Ray Anthony – “Today’s Trumpet” (1967)

Plunging down several rabbit holes in recent days has brought me to Ray Anthony’s 1967 release Today’s Trumpet – not once but twice. The last of several dozen Anthony albums the Capitol label had issued since 1950, Today’s Trumpet is, however, more like “yesterday’s 45s,” a compilation of previously-issued singles, than a full-fledged album release.

Ray Anthony (born 1922 – and still swinging as I write this) got his start serving two years in Glenn Miller’s band – he is the last surviving member of that particular outfit – before serving in the Navy during World War II. In the fifties, Anthony launched his own orchestra and had hits with “The Bunny Hop,” “The Hokey Pokey” and “Marilyn,” named for a certain actress the trumpeter was good friends with at the time.

Anthony began acting around this time and appeared in several films. He was also briefly married to actress and sex symbol Mamie Van Doren as well.

Anthony’s Hollywood good looks were often compared to Cary Grant’s (which is evident on the cover of this record), and the two often played off of this similarity. But while this Brylcreemed lothario was an attractive fixture in films and on television back in the day, his orchestra’s sound was often considered the most modern of the big-bands. He was among the first to introduce elements of other forms of popular music into his rhythms.

As the big bands began declining in popularity, Anthony started front-lining his trumpet more; a sound that had the vim of a section veteran and the vigor of a sparkling, energetic soloist. He could also shape-shift his sound in to whatever was required. Today, Anthony might sound a little showy to some but there is no doubt he could swing the hell out of a tune.

Today’s Trumpet was released in June 1967. The album lists no musicians or arrangers and the overall production is credited to Lex De Azevedo (b. 1943), a Capitol Records staffer at the time. De Azevedo has since waxed albums for the Mormon church as well as many wonderful easy-listening cover tunes for Sirius XM’s Escape channel, which he makes available on YouTube (I highly recommend his marvelous cover of “What’s Love Got to Do With It“).

But Lex De Azevedo has seemingly very little to do with much of Today’s Trumpet.

I first tripped over this record while looking into Bert Kaempfert cover tunes. There are two here: “Danke Shoen,” arranged by Don Simpson and produced by Al De Lory and issued as the b-side to “Haupanga Mexicano” (Capitol 5714) in August 1966, and “Mexican Market Day,” produced by Nick Venet (no arranger listed) and issued as a single (Capitol 4972) in May 1963.

But it was Claus Ogerman that brought me to this Ray Anthony album one more time. “Un Poco Rio (Little Rio)” and “Zei Gezundt (Bye Bye)” was issued as a single in November 1966 (Capitol 5772), produced by Tom Morgan and arranged and conducted by Ogerman himself. While Ogerman is not at all credited on Today’s Trumpet, these two tracks are likely his only collaborations with Ray Anthony.

“Un Poco Rio” is indeed this album’s stand-out track. Here, Ogerman crafts a most unlikely amalgam of Herb Alpert and Antonio Carlos Jobim for a Brazilian-flavored take on “The Mexican Hat Dance,” of all things. “Un Poco Rio” is probably better known through Stan Getz’s version on the 1967 album Voices, also arranged by Claus Ogerman. But since Getz’s version of the tune was recorded one month after the release of Anthony’s version means Ogerman wrote the tune especially for the trumpeter.

(Ogerman also waxed “Un Poco Rio” on his own album Latin Rock, also issued in June 1967, and had also recently arranged a version of “Bye Bye” for the Creed Taylor-produced Jackie & Roy album Changes.)

As for the rest of Today’s Trumpet:

“Tiger Tail,” a somewhat campy Anthony original, is clearly modeled on Al Hirt’s “Java” and “Cotton Candy.” The song was issued as a single in December 1964 (Capitol 5320), backed with “Ladybird,” both produced by Bill Miller.

“It’s Such a Happy Day,” a song by Anthony’s labelmate at the time, Jackie Gleason, was issued as a single in January 1966 (Capitol 5589), backed with the Ray Anthony-Don Simpson Al Hirt-soundalike “Bah-Yoop.” Both were produced by Al De Lory.

“Around the World/Bill Bailey” – the latter half of which was credited to an arrangement by the above-named “Anthony-Simpson” – was the b-side to “Gallant Men,” a single issued in February 1967 (Capitol 5836 – likely only as a promotional release). Both were produced by “Alexis de Azevedo.”

“Mexican Trumpets,” obviously influenced by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, is the new title given to the otherwise oddly-titled “Skunk in the Trunk,” the b-side to “Sabor Ami (Be True to Me),” a single issued in May 1965 (Capitol 5418).

“Winchester Cathedral,” originally a 1967 hit for the British novelty group The New Vaudeville Band, was coupled here with a brief take on “Coquette,” a Guy Lombardo number that dates back to 1928 – and one which Anthony previously recorded in 1957. This is the only track on Today’s Trumpet that hadn’t been previously issued.

Here, Anthony seems to be giving props to Louis Armstrong’s trumpet style, while at around the same time fellow trumpeter Clark Terry paid homage to Armstrong’s vocal prowess on the 1967 Hank Jones/Oliver Nelson cover of “Winchester Cathedral.”

Considering the disparate sources of music here, Today’s Trumpet sounds remarkably cohesive. Certainly, Ray Anthony’s singular style over a four-year span of recording time helps keeps this thing together. But the two Claus Ogerman tracks here are surely the album’s real treats and make Today’s Trumpet totally worth tracking down.

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