

Another one that is new for me too, but looks very promising. Thanks!!

kristophermc28 said...

Thanks Mel!

Kovina Kris said...

After reading that writeup, I'm a bit ashamed to say that I know very little about Gil Melle. Thank you for helping me get better informed where his music is concerned Mel.

Kevin CC said...

Thank you for all of those great post. The link of this CD is dead, please kindly reload them, thanks again.