Liner notes to Don Fagerquist's lone album as a leader, Music to Fill a Void (MODE #124)
Only the men who have lived it can ever fully understand that phenomenon of the band business known as 'the road.' To a man they condemn the blandness of the 'one nighter' circuit while proclaiming it as a genuine boon to the development of big band jazz in general, and the improvement of individual talents in particular. Trumpeter Don Fagerquist, a charter member of the road fraternity since his high school days, reflects the artistic maturity born of this otherwise nebulous existence.
Don is the only member of his Worcester, Massachusetts family who progressed his musical talent beyond the confines of self amusement. In his formative years, he studied with the area's leading trumpet teachers, and arbitrarily chose Harry James as an idol thoueh his present approach is a far cry from that distinctive pattern. Having caught the spirit of jazz; he auditioned for and won a place in the brass section of Mal Hallett's band which was reorganizing for a second crack at the band business. This early success gave rapid definition to Donís future and he left high school for professional music.
Somewhat earlier, another New Englander, Bobby Hackett, had met with similar success in music, and it's interesting to note this influence on Don's career. The 'name band' brass sections on which he found employment is a veritable review of the middle and late forties, including Gene Krupa, Artie Shaw, Woody Herman and Les Brown. At one point he organized his own group, which featured Anita O'Day and Tiny Kahn, but it endured slightly more than half a year before terminating on the economic reef. Through all of this exposure to standard and radical trumpet styles, the Bobby Hackett influences became increasingly stronger.
If Hackett's style needs classification. it is probably best described as the most completely melodic jazz trumpet in the nation. Don Fagerquist. with excerpts from Dizzy Gillespie, Roy Eldridge and Charlie Parker, has sustained that melodic approach not, as it were, to improve on Hackett but simply to extend his contributions to the newer horizons in jazz. Don's relaxing tones are the inevitable fusion of these elements.
Working closely with MODE's musical director, Marty Paich, Don hand picked a selection of tunes and instrumentalists for his LP debut. Brass parts were handled by two master craftsmen, Vince DeRosa on French horn and Bob Enevoldsen on valve trombone. The sectional trumpet parts are the work of Ed Leddy, the brilliant lead man on the Stan Kenton band. The two man reed section is composed of Herb Geller on alto and Ronnie Lang on baritone, while the spirited rhythm section is the collaborative effort of Marty Paich on piano, Buddy Clark on bass and Mel Lewis on drums.
The eight standards included on the program constitute a balance of ballads and rhythm tunes highlighting Marty Paich's deft arranging skill and, of course, the pure trumpet tones of Don Fagerqtist. The gems are displayed in this order:
Aren't You Glad You're You -- The philosophic thought may be absent, but this Burke and Van Huesen swinger is a fitting opener for Don and the band. The solo order is readily apparent and Marty's arranged passages have a humorous glint.
Easy to Love -- The list of Cole Porter jazz-worked compositions is growing steadily and this medium tempo creation is no exception. Don's exquisite tone is the spark to some noteworthy contributions by all hands.
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes -- No finer union of composition and instrument exists than Don's soulful reading of this great Jerome Kern melody. The improvisations are tasteful and deliberate.
All the Things You Are -- A jazz evergreen, also credited to Mr. Kern, gets an easy ride from Don and the well arranged ensemble. Ronnie Lang and Bob Enevoldscn are distinguished contributors.
The Song Is You -- Another entry from the Kern stable which finds Don in a romping mood in company with Messrs. Gcller, Enevoldsen and Lang. The funky ending is tailor-made for Mel Lewis' style.
Time After Time -- With Don in the melodic driver's seat, the unit gives this fine ballad a swinging review. Geller leads away solo-wise, with Don, Marty and Ronnie leaping the orchestral hurdles in hot pursuit.
Easy Living -- This moody ballad is virtually a standard for trumpet solos and Don takes full advantage of its expansive line for his creations. Marty's arranging genius is an added feature all the way through.
Lullaby of Broadway -- The rumble of the subway trains was never quite as rhythmic as Don's reading of this memorable opus. The leader has the get-away solo followed by Geller and Enevoldsen interlacing over the group's punctuations. Notice Herb Geller's free-hand interpretations of the melody.
Instrumental jazz, with all of its departmentalism, is forever rooted in the fundamentals of pronounced rhythm and emotional interpretation. In this tradition, Don Fagerquist ranks close to the ten or twelve trumpet stylists who have broadened its scope in jazz. His musical democracy is on display, firmly supported by eight aggressive believers.
-- JOE QUINN
Don Fagerquist - Music to Fill a Void liner notes
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