Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Shelly Manne (June 11, 1920 – September 26, 1984), born Sheldon Manne in New York, New York, was an American jazz drummer. He was frequently associated with West Coast Jazz , but his broad range of contributions to music, not only jazz, showed that he could not be readily pigeonholed.
Family and Origins
Manne's father and uncles were drummers, and in his youth he especially admired Swing drummers Jo Jones and especially Dave Tough . He developed his art in the clubs of 52nd Street in New York in the late 1930s and 1940s, and in his early years performed and recorded with jazz stars like Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Shavers, and Don Byas, as well as a number of musicians mainly associated with Duke Ellington, like Johnny Hodges, Harry Carney, Lawrence Brown, and Rex Stewart.
The Bebop movement changed jazz in the 1940s. Excited by the new music, Manne developed his skills by performing with Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. Around this time he also worked with rising stars like Flip Phillips , Charlie Ventura , Lennie Tristano, and Lee Konitz.
Manne rose to stardom when he became part of the working bands of Woody Herman and, especially, Stan Kenton in the late 1940s and early 1950s, winning awards and developing a following at a time when jazz was still the most popular music in the United States.
In the early 1950s, Manne left New York and settled permanently on a ranch in an outlying part of Los Angeles, California, where he and his wife raised horses. From this point on, he played an important role in the so-called West Coast school of jazz, performing on the Los Angeles jazz scene with Shorty Rogers , Hampton Hawes, Red Mitchell , Art Pepper, Russ Freeman , Frank Rosolino, Chet Baker, Leroy Vinnegar, Pete Jolly, Howard McGhee , Bob Gordon , Conte Candoli , Sonny Criss, and numerous others. Many of his recordings around this time were for Lester Koenig's Contemporary Records, where for a period Manne had a contract as an "exclusive" artist (meaning that he could not record for other labels without permission).
Also at this time, and until the end of his career, Manne led a number of small groups that recorded under his name and leadership. One consisting of Manne on drums, trumpeter Joe Gordon, saxophonist Richie Kamuca , bassist Monty Budwig , and pianist Victor Feldman performed for three days in 1959 at the famous Black Hawk club in San Francisco. Their music was recorded on the spot, and four LPs were issued. These recordings, widely acclaimed and considered pioneering examples of jazz albums made from "live" recordings, were much later reissued on CD in augmented form.
West Coast Jazz
Many have debated the value of the music created at that time, in that place, and by those musicians. Some, perhaps not quite fairly, use "West Coast Jazz " as a derogatory term. The early 1950s in Los Angeles saw considerable experimentation, some of it attempting new ways of combining jazz with European classical music. Some of the recording sessions, in many of which Manne participated, produced music that came off as overly cerebral, feeding the critics with reasons to dismiss all jazz produced on the West Coast.
Tending to link Manne with West Coast Jazz in another less than complimentary sense was the series of albums he recorded with pianist André Previn and with members of his groups, based on music from popular Broadway shows, movies, and television programs. (The first and most famous of these was the one based on My Fair Lady, recorded with Previn, Manne, and bassist Leroy Vinnegar in 1956.) The music--with each album devoted to a single show--was improvised upon in the manner of jazz but always in a light, immediately appealing style aimed at popular taste. Not that this music was necessarily bad, but it did not always go over well with aficionados of "serious" jazz music, which may be one reason why Manne has been frequently overlooked in accounts of major jazz drummers of the twentieth century.
Whatever one's opinion of West Coast Jazz--whatever West Coast Jazz really was--it must be considered that in Manne's case such music represented only a small part of his playing. In Los Angeles and occasionally returning to New York and elsewhere, Manne recorded with musicians of all schools and styles, ranging from those of the Swing era through Bebop to later developments in modern jazz.
The roster of those whose music Manne enhanced with his subtle, sensitive, and creative percussion is mind boggling. Many old 78-rpm recordings he appeared on were never transferred to other media and are nearly impossible to find. He also appears to have participated in countless unrecorded performances. But even those recordings that were issued as long-playing records over the course of many decades and are still to be found number in the hundreds, perhaps thousands. According to the jazz writer Leonard Feather , Manne's drumming had been heard on well "over a thousand LPs"--a statement that Feather made in 1960, when Manne had not reached even the midpoint of his 45-year-long career!
