Wardell Gray Story

Wardell Gray Story

by Wardell Gray

In keeping with high standards set by the U.K.'s Proper label, Proper Box 55 easily qualifies as the finest single-package anthology ever devoted to the works of tenor saxophonist Wardell Gray (1921-1955). His best recordings, which are well represented throughout this four-CD set, reveal the combined influences of Lester Young and …  See more details below


In keeping with high standards set by the U.K.'s Proper label, Proper Box 55 easily qualifies as the finest single-package anthology ever devoted to the works of tenor saxophonist Wardell Gray (1921-1955). His best recordings, which are well represented throughout this four-CD set, reveal the combined influences of Lester Young and Charlie Parker. Born in Oklahoma City, he was raised and schooled in Detroit, where he played his first professional engagements in the company of trumpeter Howard McGhee and saxophonist Big Nick Nicholas. In 1943, Gray was hired by Budd Johnson to play in the Earl Hines Orchestra. The first five tracks represent Gray's adventures with this exciting big band during 1945 and 1946. A more thorough sampling that reaches back to his first appearances on record in October of 1944 was released under Gray's name on the French import Masters of Jazz label in 1999, while two volumes in the Earl Hines portion of the Classics chronological series covered similar ground with comparable precision. After touring with the Hines band, Gray moved to Los Angeles and spent the years 1946-1947 recording for multiple labels as a rising star of the West Coast bop scene. This segment of Gray's career is invoked by his interactions with Howard McGhee, pianist Dodo Marmarosa, and saxophonists Dexter Gordon and Sonny Criss. A cross section of recordings made in New York and L.A. during 1948 and 1949 include several collaborations with pianist Al Haig, a Blue Note date with the Tadd Dameron Sextet, and records made with assorted bands both big and small under the leadership of Benny Goodman. The next phase of Gray's bebop odyssey is evidenced by material from two Prestige studio sessions and a nine-minute live jam on "Scrapple from the Apple," followed by some breathtaking examples of what he sounded like with bands led by Count Basie. Rather than pursuing Gray through his final sessions in 1953 and 1955, Proper devotes the entire fourth disc to choice cuts from the year 1952. These include the widely admired date with Art Farmer and Hampton Hawes, three hot numbers credited to Louis Bellson's Just Jazz All Stars, and a reunion of sorts with Dexter Gordon. This session features a rocking version of Dave Bartholomew's "I Hear You Knockin'," which is a very enjoyable example of how well this saxophonist fit into the rhythm & blues bag. Gladys Bentley sings "Jingle, Jangle Jump," a rather conventional Christmas song stretched over the prerequisite bop framework. It's interesting to note that Bentley made her first recordings back in the '20s as a vaudevillian male impersonator. Additional vocalists who pop up here and there amongst the instrumentals in this set are Billy Eckstine, Buddy Stewart, Buddy Greco, and Terry Swope. Proper's Wardell Gray Story closes with four tunes recorded live in Hollywood in September 1952 at a modified bungalow on Wiltshire Boulevard known as The Haig. Carrying 77 vintage swing and bop tracks and upholstered with exacting session data and insightful notes by Dutch jazz singer Joop Visser, Proper Box 55 is strongly recommended as a portrait of a gifted improviser and an action-packed survey of mid-20th century jazz.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Proper Box Uk


Disc 1

  1. At the el Grotto
  2. Straight Life
  3. Let's Get Started
  4. Bamby
  5. Blue Keys
  6. Dell's Bells
  7. One for Prez
  8. The Man I Love
  9. Easy Swing
  10. The Great Lie, Pts. 1 and 2
  11. Blue Lou
  12. Backbreaker
  13. She's Got Blues for Sale
  14. Groovin' High
  15. Hot House
  16. Bebop

Disc 2

  1. The Chase
  2. The Creep
  3. Out of Nowhere
  4. Blue 'N' Boogie
  5. Semi-Quiet (Sonny's Bop)
  6. Blue Lou
  7. How High the Moon
  8. C Jam Blues
  9. Light Gray
  10. Stoned
  11. Matter and Mind
  12. The Toupe
  13. Cookin' on Up
  14. Swedish Pastry
  15. Mary's Idea
  16. Bye Bye Blues Bop
  17. Stealin' Apples
  18. Jahbero
  19. Ladybird
  20. Symphonette
  21. Shawn
  22. The Hucklebuck

Disc 3

  1. Five Star
  2. Sugar Hill Bop
  3. In a Pinch
  4. It's the Talk of the Town
  5. Bedlam
  6. In the Land of Oo-Bla-Dee
  7. Blue Lou
  8. Egg Head
  9. Twisted
  10. Southside
  11. Easy Living
  12. Sweet Lorraine
  13. A Sinner Kissed an Angel
  14. Blue Gray
  15. Grayhound
  16. Treadin' With Treadwell
  17. Scrapple from the Apple
  18. Song of the Islands
  19. One O'Clock Jump
  20. Tootsie
  21. Nails
  22. Little Pony
  23. April Skies

Disc 4

  1. Bright Boy
  2. Jackie
  3. Farmer's Market
  4. Sweet and Lovely
  5. Lover Man
  6. The Jeep Is Jumpin'
  7. Johnny Come Lately
  8. Punkin'
  9. The Rubaiyat
  10. I Hear You Knockin'
  11. Jingle, Jangle, Jump
  12. Citizen's Bop
  13. Bernie's Tune
  14. The Squirrel
  15. Taking a Chance on Love
  16. Get Happy

