Shelly Manne – Jazz From The Pacific Northwest (ENG review)

Shelly Manne - Jazz From The Pacific Northwest

What we know about this album is that it’s a tribute to the jazz drumming giant, Shelly Manne. Manne is most often hailed as the pulse of the West Coast sound with his unmistakable feel and swing, which adorned countless albums led by Chet Baker, Stan Getz, Stan Kenton, and Barney Kessel. “Jazz From the Pacific Northwest” acts as a superb testimony to the cool, subtle, and intensely swinging sound of his ensemble, Shelly Manne & His Men. The release features three live performances by Manne, the first being an iconic performance at the very first Monterey Jazz Festival in 1958. The second and third performances are two exceptional evenings in Seattle…

So, once again, we are faced with an extraordinary document that not only allows us to rediscover or discover this jazz giant and a playing style that has influenced generations of musicians, but also emphasizes that Shelly Manne remains a reference in the jazz world and its teaching. Once again, regarding audio quality, the work done is truly spectacular and of very high quality, although due to the type of recording technology of the time, I would tend to recommend the LP version over the CD version. Manne’s performance at the Monterey Jazz Festival showcases his masterful drum work alongside bassist Monty Budwig, pianist Russ Freeman, flutist and alto saxophonist Herb Geller, and trumpeter Stu Williamson. Manne’s performances in 1966 at the Penthouse feature Manne and bassist Monty Budwig alongside pianist Hampton Hawes, flutist and alto saxophonist Frank Strozier, trumpeter Conte Candoli, and very special guest vocalist Ruth Price.

Throughout his life, Manne rebelled against the idea that he was primarily associated with the “cool” West Coast jazz sound. In reality, he was one of the most versatile architects of jazz drumming. “Ask any drummer of my generation about Shelly, and they will talk at length because we were all influenced by him,” shares renowned drummer Joe LaBarbera.

Manne’s propositions throughout this album leave a lasting impression, bringing a “spectacular swing,” as Peter Eskine describes it best, depicting Shelly as above all a true “swinger.” “I would also describe him as the ultimate colorist. But his appreciation and explorations of sound were rivalled only by his aptitude for swing. He was a very conversational and interactive musician. Even though he was extroverted, I feel he always served the music,” he shares. “To summarize in one sentence: Shelly was the kind of drummer I wanted to be when I grew up.”

Sides A and B, in crystal-clear high fidelity, showcase Shelly Manne and His Men’s performance at the Monterey Jazz Festival. The tracks capture Manne’s arranging sensibility, his unique sound, and the incredible interactivity of the ensemble. The album starts with a jovial “Stop, Look and Listen,” showcasing Manne’s ability to lead from the drums right from the first hit of the hi-hat.

Another great drummer praises Manne, Jim Keltner succinctly summarizing Manne’s musical contributions: “I would just say that whether you played drums or not, his era—when he was at the top, with his groups—was a great time. His sound, his playing, and the music he was involved with were all very accessible. Even though he was a bebop drummer and played with bebop musicians, it was still very melodic. We all went with ‘Trane. When Coltrane came along—that’s another very long story—that changed everything. We were never the same after that. But the era of this cool West Coast jazz is still deeply rooted in my heart. That’s what people should rediscover. Shelly Manne was one of the heads of that. He was one of the guys who helped create the West Coast cool jazz school.”

What’s clear is that this album will surprise you; Shelly Manne is a true actor in his music, drawing proposals from every corner of the most unexpected rhythms. There’s much to learn from his playing style, and the pleasure of rediscovering this artist on this double album is very real.

Thierry De Clemensat
USA correspondent – Paris-Move and ABS magazine
Editor in chief Bayou Blue Radio, Bayou Blue News

PARIS-MOVE, April 7th 2024

Follow PARIS-MOVE on X


Cellar Music Group Announces Archival Imprint From Reel to Real Recordings
‘Jazz from the Pacific Northwest’ From Shelly Manne & His Men

Deluxe CD & Digital out on May 10, 2024

To buy LP version

To buy CD version