Tuesday, September 19, 2006


arrivederci, Oriana

Mose Allison, Lost Mind.
Red Garland, Please Send Me Someone to Love.

Two testaments to Percy Mayfield, songwriter.

Mayfield wrote and recorded "Lost Mind" in 1951. Though Mose Allison, in his 1957 take, follows Mayfield's arrangement fairly closely, there are some differences. Mayfield sings the original fairly flat-out, with heft (he's battling the horns for a good part of it), and he seems almost loopy, overwhelmed by his wild, good fortune. While Allison's phrasing is similar to Mayfield's, Allison sings with more cool to his tone-- there's a lazy suppleness to his vocal, a sense of bemusement. Allison may have lost his mind, briefly, but that's all over now--his is the perspective of someone recalling a happily discarded bit of the past. And Allison's quiet, dazzling solo on piano makes Thomas Davis' honking, standard tenor sax break on Mayfield's version seem antediluvian.

Allison recorded "Lost Mind" in Hackensack, NJ, on November 8, 1957, with Addison Farmer (b) and Nick Stabulas (d). On Local Color.

And the jazz pianist Red Garland's take on "Please Send Me Someone to Love," Mayfield's massive R&B hit from 1950, treats the song like an edifice. (Ira Gitler's liner notes from the original Garland LP assume that "Please Send Me" was a blues standard that Mayfield had adapted, rather than being an original composition, which I suppose is a back-handed compliment to Mayfield.) While jazz musicians routinely covered pop songs and Broadway tunes, they generally didn't take on contemporary R&B songs that much in the '50s--this is a happy exception.

The original "Please Send Me" starts with a surge of horns and then Mayfield's tender, brilliant vocal takes center stage, carrying the verses, with only some piano for company. In Garland's take, the melody of the verse begins immediately, with Garland's piano taking on the role of Mayfield, and then after a time Garland quietly moves beyond Mayfield's framework, progressing along in solitude, with Paul Chambers' bass lingering behind and Arthur Taylor's drums mapping the way ahead. Chambers' solo is a deep brown study, and then Garland returns to offer Mayfield's verse one more time before the trio drifts to a close.

Recorded in Hackensack, NJ, on March 22, 1957. On the exquisite Red Garland's Piano.

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