An extremely selective list of those with whom Manne performed would have to include Benny Carter, Earl Hines, Clifford Brown, Zoot Sims, Ben Webster, Maynard Ferguson, Wardell Gray, Lionel Hampton, Junior Mance , Jimmy Giuffre and Stan Getz. In the 1950s, he recorded two solid albums with Sonny Rollins and, in the 1960s, two with Bill Evans. Around the same time in 1959, Manne recorded with the traditional Benny Goodman and the radical and iconoclastic Ornette Coleman. That he fitted comfortably into a supportive role appropriate to each highlights his extreme versatility.
One example of Manne's ability to transcend the narrow borders of any particular school is the series of trio albums he recorded with guitarist Barney Kessel and bassist Ray Brown as "The Poll Winners." (They had all won numerous polls conducted by the popular publications of the day; the polls are now forgotten, but the albums remain available, now reissued on CD, demonstrating the lasting value of the music.) Manne even dabbled in Dixieland and Fusion, as well as "Third Stream" jazz. He participated in the revival of that precursor to jazz, ragtime (he appears on several albums devoted to the music of Scott Joplin), and sometimes recorded with musicians best associated with European classical music. He always, however, returned to the mainstream jazz he loved best.
In addition to Dave Tough and Jo Jones , Manne admired and learned from contemporaries like Max Roach and Kenny Clarke, and later from younger drummers like Elvin Jones and Tony Williams. Consciously or unconsciously, he borrowed a little from all of them, always searching to extend his playing into new territory.
Despite these and numerous other influences, however, Shelly Manne's style of drumming was always his own--personal, precise, clear, and at the same time multilayered, using a very broad range of colors. Manne was often experimental, and had participated in such musically exploratory groups of the early 1950s as those of Jimmy Giuffre and Teddy Charles ; yet he never neglected that element usually considered fundamental to all jazz: time.
Whether playing Dixieland, Bebop, or avant-garde jazz, in big bands or in small groups, Manne never forgot to make the music swing. At the same time, always cited by his fellow musicians for listening appreciatively to those around him, he was ultra-sensitive to the needs and the nuances of the music played by the others in the band. His constant goal was to make them--and the music as a whole--sound better, rather than calling attention to himself with overbearing solos.
Manne didn't have to play in a powerhouse style to be creative. In 1957, the noted critic Nat Hentoff called Manne one of the most "musical" and "illuminatively imaginative" drummers. Composer and multi-instrumentalist Bob Cooper called him "the most imaginative drummer I've worked with." In later years this kind of appreciation for what Manne could do was echoed by jazz notables like Louie Bellson, John Lewis, Ray Brown, Harry "Sweets" Edison, and numerous others who had worked with him over the decades. Composer, arranger, bandleader, and multi-instrumentalist Benny Carter is on record as having been "a great admirer of his work." "He could read anything, get any sort of effect," said Carter, who worked closely with Manne over many decades.
That acclaim was echoed by singers as well. Jackie Cain , of the vocal team of Jackie and Roy (Roy being her husband Roy Kral ), claimed that she had "never heard a drummer play so beautifully behind a singer." And play behind singers he did, recording several albums with that husband-and-wife team, with their contemporary June Christy , and with Helen Humes, originally made famous by her singing with the Count Basie orchestra.
Over decades, Manne recorded additional albums, or sometimes just sat in on drums here and there, with renowned vocalists like Ella Fitzgerald, Mel Tormé, Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan, Lena Horne, Blossom Dearie, and Nancy Wilson. Often singers who were not even primarily jazz singers, attempting to bend their style in a more jazz-like direction, or even just wanting the expert and sensitive percussive setting that Manne could provide, included him in their recording sessions, singers as diverse as Theresa Brewer , Leontyne Price, Tom Waits, and even Barry Manilow.
Film and Television
In addition to performing live and in studio recordings with these vocalists and with innumerable jazz instrumentalists, including his own small groups, from the 1950s through the early 1980s, Manne contributed his percussive effects to the soundtracks of literally hundreds of films and television programs. Many were obscure, others were scored by well-known composers like André Previn, Quincy Jones, Henry Mancini, Elmer Bernstein, Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams--the list, like that of the jazz musicians he performed with, goes on and on.
