Shelly Manne Biography

Sheldon Manne, 11 June 1920, New York City, New York, USA, d. 26 September 1984, Los Angeles, California, USA. After switching to drums from saxophone, Manne worked with a number of dance and swing bands of the late 30s and early 40s, including Joe Marsala’s big band. He was also active in small groups in New York, accompanying Coleman Hawkins as well as some of the up-and-coming bebop artists. He first attracted widespread attention in 1946, the year he joined Stan Kenton. On and off, he was with Kenton until 1952, finding time in between stints to work in bands led by George Shearing, Woody Herman and others. From the early 50s, he was resident in Los Angeles, working in the studios by day and gradually becoming one of the most important musicians in the rising west coast school of jazz. In 1951, he had recorded with Shorty Rogers and become a member of the house band at Howard Rumsey’s Lighthouse Cafe at Hermosa Beach. During the next few years he took part in many fine record sessions, notably for Contemporary, with Teddy Edwards, Jimmy Giuffre, Art Pepper, Lennie Niehaus, Bud Shank, Bob Cooper, Maynard Ferguson, Hampton Hawes and most of the other west coast stars. Among the most successful of these recordings were those made with Rogers in 1951 and 1955/6, a set he recorded with Russ Freeman and Chet Baker, and an album of tunes from the Broadway Show, My Fair Lady, which he recorded with Leroy Vinnegar and André Previn. This set, the first complete album of jazz versions of tunes from a single show, was particularly successful. Almost as popular was an album made by the same trio with visiting guest Sonny Rollins.

Although recording with many different musicians, Manne retained a fairly constant personnel for his regular working band, and towards the end of 1959 was booked into the Blackhawk in San Francisco. The band comprised trumpeter Joe Gordon, Richie Kamuca, Monty Budwig, who had recently taken over from Vinnegar, and Freeman’s replacement, Vic Feldman. It was immediately apparent to Manne that the band he had assembled for this two-week engagement was something special, and he persuaded Les Koenig of Contemporary Records to travel to San Francisco to record them. The resulting four albums became some of the most successful in Contemporary’s catalogue and an outstanding example of the west coast’s so-called ‘cool’ sounds at their smokiest. In 1960, Manne opened his own nightclub, Shelly’s Manne-Hole, which remained in existence until the middle of the following decade. In the 60s he recorded with Bill Evans and in 1974 joined Shank, Ray Brown and Laurindo Almeida in the L.A. 4, although he was later replaced by Jeff Hamilton. By the late 70s, Manne was a familiar figure on the international jazz festival circuit, appearing at the 1980 Aurex festival in Japan with Benny Carter’s Gentlemen Of Swing. Although deeply rooted in the swinging tradition of drumming, Manne’s sensitive, explorative playing made him an ideal accompanist in almost any setting and one of the finest drummers of the post-war period.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.