Red Norvo All-Stars

Sample this concert
  1. 1Introduction by Billy Taylor01:09
  2. 2Rosetta08:02
  3. 3When It's Sleepy Time Down South07:21
  4. 4Sweet Georgia Brown06:11
Liner Notes

Red Norvo - vibraphone; Ruby Braff - trumpet; Billy Taylor - piano; Jack Lesberg - bass; Don Lamond - drums

A Swing era star during the 1930s, vibraphonist-bandleader Red Norvo fronted an all-
star aggregation at the 1967 Newport Jazz Festival that featured trumpeter Ruby Braff
and pianist Billy Taylor, along with the rhythm tandem of bassist Jack Lesberg and
drummer Don Lamond. They open with an ebullient, briskly swinging rendition of Earl
Hines' "Rosetta" that showcases Norvo's chops and Braff's Armstrong-inspired cadences
on the trumpet. The two engage in some conversational exchanges midway through this
popular 1930s jam vehicle, then Norvo goes toe-to-toe with drummer Lamond in some
bristling call-and-response before giving the floor to Lesberg. who turns in a surging
bass solo. Shifting gears, they next head into a mellow, midtempo reading of Louis
Armstrong's theme song, "When It's Sleepy Time Down South," which is underscored
by Lamond's supple brushwork. Norvo's cascading solo here shows a level of technical
virtuosity on the instrument that surpasses the great Lionel Hampton and paved the way
for such vibes innovators as Milt Jackson, Bobby Hutcherson and Gary Burton, who all
followed in his wake. Braff follows with a solo that is less about technical virtuosity and
more about feeling. Then comes Taylor, who turns in a piano solo that shows precisely
why he was so highly touted by his mentor, the great Art Tatum. And they finish with
a flurry of simultaneous expression, in the grand tradition of early New Orleans music.
They conclude their 1967 Newport Jazz Festival set with a lively reading of the age-
old jam, "Sweet Georgia Brown." Norvo is particularly frisky on his solo here and Braff
once again digs deep into his Armstrong bag for a vibrant trumpet solo while Taylor
follows with some Tatumesque burn on the keys. After some slick trading of eights with
drummer Lamond, they bring this old workhorse to a frantic conclusion.

Born Kenneth Norville on March 31, 1908 in Beardstown, Illinois, he formed his first
band, The Collegians, in 1925. He later played in big bands led by Paul Whiteman and
Charlie Barnet and recorded with singers like his wife Mildred Bailey (they were known
as "Mr. and Mrs. Swing") and Billie Holiday. Norvo led his own orchestra from 1936 to

1943, then joined the Benny Goodman Sextet in 1944 and subsequently played in Woody
Herman's Thundering Herd in 1946. In 1949, he formed an innovative trio that included
guitarist Mundell Lowe and bassist Red Kelly. Subsequent editions of the trio featured
guitar great Tal Farlow and a young Charles Mingus on bass, then guitarist Jimmy Raney
and bassist Red Mitchell. Norvo's quintet had an onscreen appearance in the 1960 film
Oceans 11 (produced by Sinatra) backing Dean Martin on a version of "Ain't That a Kick
in the Head." He worked with the Newport All-Stars in the mid '60s and remained active
through the mid 1980s, when he was sidelined by a stroke. He died on April 6, 1999, at
the age of 91. - Bill Milkowski