Jimmy Raney – Strings & Swings

Years ago I decided I had to check out some Jazz guitarists. I headed down to the used record store with a list of names copied from Guitar Player Magazine and found a stash of good stuff. Apparently they had just bought a guitar album collection that had a nice selection of Jimmy Raney. I really resonated with his playing, Raney sounded like he had adsorbed a lot of Bop and Bach and I still love his playing to this day.

Side one

Suite for Guitar Quartet (1957)

Jazz guitar and a string quartet, quite an amazing sound. I really like the chamber jazz vibe. The liner notes compare this piece to Béla Bartók and Alban Berg, I would say this is a bit more accessable than those composers. Also we find out that Raney studied with Hal Overton, who arranged the charts for the Thelonious Monk at Town Hall album. I’d love to hear someone talented transcribe, perform and record this piece, so it doesn’t slip away in the sands of time like an out of print record. Jimmy is such an important player and it seems like only true aficionados….Jazz guitarists, historians and record store employees seem to know who he is.

Side two

Here we hear 1969 Raney in his usual context, a jazz quintet with Bobby Jones (tenor sax), Bob Lam (piano), Jack Brengle (bass) and John Roy (drums). Four tunes, Bernie’s Tune, Darn That Dream, Stella by Starlight and ‘Round Midnight are exactly what I expect from the crafty and inspired Raney.

Here’s what All Music has to say:

This important Muse LP, only the fourth release by the label, teams together a pair of very interesting and never previously released sessions featuring guitarist Jimmy Raney. The first side, from 1957, has Raney joined by violin, viola, cello, bassist Peter Ind and drummer Nick Stabulas for his five-part “Suite for Guitar Quintet.” the music is influenced a bit by composers Béla Bartók (one section is called “Homage to Bartok”) and Alan Berg, but still swings in its own fashion and is a superior showcase for Raney’s beautiful sound. The second side has four jazz standards (including “Bernie’s Tune” and “Stella by Starlight”) performed by Raney in 1969 in a quintet with tenor saxophonist Bobby Jones, pianist Bob Lam, bassist Jack Brengle, and drummer John Roy. Recorded live at a gig in Louisville, KY, this session was Raney’s only recording of the 1965-1973 period and only his second date since the 1957 string set. The hard to find Muse LP is highly recommended.

As previously noted, an old friend of mine recently gave me a very nice turntable recently, but now it’s a rare moment when I have a chance to listen. So I pick my vinyl for listening carefully….

I picked this up about 22-24 years ago for $3.99 and apparently it’s a rare one. Out of print and shouldn’t be.

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2 comments
  1. Ken R from FB writes “I have this on vinyl, one of my favorites for sure. Pretty sure this never got a CD release”.

  2. Thelonious from FB writes “Atlanta is blessed with several really good used record stores – I found this album in Wax ‘n’ Fax a few years ago. I really love the “strings” side. You’re right – it ought to be published and performed.”.

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