Vince Bartels' All-Stars, a.k.a. Migrant Jazz Workers
Floyd Levin's liner notes on Vol. 1 (2004):
This session seemed like just a casual meeting of world-famous colleagues with a mutual admiration for each other. There was no tedium -- no tension -- but an abundance of joviality, laughter, warm camaraderie, and many "thumbs-up" gestures during the recordings... [There was] instant creativity and meticulous attention to detail that energized the wonderful music on this CD...
The six musicians had never played together as a band. There were no previous rehearsals or written arrangements. After briefly tuning their instruments and "warming up," the songs were selected on the spot, and ad hoc "arrangements" were hastily discussed.
After selecting a number, they quickly agreed on the key and tempo, and considered starting with the verse or merely a brief piano introduction -- or right "from the top." They usually talked about the sequence of solos, and the endings. Should there be an abrupt closure -- or a brief tag? Perhaps only a cymbal crash? A coda? Or a fade out?
The seasoned jazzmen also carefully planned the "bridge," the eight-bar middle segments separating the opening and final choruses of most tunes. To give each number a distinctive sound, they might play the bridge as an ensemble, or perhaps delegate it to an individual musician. On some tunes, you will notice that the tonal contrast of the bridge sets a spark igniting some very steamy endings. Having appropriately established these many vital elements, someone usually said, “Let’s play it!”
When engineer Bryan Shaw, in his upstairs control booth, announced that the tape was rolling, the pros did what they do best! They displayed a remarkable degree of spontaneity, vitality, and total compatibility that thoroughly justified their description as “All-Stars.”
After recording a piece (and while Bryan Shaw occasionally adjusted the positions of a few mikes), they listened intently to the playback to decide if another “take” was necessary. Frequently, one or more of the band members expressed disapproval of their individual playing, or made a pertinent suggestion about the format. Occasionally, everything seemed perfect on the first take; however, aware that these recordings would be a permanent reflection of their work, they usually taped two or three versions, seeking the quality they expected to achieve. Because of their ardent concern for perfection, an hour or more usually elapsed before another number was selected.
The “All-Star” reference in the band’s name is not hyperbole. This excellent group, from various parts of the country, was carefully assembled by Vince Bartels from the first-rate participants at the recently completed 9th annual Sweet & Hot Music Festival during the 2004 Labor Day Weekend at the LAX Marriott Hotel.
Similar gatherings often become competitive exhibitions of self-serving individuality. Conversely, while each member of this stellar sextet had an opportunity to display his own considerable skills, they smoothly merged their singular talents to forge the warm collective sounds on this CD.
While their backgrounds vary, one factor became apparent in their gleaming credentials: they all came from musical families! Vince Bartels’ father, bassist Hank Bartels, a Louisiana native, grew up with Pete Fountain (worked with him on the original Dukes of Dixieland), and is still musically active in the Crescent City.
Eddie Higgins’ mother was a distinguished classical pianist. Russ Phillips’ father, trombonist Russ Phillips, Sr., replaced Jack Teagarden in the Louis Armstrong All-Stars in 1951. Dave Stone is taking giant strides in the footsteps of his father, Bobby Stone, who played bass with Harry James’ orchestra and Barney Bigard’s combos. Allan Vaché’s father, the late Warren Vaché, Sr., a noted bassist-bandleader and author of several acclaimed jazz books, was also the father of renowned jazz cornetist Warren Vaché, Jr. Dan Barrett reverses the trend: His [then] seventeen-year-old son, Andrew Barrett, is rapidly achieving the status of star pianist.