Tommy Tedesco: Studio Monster
One reason pop rock sounded so good in the 1960s was because many musicians who appeared on the recordings began as jazz studio musicians in Los Angeles in the late 1950s. They were brilliant sight-readers, understood swing and improvisation, and had the ability to play in any style and add their own twists to give the music lift. One of these gifted session musicians was guitarist Tommy Tedesco.
During the 1950s, Tedesco's jazz recordings included albums with Dave Pell, as well as Anita O'Day's Cole Porter album arranged by Billy May in 1959 and the Four Freshman and Five Guitars album that same year. In the 1960s, Tedesco became one of the most in-demand session rock guitarists and he recorded on hundreds of singles and albums with a unit that became known informally as the Wrecking Crew. His list of TV work includes virtually every major show during the decade, and his list of movies is equally long and impressive. But even during Tedesco's prolific rock period, he made time to record a few albums as a leader.
One of his finest sessions was The Guitars of Tom Tedesco for the Imperial label in 1965, the first album that Tommy LiPuma produced. On the album, Tedesco played several different guitars and was backed by Pete Jolly (p), Jimmy Bond (b), Hal Blaine (d), Emil Richards (vib, perc), Julius Wechter (perc) and Laurindo Almeida on rhythm guitar on four tracks (Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars, Meditation, Brazil and Samba de Orfeu). The Pete Jolly Trio (Jolly, Chuck Berghofer on bass and Nicholas Martinis on drums) plays behind Tedesco on A Taste of Honey, Tedesco's Dee Dee's Dilemma and Honeysuckle Rose.
I listened to the album again several times yesterday after discovering it months ago. It remains gorgeous, with impeccable arrangements and Tedesco's confident guitar throughout. Frankly, I never thought I'd hear Our Day Will Come that topped Sonny Stitt and Bennie Green's version on My Main Man, but this one may inch it out. Joining Tedesco on the track are two unlisted French horns and two trombones.
As Tedesco once said in defense of studio work, there was plenty of art in sight-reading and playing someone else’s music. “I don’t think of it as written music—it’s written notes and you make music out of notes that are written. That’s the creativity. They put these notes on a piece of paper, and I’ve heard guys play that, exactly like that, as notes. When I see a bunch of notes, I try and make music happen. That’s my creativity. No matter what I do, I try and make music happen.” [Photo above, Tedesco and bassist Carol Kaye]
Tedesco died in 1997. His son Denny directed and produced The Wrecking Crew(2008) documentary (go here). Hats off to Tommy LiPuma for a wonderful recording in 1965.
JazzWax tracks: Unfortunately, the Guitars of Tom Tedesco is not available digitally. But here's the entire album (Our Day Will Come is the first track)…