Friday, March 10, 2006

Odd Spin 3/10: Sounds of Synanon

Title: Sounds of Synanon
Leader: None credited
Trumpet: Dave Allan
Baritone horn: Greg Dykes
Piano: Arnold Ross
Guitar: Joe Pass
Bass: Ronald Clark
Drums: Bill Crawford
Bongos: Candy Latson
Label: Pacific Jazz
Recorded: July 1, 1962

The Straight Dope: Synanon was widely reported on during the 1950’s and 1960’s for its unconventional “tough love” drug addiction treatment. It was the only drug treatment center to spawn three LPs*. This was the first. The second was the Neal Hefti soundtrack to film it inspired. There would later be a jazz-rock-choir aggregation affiliated with Synanon, which also recorded an LP for Epic. This would be the Synanon record to get. Synanon would later be discredited in 1980 as a cult-like organization. An investigation by a local small town paper ultimately led to the founder pleading no-contest to an attempted murder charge. Tough love, indeed.

This session assembled largely unknown jazz musicians who were currently in residence. Pianist Arnold Ross, the ostensible leader, would turn up on other records from time to time, but guitarist Joe Pass was a real discovery. This session initiated a long relationship between Pacific Jazz and one of jazz’s greatest guitarists. The cover reproduces an extract from a Down Beat article and drug addiction: “Jazz and narcotics are unfairly linked in the public mind. Addiction is rare among jazzmen and, reportedly, actually runs lower than in the medical profession.” Right. Don’t protest too much. Just enjoy the Sounds of Synanon, and be glad Pass got out there when he did.

The Bottom Line: Although this session is now available as a Japanese import CD, demand remains for this LP, due to Pass’s playing. Well worth picking up in either format, but expect to pay $20-25 for the record.

(*Not counting Camarillo State Hospital. Charlie Parker wrote Relaxin’ at Camarillo while he was in treatment there. The tune went on to be a jazz standard and the title track for several jazz albums. Bird however, was not there of his own volition, and its doubtful he meant it to be a tribute to Camarillo’s treatment. In his case it clearly had not worked.)