The recording captures Lewis's ensemble perhaps at zenith. "Jazz at Vespers" is one of the key albums in the George Lewis canon. It was recorded during a Vespers service in 1954 at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Oxford Ohio. This was the church of Rev. Alvin Kershaw, a jazz enthusiast who was one of the first to use jazz bands as part of a service. George Lewis was at his best playing spirituals, his clarinet gentle and introspective, weaving inside the melodies like a white dove. The band backed him sensitively.Highly recommended. Clean, clear recordings.
A fantastic addition to the Barney Kessel catalog of the 50s – a never-heard live set that has the guitarist in form that's every bit as strong as his famous albums for Contemporary Records! In fact, the strength of the recording may well capture Kessel at a level that beats those sessions – as Barney's playing live, with a bit more bite – and really grabs us with the strong tone on his solos – and the sense of energy he gets in a quartet that also includes a young Pete Jolly on piano! The recording quality is excellent – crystal-clear, and very focused – and the set isn't one of those lost tapes that should have stayed "lost" – but instead a real lost chapter in Barney's tremendous career.
This formerly rare Contemporary set was reissued on a 1997 OJC CD. Lennie Niehaus, best known for his scores for Clint Eastwood films in the 1980s and '90s, was an excellent cool-toned bop altoist back in the '50s who spent time working with Stan Kenton. For this album, he is heard on two different occasions providing arrangements and alto solos for octets. With such fine players as either Jack Montrose or Bill Perkins on tenor, Bob Gordon or Pepper Adams on baritone, and other top West Coast jazz musicians, Niehaus primarily performs cool jazz. The inventive charts (which on the later date utilize a French horn and a tuba) and the superior, concise solos make this a set well worth acquiring by fans of the West Coast jazz sound of the '50s.