The Jazz Brothers

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The Jazz Brothers

The Jazz Brothers

Liner Notes

Chuck Mangione - Trumpet
Larry Combs - Alto Saxophone
Sal Nistico - Tenor Saxophone
Gap Mangione - Piano
Bill Saunders - Bass
Roy McCurdy - Drums

  • Something Different

  • Secret Love

  • Alice

  • Struttin' With Sandra

  • Nemesis

  • The Gap

  • Girl Of My Dreams

Recorded at Bell Sound Studios, NYC, August 29, 1960

Riverside OJCCD-997-2 (RLP-9335)

Liner Notes

This album serves to introduce to most of the jazz public one of the freshest and most vibrant young groups it has ever been our pleasure to hear, an incredibly mature and richly talented unit that seems destined to make a long, deep, and wide impact on the jazz world.

We say "most" of the public, rather than "all", because we can think of two sets of listeners who have already had a previous exposure to the Mangione brothers and their associates. One is made up of residents of the Rochester, New York area, where the band has been playing for enthusiastic club audiences since the fall of 1959. You might suspect such audiences of being influenced by local pride, but the second set of listeners clearly were judging the band strictly on merit. That was the crowd in attendance at the second night of the 1960 Randall’s Island Jazz Festival, in New York City, where the Mangione group, playing in the curtain-rising spot customarily allotted to new talent, brought down the house so thoroughly that they were brought back for an unprecedented encore appearance in mid-concert.

Shortly before that festival triumph had come the recording of this album, which came into being because Cannonball and Nat Adderley (who ought to know a good brother team when they come across one) had heard the group during a visit to Rochester and had been mightily impressed.

This is an amazingly young band. There have of course been more than a few individual jazz stars discovered at very tender ages; but for a full group this young you probably have to look as far back as Chicago in the Twenties and the Austin High Gang. Gap Mangione reached his twenty-second birthday barely a week before this record date; his brother and co-leader Chuck, was 19. The saxophonists are both 20; the bassist and drummer are both in their early twenties. But there is no need to label them as merely "promising." Instead, the principal reaction must be one of wonderment at the high degree of skill and polish, so far out of proportion to their slim quantity of years, that they are able to combine with their youthful vigour and excitement. Even after hearing them, it’s still not easy to believe. And the very fact that the soloists are white is bound to upset those who hold certain hide-bound theories about jazz feeling.

A look at their background reveals considerable variety, but some patterns in common. Pianist Gap Mangione and drummer Roy McCurdy are largely self-taught; the others have had varying degrees of musical schooling (trumpeter Chuck Mangione attended both the preparatory and regular under graduate department of the famed Eastman School of Music; altoist Larry Combs, who was born in Charleston, West Virginia, and played clarinet in the Charleston Symphony at the age of 13; came to Rochester to study at Eastman). All of them – obviously – began playing at very early ages; both tenorman Sal Nistico (born in Syracuse, New York) and bassist Bill Saunders have already served apprenticeships on the road in rhythm-and-blues bands. McCurdy (who, like the Mangiones, is a Rochester product) and Saunders (a second Charleston-ite) played in military bands while in the service. All have been able to listen avidly to recorded and live music. Rochester draws a more-than-average share of travelling jazz, so that Chuck Mangione was able to meet and even sit in with groups led by such as Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson, Max Roach, etc., while still a very early teenage (the “up-do” trumpet was a present from Dizzy – who handed over his horn in a spontaneous gesture of approval after hearing Chuck play!).

There are limits, of course, to how much of their accomplishments can be credited to how they have learned and who they have listened to and been influenced by. To a large extent it must simply be accepted that Gap, Chuck, Sal, and the others are naturals, that their grasp of modern jazz and the spirit and imagination they bring to it are basically from within – undoubtedly heightened and hastened, but not created, by such fortunate circumstances as early exposure and having been able to find each other early.

This last point is certainly of importance, though. For this is definitely a band. Linked by similar tastes and by love for the music, the sextet has meshed into a tight-knit unit in very short order, so that the term "Jazz Brothers" can readily be taken as applying to the group as a whole, not just to the two related co-leaders. The program they offer here, mixing their own tunes and standards, ably demonstrates this. It ranges from soulful numbers like "Something Different" (with its unusual and impressive ensemble choruses) and "Struttin' with Sandra" through the more complex “Nemesis” to a straightforward swinger like "Secret Love."

Orrin Keepnews

Cannonball Adderley really hit paydirt on his fourth project as a studio producer. The alto star not only found two jazz-playing bothers in trumpeter Chuck and pianist Gap Mangione, he also discovered a sextet staffed by more future jazz presences. There were the young lions of 1960, hailing primarily from upstate New York, who had assembled in the fertile playing and learning environment of Rochester and its Eastman School of Music. The Mangiones shared leading and writing duties, with support from soon-famous sidemen like drummer Roy McCurdy (a member of Adderley’s quintet later in the Sixties) and tenor saxophonist Sal Nistico (soon featured in Woody Herman’s Herd) plus the less familiar Larry Combs (who wrote the Dameronian "Nemesis") and Bill Sanders. Reflecting the range of influences in the modern jazz air, the band creates a program that spells out each member’s music foundations.