Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Med Flory in the 1950s: Go West Young Med

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

The introduction to Med Flory must have been somewhere during the 1960s or 1970s, as I was an admirer of the Bonanza TV-series that was on Dutch television, broadcasted by the KRO, who scheduled this series for almost ten years ( 1963 - 1972 ). Med Flory was to be seen in just four episodes, so I really don't remember him. He also appeared in the famous Lassie series, very popular in those days and to be seen on Dutch TV-network too by the NCRV network between 1962 and 1980 - well - I don't remember him either - last month I was introduced to a complete other side of this actor - his biggest love - music - as a band leader, jazz saxophone player and, above all, a great composer.

Med Flory in one of the Bonanza programs.

Med Flory is perhaps best known as the co-founder of Supersax, the commercially successful reed ensemble started in 1972 that plays transcriptions of Charlie Parker's solos. But before Supersax, Med was one of the most dynamic alto saxophonists, arrangers and bandleaders on 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. ( Marc Myers in zijn Jazz Wax blog )

Med Flory next to his wife Joanie ( fv.l.t.r.: Med Flory - Joanie Durelle - Henri Fonda and Joe Maini jr.)

Med Flory was born in August 1927 in Longansport, Indiana. His full front name was Meredith, but he wasn 't very happy with that. When I was a kid, no one could pronounce it, so they called me "Mary". I'd get the heck kicked out of me. One day my junior high school coach said "Hey Med, come over here". So I grabbed that nickname. As a kid he was fascinated by the big bands of Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Charlie Barnet, Glenn Miller and the Dorsey Brothers and at nine he got his first clarinet. He must have received his musical talents from his mother, who played, as a teenager the organ at the silent movies. She also could improvise. She was twice the musician I'd ever be. He made his debut in Claude Thornhill's band as a replacement for Dick Hafer, who left the band and with that band he made his first recordings, April 1953. In an interview, made not so long ago, he remembers these days touring around with the Claude Thornhill band, ........... Well listen to it !!

During the early 1950s he played in Woody Herman's band and in the Art Mooney's band, where he married the girl vocalist Joan Durelle.

Med Flory

In 1954 he recorded with an own band, featuring several musicians he had met in the Herman band, like Urbie Green, Hal McKusick, Teddy Kotick and Al Cohn - the latter was responsible for some of the compositions in the bands first recordings: No Thanks and The Fuzz; Med Flory composed the other two February 1954 tracks: Straight Ahead and Three Times Ahead. When I first heard Med Flory and his Orchestra performing Straight Ahead it hit me and first I thought it was one of those great bands from the 1950s, like Woody Herman's - no is was Med Flory's! - never heard about him. Med adored Al Cohn: Al's writing and playing was above most everyone else, he told Marc Myers in an interview, when he asked him what favorite tenor saxophone player he had at the time. Al Cohn and Med Flory

These and other tracks were reissued on a 2001 Fresh Sound release titled Go West Young Med! - Med Flory and his orchestras 1954 - 1959. It isn 't so strange that his band sounded like Woody Herman as you know that most musicians he played with were products from that great band - in May 1954 Med was part of the so-called Runaway Herd from Dick Collins. ( Horn of Plenty). Med Flory was a sought after saxophone player and is to be heard on numerous big bands recordings from this period, like recordings with Lucky Millinder, Nat Pierce and Urbie Green. Enjoy a fragment of one the recordings with Urbie Green Octet, August 1954: Lullaby of Birdland.

In October 1954 Med and his wife Joanie were asked to join the Ray Anthony band - one of the most popular dance bands of the States in those years. They toured around for three and a half year before they settled in California. About that period I love to tell you more in another contribution: Med Flory in the 1950s: His Dream bands.

Hans Koert

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