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Shelly Manne

Though his background was swing, Shelly Manne epitomizes more than any drummer including Chico Hamilton the cool school. The most recorded drummer on the West Coast during the '50s and '60s, Manne's opposed to lashy, showy or dominating drumming styles, preferring a subdued, consistent percussive approach, one that buttresses a group's melodic development and offers a generous, but very much in the background boost. With a father and two uncles who were also drummers, Manne was originally a saxophonist, then became a drummer at 18. He substituted for Dave Tough in Benny Goodman's band, then replaced him in Joe Marsala's group. Manne recorded with Marsala in 1941, then later in the '40s played in bands led by Will Bradley, Raymond Scott and Les Brown. He was on Coleman Hawkins' famous "The Man I Love" recording in 1943. He worked in the late '40s and early '50s with Stan Kenton. Manne also played with Johnny Bothwell, George Shearing, Charlie Ventura, Bill Harris and Woody Herman, and toured with Jazz at the Philharmonic. He moved to Los Angeles from New York, and in the mid-'50s became an important bandleader and session musician. He led many combos and played with Stu Williamson, Russ Freeman, Leroy Vinnegar, Charlie Mariano, Joe Gordon, Richie Kamuca, Monty Budwig, Conte Candoli and many others. He led The Poll-Winners trio with Ray Brown and Barney Kessell that were a popular, influential guitar/bass/drums trio in the late '50s. Manne appeared in the film "The Man With Golden Arm" in 1956 and played on Henry Mancini's hit television soundtrack Peter Gunn. Both Mancini and Manne made sequel recordings. But for all Manne's traditionalism and restraint, he played in 1959 with Ornette Coleman on Coleman's second Contemporary album Tomorrow Is The Question. This was a polar opposite to everything else Manne did. He was a member of Andre Previn's trio, and played on instrumental versions of songs from "My Fair Lady" in 1956. The album was also a smash, and the trio did other treatments for such plays as "Lil Abner," "West Side Story" and "Pal Joey." Manne worked extensively for Contemporary in the '50s and early '60s. He entered the nightclub business in 1960, successfully presenting concerts (some of which were later recorded and issued) until 1974. He recorded for Impulse, Verve, Capitol, Concord and Contemporary in the '60s, then Mainstream, Discovery, Pausa, East Wind, and Galaxy in the '70s. Manne was in The L.A. Four in the mid-70s, led a quartet including Lew Tabackin, and re-recorded with The Poll-Winners trio. He toured Japan in 1980 with The Gentlemen of Swing including Benny Carter, Teddy Wilson and Milt Hinton. Manne also was extremely busy doing percussion parts in film scores and television background work throughout the time he lived and worked in California. There were more dates for Trend, Atlas, Jazzizz and Concord. Shelley Manne sessions, as a leader and with various groups and combos, are widely available on CD.
© Ron Wynn and Michael G. Nastos /TiVo


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