Back at ‘er nice and early this morning with a fresh module meaning, I have another approximate 6 hours to void out all the corporate nonsense going on around me. However, instead of the lo-fi sax rock rock a la Morphine yesterday, I taking it in a bit of a different direction today with some Cornball jazz boner by Dave Pike, and the ‘Jazz for the Jet Set‘ album.
‘Jazz for the Jet Set’ is an album by American jazz vibraphonist Dave Pike which was recorded in 1965 for the Atlantic label. Originally a drummer, Pike became one of the most consistent vibraphone players in jazz. Noted more as a sideman who had worked with Carl Perkins, Paul Bley, and Dexter Gordon among others, Pike never gained much fame on his own. During the early to mid ’60s, after returning to New York from California and joining up with flautist Herbie Mann, he electrified his vibes and began exploring the Latin rhythms percolating throughout the city. Through his time in New York and work with Mann, Pike was able to score a recording contract with Atlantic Records. This album, his debut for Atlantic, Pike had his finger on the pulse of American music. Here was a perfect and complimentary blend of jazz, Latin, soul and R&B. Atlantic Records here had sought to capitalize on this hip sound and image with artists like Pike.
On ‘Jazz for the Jet Set’, Pike was granted an all-star lineup and produced an album that might be thought of in hindsight as a synopsis of an overly romanticized era. The album cover aptly features an attractive model adorned in the 1966 Pan-Am stewardess uniform with a space helmet (appropriate for the Space Age fads of the time)…it’s Simply the Tits.
It’s pretty awesome, right?
I want this album on vinyl mainly for this reason.
It may just be the best album cover ever.
The music inside provides a soundtrack to a world we only have access to via films of the day. It’s a literal who’s who of sidemen from R&B and soul jazz on this session. Effectively two bands were used in recording this album. Both lineups had a core of Pike, Herbie Hancock, Billy Butler on guitar, and Clark Terry on trumpet. The other band of rotating players included Martin Sheller and Melvin Lastie on trumpet, Bruno Carr and Grady Tate on drums, and Bob Cranshaw and Jimmy Lewis on bass. This recording session was unique in that Pike plays the marimba exclusively and this marked the debut of Hancock on organ, an instrument he would rarely revisit in the future.
The album opens with ‘Blind Man, Blind Man‘, a Herbie Hancock penned tune that originally appeared on the pianist’s second album ‘My Point of View’. A successful rewrite of his hit ‘Watermelon Man‘ and a result of Hancock’s exploration of hard bop’s soulful side, this song was the commercial highlight of the album.
Bobby Hebb’s song ‘Sunny‘ is one of the most covered songs in rock & roll by acts as diverse as James Brown, Jamiroquai, Nick Cave, Mexican ska band Panteon Rococo and actor Robert Mitchum. A handful of jazz arrangements have been performed as well including versions by Stanley Turrentine, Jimmy Smith and Frank Sinatra. Pike’s approach was one of the first to incorporate boogaloo sounds into the arrangement giving it a Latin feel (mostly via Pike’s marimba) paving the way for Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass to do their version three years later.
The majority of the album keeps the swinging boogaloo feeling alive. Songs like the pseudo title track ‘Jet Set‘ encapsulate the image of what we perceive looking back through our filtered lenses to what the Jet Set was. However, if the album is a party then the track ‘Just Say Goodbye‘ is the morning after. A mellower piece nicely placed second to last in the set and follows one of the more up tempo boogies on the album ‘Sweet Tater Pie‘, ‘…Goodbye‘ is perfect for that late morning rise when the headache is making itself known and light is not a friend. But in case you forgot that this was a party, Pike and crew remind us with the fantastic ‘Devilette‘, rearranging the horn progression from ‘The Sidewinder‘ for the drums and bass rhythm section. The result is an extremely vibrant send off.
In the liner notes Joel Dorn of What FM is quoted “Though this is not Dave’s first recording, it undoubtedly will be his most successful”. Sadly and regrettably that was not the case. The album had meager sales returns and was not a commercial success in any way. However from an artistic and creative perspective ‘Jazz for the Jet Set’ marked a pivotal time in Pike’s career where he began to move away from straight ahead jazz and forge a relationship with soul music, more commercial pop arrangements and eventually searching out more experimental styles.
For me today, it’s 38-ought minutes of cheesy-as-fuck Cornball goodness as opposed to listening to all the other office bullshit going on around me.