Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music


ROGERS, Shorty

(b Milton Michael Rajonsky, 14 April 1924, Great Barrington MA; d 7 November 1994, Los Angeles) Trumpet, bandleader, arranger, composer. Played with Will Bradley, Red Norvo, Woody Herman late '40s (wrote 'Keen And Peachy'), Stan Kenton '50-1; recorded on West Coast: small group Modern Sounds '51 on Capitol with Art Pepper, Hampton Hawes, Jimmy Giuffre, Shelly Manne, Gene Englund on tuba, John Graas on French horn (b 14 October 1924, Debuque IA; d 13 April 1962, Van Nuys CA), the last two from Kenton's Neophonic Orchestra, Don Bagley on bass (b 18 July 1927, Salt Lake City UT); with Lighthouse All Stars '51 on Xanadu (Popo with Pepper), '53 on Contemporary; then on RCA.
      Shorty Rogers And His Giants with similar lineup to the first LP and big band Cool And Crazy with some of those above plus Bud Shank, Bob Cooper, Maynard Ferguson etc were 10-inch LPs; Shorty Rogers Courts The Count '54 was a 12-inch set of Basie covers with Harry Edison, Zoot Sims etc. There was also a 45 EP called The Wild One '53 for big band. The nonet album was reissued in 12-inch format with quintet tracks made in '54; Cool And Crazy was reissued as The Big Shorty Rogers Express with additional tracks made in '56. He went to Atlantic for The Swinging Mr Rogers '55 with Manne, Giuffre, Curtis Counce: hit track 'Martians Go Home' led to LP Martians Come Back! the same year. There were more RCA LPs, all big band except Wherever The Five Winds Blow; he semi-retired from jazz after Jazz Waltz '62, a big band with Shank, Bob Cooper, Mel Lewis, also Return To Rio, both on Discovery.
      He turned to increasing studio work. He wrote music for the show That Certain Girl, and visited London in '66. Other bits and pieces included a Capitol LP called Bug-In by Rogers and Capitol A&R man Kelly Gordon as the Gordon 'N' Rogers Inter-Urban Electric A&E Pit Crew and Rhythm Band, a large group with sound effects in a tribute to dune buggy culture, with some good musicians in the mix; and an album on Dot around that time called Wichita Train Whistle Sings, arranged and probably conducted by Rogers, the songs by Mike Nesmith, who was trying to escape from the Monkees at the time.      
      Rogers' own music was rooted in the Swing Era yet influenced by the Miles Davis 'Birth of the Cool' sessions; his style as an arranger was influential. Reissues included Live From The Rendezvous Ballroom '53 on Scarecrow with Ferguson. It had been fashionable for years to denigrate the early records, which were very popular at the time, but RCA/BMG/Bluebird reissues and a five-CD set The Complete Atlantic/EMI Shorty Rogers on Mosaic compiles most of it, the music fresh as paint and lots of fun, with delightful touches like four baritone saxes on 'Sweetheart Of Sigmund Freud'. Rogers came back in '82 after a UK tour with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra: Yesterday, Today And Forever '83 on Concord Jazz was a quintet with Shank, Back Again -- Live At The Concorde Club '85 on Concept with Shank had a UK big band led by Vic Lewis (veteran trombonist and guitarist, b 29 July 1919, London; d 9 February 2009), and America The Beautiful '93 on Candid as by The Lighthouse All Stars with Shank (though the legendary Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach had become a karaoke joint).