Ralph Marterie: Big Band Man


There’s nothing I love more than telling you about jazz albums you probably never heard of. This was true about Ted McNabb & Co. (here), the Metronomes’ Something Big! (here), Leo Gooden’s Leo Sings With Strings (here) and about a dozen other great albums that slipped through the cracks over time.

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Today I have another one for you. But before I get into it, let me set the scene. Imagine we’re in Hollywood in the summer of 1959 (above) and we can put together a dream big band. All of the best cats are kicking around town, since their kids are off from school and they’re eager to get out of the house. Same goes for leading arrangers.

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That’s exactly what Ralph Marterie did that summer. Marterie was a leading big band trumpeter in the 1940s who went into radio after World War II and then pop in the 1950s, hiring lots of West Coast studio musicians for straight-up dance-band recordings. As a result, he had a top-notch reputation among record companies and musicians.

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For years Marterie thought about assembling a dream band. Finally, in 1959, with the help of Pete Rugolo, Mercury’s West Coast recording director at the time, Marterie decided to move forward. Rugolo and Marterie agreed that the songs of Jimmy McHugh would work perfectly for the project. Rugolo suggested the musicians and arrangers, and they recorded in August at United Recording, with Bill Putnam engineering.

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The album was Big Band Man: Ralph Marterie and the All Star Men. The band consisted of Ralph Marterie, Pete Candoli, Conrad Gozzo and Don Fagerquist (tp); Frank Rosolino and Vern Friley (tb); Buddy De Franco and Bud Shank (cl,as); Gus Bivona and Bob Cooper (ts); Babe Russin (bar); Jimmy Rowles (p); Al Hendrickson (g); Red Mitchell (b) and Jack Sperling (d).

How about that trumpet section?As for the arrangers, Rugolo called on Johnny Mandel, Skippy Martin, Morty Corb, Bill Holman and Frank DeVol.

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Here are the album’s songs: It’s a Most Unusual Day (arranged by Johnny Mandel); Don’t Blame Me (arr. by Morty Corb); Where Are You (arr. by Skippy Martin); Waltz Medley: Cuban Love Song, Louella and Whisper Waltz (arr. by Frank DeVol); I Can’t Give You Anything But Love (arr. by Morty Corb); On the Sunny Side of the Street (arr. by Skippy Martin); Medley: Anybody for the Blues, A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening and I Can’t Get Enough of You (arr. Frank DeVol); I’m Shootin’ High (arr. by Frank DeVol); Exactly Like You (arr. by Bill Holman); and Diga Diga Doo (arr. by Skippy Martin). [Photo above of Bill Holman]

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There’s good news and bad news. The good news is the album is a punchy, inventive dance-band swinger. The bad news is it has never been issued digitally and exists only on vinyl. Hopefully Jordi Pujol of Fresh Sound will release it. It’s another hidden jazz gem.

JazzWax tracks: You’ll find Ralph Marterie’s Big Band Man at eBay.

JazzWax clips: I’m not going to let you go away hungry. Here’s It’s a Most Unusual Day, arranged by Johnny Mandel, with a solo by Bud Shank…

It’s a Most Unusual Day

Here’s Exactly Like You, arranged by Bill Holman…

Exactly Like You

And here’s On the Sunny Side of the Street, arranged by Skippy Martin…

On the Sunny Side of the Street

A special thanks to Bret Primack.