By this means, Manne's drumming became an integral part of the musical background of the popular culture of several decades, and made its way into the ears and hearts of thousands who would never recognize his name. Occasionally, he composed his own music for television (e.g., Daktari , 1966-1969), and the movies (Young Billy Young , 1969).
A star in Stan Kenton's famous orchestra in the 1940s and 1950s, as well as that of Woody Herman, also in the 1940s, and winner of numerous awards, Manne slipped from public view as jazz became less central in popular music. After a stint as part owner of a nightclub in the 1960s and early 1970s in Los Angeles, Manne refocused his attention on his own drumming. It might be argued that he never played with more taste, refinement, and soulful swing than in the 1970s, when he recorded numerous albums with musicians like Red Rodney, Art Pepper, Oliver Nelson , Lew Tabackin , Bud Shank, Hank Jones, and his own groups.
In the 1980s, Manne continued to record with such stars as Harry "Sweets" Edison, Zoot Sims, Joe Pass, John Lewis (for decades famous as the musical director and pianist for the Modern Jazz Quartet), and Herb Ellis.
Meanwhile, he continued to record with his own groups. Of these, just one representative example is a live concert recorded at the Los Angeles club "Carmelo's" in 1980 with pianists Bill Mays and Alan Broadbent and bassist Chuck Domanico . With their enthusiasm and spontaneity, and the sense that the audience in the intimate ambience of the club is participating in the music, these performances share the characteristics that had been celebrated more than two decades before in the better-known Black Hawk performances. Although this phase of his career has frequently been overlooked, Manne, by this time, had greatly refined his ability to back other musicians sympathetically, yet make his own musical thoughts clearly heard.
Manne was sometimes underrated as a serious jazz musician because of his heavy load of Hollywood studio work. Even in lackluster films, he nevertheless often succeeded in making art of what might be called hackwork. Still, for all his tireless work in the studios, Manne's labor of love was his contribution to jazz as an American art form, to which he had dedicated himself since his youth and continued to work at almost to the last day of his life.
Manne died somewhat before the popular revival of interest in jazz had gained momentum. But shortly before his death in Los Angeles in 1984, his immense contribution to the music regained some recognition at least locally. In his last few years, Manne became effectively the King of Jazz in California. Two weeks before his sudden death of a heart attack, he was honored by the City of Los Angeles in conjunction with the Hollywood Arts Council when September 9, 1984, was declared "Shelly Manne Day."
Brand, Jack. Shelly Manne: Sounds of the Different Drummer (Percussion Express, 1997)
Gioia, Ted. West Coast Jazz: Modern Jazz in California 1945-1960 (Oxford University Press, 1992)
Gordon, Robert. Jazz West Coast: The Los Angeles Jazz Scene of the 1950s (Quartet Books, 1986)
Strain, James. "Shelly Manne" (Web Site of the Percussive Arts Society )
(dates are those of the original recordings)
Shelly Manne's Own Groups:
Shelly Manne & His Men, Swinging Sounds (1956, Contemporary)
Shelly Manne & His Men, At The Black Hawk (5 CDs, 1959, Contemporary)
Shelly Manne & His Men, At The Manne Hole (2 CDs, 1961, Contemporary)
Shelly Manne & His Men, Boss Sounds! (1966, Atlantic)
Shelly Manne, Double Piano Jazz Concert at Carmelo's (2 CDs, 1980, Trend)
Sonny Rollins, Way Out West (1957, Contemporary)
Benny Carter, Jazz Giant (1957, 1958, Contemporary)
Howard McGhee, Maggie's Back in Town (1961, Contemporary)
Bill Evans, Empathy and A Simple Matter of Conviction (2 LPs [1962 and 1966] reissued on one CD, Verve)
Sonny Criss, I'll Catch the Sun (1969, Prestige)
Art Pepper, Living Legend (1975, Contemporary)
Hank Jones, Just for Fun (1977, Galaxy)
The John Lewis Group, Kansas City Breaks (1982, Finesse)
Bill Mays Quintet, Tha's Delights (1983, Trend)
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