Saturday, November 21, 2009

Med Flory in the 1950s: His dream bands

Med Flory in de jaren vijftig: Go West Young Med!( Nederlands) Med Flory in the 1950s: Go West Young Med! ( English) Med Flory in the 1950s: His Dream Bands (English) Med Flory in de jaren vijftig: Zijn droombands ( Nederlands)

A forgotten bandleader and componer revisited.
Hans Koert

Med Flory was one of the most dynamic alto saxophonists, arrangers and bandleaders in the New York and Los Angeles scenes in the 1950s. If you listen to his leadership recordings from the mid- and late-1950s or his work with Terry Gibbs and Dave Pell, you'll be taken aback. I certainly was. Med's charts and the charts he motivated others to write for him are like pure rocket fuel. They take off and don't stop. Part of Med's gift was a knack for assembling just the right swingers. Like a kid who keeps tinkering with hot rods to get them to go faster, louder and cooler, Med routinely assembled groups that out-did the last ones. Musicians impressed into duty (often in the same band) included Al Cohn, Johnny Bello, Doug Mettome, Hal McKusick, Billy Byers, Urbie Green and so many others. Med's leadership dates bring new meaning to his "dream bands. ( Marc Myers Jazz Wax blog )

Label of the Fresh Sound reissue: Go West Young Med

In 1955 Med and his wife Joanie, joined the band of Ray Anthony. This band was one of the best dance orchestras from the 1950s and it toured all around the States for almost three and a half year. Med and Joanie moved to California. We love it out there. It was a pretty nice place to live. The climate was perfect and it had a cosmopolitan atmosphere. So I got a few bucks from my folks and we bought a home. He performed their for 30 weeks in the Ray Anthony show and in studio orchestras, in which he took up the baritone saxophone. There was so much work in L.A. back then. In 1956 Med founded his own orchestra, most musicians from the Ray Anthony orchestra. This band recorded four tracks in March 1956 - in which Med showed that he is could be a vocalist too in a fast played swinging own composition I Love You, That's All. A year later Med, Red Kelly and trumpet player Al Porcino gave some great shows with the Jazz Wave Orchestra and six live tracks recorded in Los Angeles with this Flory-Porcino Jazz Wave Orchestra are to be found too in this compilation. It’s a pity that the sound balance is not very good due to a bad mike placement - a few month later that same band recorded again, now into a studio, which gave a more balanced sound, with some exciting replacement: Conte Candoli is to be heard on trumpet and Buddy Clark on bass. The Four Brothers revisited (1987): f.l.t.r. Al Cohn - Jimmy Giuffre - Med Flory - Bill Perkins

In 1958 Flory performed with a rehearsal band at the first 1958 Monterey Jazz Festival and was a big hit. A year later he would return to play on that same festival with the Woody Herman band. Enjoy a film fragment I found with Med Flory, Sal Nistico, Flip Phillips and Al Cohn at a Japan concert revisiting the Woody Herman "Four Brothers":

The last two tracks are some remarkable recordings by the Sax Maniacs on which Ned plays the oboe and the alto saxophone in a sax line up with great names like Bill Perkins and Bill Holman, featuring a rhythm section with Jim Hall, Russ Freeman, Red Mitchell ( other sources give Red Kelly) and Mel Lewis. The oboe gives the first tune, Shish-Ka-Bob (sic) an Arabic flavor and the negro spiritual Nobody Knows the Trouble I've seen, in my opinion, feds up with this great compilation. A pity ......

The well known Art Pepper + Eleven recording with Med Flory in the sax section on baritone.

In the late 1950s Med Flory took part in the famous Art Pepper + Eleven recordings and in several recording sessions with vibraphone player Terry Gibbs. Love to introduce you to a fragment featuring Terry Gibbs' Band with, as a special guest, Dizzy Gillespie in Smoke 'em Up.

Terry Gibbs Dream Band
During the next decades Med played his saxophone in great bands like Supersax, devoted to the music of
Charlie Parker and he became a actor in films ( like The Nutty Professor) and TV-series. Med Flory is still active nowadays. His is the initiator of the Med Flory Jazz & Blues Festival in his birth place Longansport, Indiana. Love to show you a trailer of that festival, so you can hear how he sounds now-a-days.

Med Flory, now in his 80s, is still a sought after musicians in festivals, although he had to cancel some concerts due to health problems - hope he will be with us for a long time. His wife Joanie, he was married with her for 48 years, passed away in January 2001. A great musician, now almost forgotten by the average jazz fan - a shame !!
Hans Koert

Some jazz musicians made great music, but seem to be forgotten by now, like Med Flory; the Keep Swinging blog loves to point you to those neglected musicians, so it would be a pity if you missed those contributions. Become a friend of this Keep Swinging blog and keep informed. Please register !

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