The Best Of Shelly Manne offers an overview of Shelly Manneâ€™s Contemporary label releases from 1953 to 1961. Manne has gotten the reputation as the quintessential West Coast cool jazz drummer and while there is some merit to this, he was quite comfortable playing many styles. He played drums on Frank Zappaâ€™s Lumpy Gravy, my favorite Tom Waits album Small Change, numerous television and film soundtracks, and also recorded with Ornette Coleman and thatâ€™s just a few examples. A dreadful pun is coming, but if Shelly Manne could name his nightclub The Manne-hole, I can say that Shelly was indeed an every Manne.
Thirteen tracks are taken from eleven original releases and they provide a good sampling, for the casual fan, of Manneâ€™s various stylistic takes with many different side players, the most notable perhaps being Andre Previn. Manne was an excellent band leader who always drove the beat with understated control. If youâ€™re looking for outright drum pyrotechnics youâ€™re in the wrong place.
â€śFlipâ€ť, named for Manneâ€™s wife, begins the CD with a good intimate dose of the California cool style featuring Shorty Rogers on trumpet and Jimmy Giuffre on clarinet.
â€śCollard Greens And Black Eyed Peasâ€ť gives us a bass, drums, and piano trio and it smokes with a bluesy burn from Previnâ€™s piano. The track has a film noirish feel giving evidence of Manneâ€™s interest in soundtracks. Shelly Manne & His Men do a good reading of the Sonny Rollins written â€śDoxyâ€ť, but some things are better left to the originator.
â€śCheckmateâ€ť could have been used as a spy movie theme. Chuck Berghoferâ€™s bass solo is a highlight, but I also completely dig Manneâ€™s cymbal flourish at the start of the bass run. Itâ€™s like heâ€™s saying get after it Chuck, itâ€™s all yours. One of the hardest hitting tracks for drum enthusiasts is â€śMoose The Moocherâ€ť which swings with Manne belting the crescendos before melting back down into brush whispers. I expected full on Latin for â€śMu-Cha-Chaâ€ť and I was surprised that it didnâ€™t sound like something from a Cal Tjader session. It does boast a nice shifting tempo with more excellent stick work from Manne who gets an almost mechanical sound at one point. An unneeded version of â€śPeter Gunnâ€ť is included with Victor Feldmanâ€™s marimbas providing comic relief. â€śThe Sound Affects Manneâ€ť, a drum and piano piece, is either artful or a gimmick, you decide. The highlight of this best of is â€śPoincianaâ€ť featuring noteworthy soloing throughout filled with memorable phrasing. Two of the players rise above the proceeding with Joe Gordon getting a Clifford Brown tone from his trumpet and Monty Budwigâ€™s light fingered bass work holding steady over tempo changes galore.