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Wardell Gray   Primary Artist,Tenor Saxophone
Bill Douglas   Trumpet
Count Basie   Bass
Billy Bauer   Guitar
Louie Bellson   Drums
Eddie Bert   Trombone
Sonny Criss   Alto Saxophone
Tadd Dameron   Piano
Allen Eager   Tenor Saxophone
Billy Eckstine   Trombone,Valve Trombone,Vocals
Art Farmer   Trumpet
Russ Freeman   Piano
Erroll Garner   Piano
Benny Goodman   Clarinet
Dexter Gordon   Baritone Saxophone,Tenor Saxophone
Buddy Greco   Piano,Vocals
Freddie Green   Guitar
Haig   Piano
Earl Hines   Piano
Barney Kessel   Guitar
Mundell Lowe   Guitar
Shelly Manne   Drums
Fats Navarro   Trumpet
Jimmy Raney   Guitar
Marshall Royal   Alto Saxophone
Willie Smith   Alto Saxophone
Lucky Thompson   Tenor Saxophone
Gerald Wiggins   Organ,Piano
Teddy Wilson   Piano
Harry Babasin   Bass
Willie Cook   Trumpet
Matthew Gee   Trombone
John Graas   French Horn
Ray Linn   Trombone
Tommy Potter   Bass
Howard McGhee   Trumpet
Mary Lou Williams   Piano
Porcino   Trumpet
Franny Beecher   Guitar
Frank Bode   Drums
Billy Byers   Trombone
Jimmy Bunn   Piano
Red Callender   Bass
Scoops Carey   Clarinet,Alto Saxophone
Harry Carney   Baritone Saxophone
Clark Terry   Trumpet
Kenny Clarke   Drums
Harper Cosby   Bass
Gene DiNovi   Piano
Charlie Fowlkes   Baritone Saxophone
Charlie Fox   Piano
Irving Goodman   Trumpet
Bennie Green   Trombone
William K. "Billy" Hadnott   Bass
Rene Hall   Guitar
Hampton Hawes   Piano
Roy Haynes   Drums
Hendrickson   Guitar
Shifty Henry   Bass
Gus Johnson   Drums
Tiny Kahn   Drums
Killian   Trumpet
Clyde Lombardi   Bass
Joe Mondragon   Bass
Larance Marable   Drums
Dodo Marmarosa   Piano
Art Mardigan   Drums
Wendell Marshall   Bass
Charles Perry   Drums
Reuben Phillips   Alto Saxophone
Johnny Richardson   Bass
Curly Russell   Bass
Rudy Rutherford   Baritone Saxophone
Ziggy Schatz   Trumpet
Kermit Scott   Tenor Saxophone
Lloyd Smith   Alto Saxophone
Buddy Stewart   Vocals
Billy Strayhorn   Piano
Chuck Thompson   Drums
Juan Tizol   Valve Trombone
Gerald Valentine   Trombone
Harold "Doc" West   Drums
John Williams   Baritone Saxophone
Mel Zelnick   Drums
Charlie Drayton   Bass
Jackie Mills   Drums
Gladys Bentley   Vocals
Mitchell Wood   Trombone
Doug Mettome   Trumpet
Chick Booth   Drums
Sonny Igoe   Drums
Larry Molinelli   Baritone Saxophone
Jimmy Lewis & the Checkers   Bass
Arnold Fishkind   Bass
Eddie Wasserman   Tenor Saxophone
Lamar Wright   Trumpet
Angelo Cicalese   Alto Saxophone
George Monte   Trombone
Howard Reich   Trumpet
Tim Kennedy   Drums
Phil Hill   Piano
John "Sly" Wilson   Trumpet
Robert Collier   Conga
Warren Bracken   Piano
Terry Swope   Vocals
Mitch Goldberg   Alto Saxophone
Dicky Harris   Trombone
Fats Palmer   Trumpet
Clifton Small   Trombone
Mario Dione   Trombone
Gene Thomas   Bass

Technical Credits

George Gershwin   Composer
Count Basie   Composer
Cab Calloway   Composer
Buddy Collette   Composer
Tadd Dameron   Composer
Art Farmer   Composer
Dizzy Gillespie   Composer
Benny Goodman   Composer
Dexter Gordon   Composer
Wardell Gray   Composer
Haig   Composer
Earl Hines   Composer
Johnny Hodges   Composer
Barney Kessel   Composer
Cecil Payne   Composer
Jimmy Raney   Composer
Fats Waller   Composer
Andy Gibson   Composer
Neal Hefti   Composer
Irving Mills   Composer
Edgar Sampson   Composer
Harold Arlen   Composer
Dave Bartholomew   Composer
Vernon Duke   Composer
Shorty Rogers   Arranger,Composer
Mary Lou Williams   Composer
Andy Razaf   Composer
Gus Arnheim   Composer
David Bennett   Composer
Barney Bigard   Composer
Duke Ellington   Composer
Johnny Green   Composer
Nancy Hamilton   Composer
Hampton Hawes   Composer
Edward Heyman   Composer
John Latouche   Composer
Bernard Miller   Composer
J. Neiburg   Composer
Mitchell Parish   Composer
Charlie Parker   Composer
Roger "Ram" Ramirez   Composer
Ralph Rainger   Composer
Leo Robin   Composer
Billy Strayhorn   Arranger,Composer
Marty Symes   Composer
Arthur Walker   Contributor
Chauncey Gray   Composer
Jimmy Sherman   Composer
Roy Paul Joseph   Composer
Bert Lown   Composer
Buster Harding   Composer
B. Stewart   Composer
Ted Koehler   Composer
Clifford R. Burwell   Composer
Pearl King   Composer
Morgan Lewis   Composer
Harry Tobias   Composer
Mack David   Composer
Buggs Roberts   Composer
Roy Alfred   Composer
Kendall Bright   Composer
Milt Orent   Composer
Joop Visser   Producer,Liner Notes
Jimmy Davis   Composer
Frederick Hamm   Composer

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