Shelly Manne made a countless number of records from the 1940s into the '80s but is best-known as a good-humored bandleader who never hogged the spotlight.
Originally a saxophonist, Manne switched to drums when he was 18 and started working almost immediately. He was with Joe Marsala's band (making his recording debut in 1941), played briefly in the big bands of Will Bradley, Raymond Scott, and Les Brown and was on drums for Coleman Hawkins's classic "The Man I Love" session of late 1943. Manne worked on and off with Stan Kenton during 1946-1952, also touring with Jazz at the Philharmonic (1948-1949), and gigging with Woody Herman (1949). After leaving Kenton, Manne moved to Los Angeles where he became the most in-demand of all jazz drummers. He began recording as a leader (his first session was cut in Chicago in 1951) on a regular basis starting in 1953 when he first put together the quintet Shelly Manne & His Men. Among the sidemen who were in his band during their long string of Contemporary recordings (1955-1962) were Stu Williamson, Conte Candoli, Joe Gordan, Bob Enevoldsen, Joe Maini, Charlie Mariano, Herb Geller, Bill Holman, Jimmy Giuffre, Richie Kamuca, Victor Feldman, Russ Freeman, Ralph Pena, Leroy Vinnegar, and Monty Budwig. Manne, who had the good fortune to be the leader of a date by the André Previn Trio that resulted in a major seller (jazz versions of tunes from My Fair Lady), always had an open musical mind and he recorded some fairly free pieces on The Three and the Two (trios with Shorty Rogers and Jimmy Giuffre that did not have a piano or bass, along with duets with Russ Freeman), and enjoyed playing on an early session with Ornette Coleman. In addition to his jazz work, Manne appeared on many film soundtracks and even acted in The Man with the Golden Arm. He ran the popular club Shelly's Manne-Hole during 1960-1974, kept his music open to freer sounds (featuring trumpeter Gary Barone and tenor saxophonist John Gross during 1969-1972), played with the L.A. Four in the mid-'70s, and was very active up until his death. Throughout his career Shelly Manne recorded as a leader for Savoy, Interlude, Contemporary, Jazz Groove, Impulse, Verve, Capitol, Atlantic, Concord, Mainstream, Flying Dutchman, Discovery, Galaxy, Pausa, Trend, and Jazziz, in addition to a few Japanese labels. ~ Scott Yanow, Rovi