Trombonist Matthew Gee was primarily a section player and a valuable sideman, but as this CD reissue shows, he could have been a significant soloist too. The two sessions (Gee's only two as a leader) feature him in an unusual quintet with altoist Ernie Henry (the trombone-alto blend has a unique sound) and at the head of a septet also including trumpeter Kenny Dorham, tenorman Frank Foster, and baritonist Cecil Payne. The music is quite bop-oriented and mixes together standards with three swinging Gee originals. An underrated and generally overlooked gem by a forgotten trombonist.
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.
It was a sad day for cool jazz when Lennie Niehaus made film music – not jazz – his primary focus. From a jazz standpoint, the Los Angeles resident had so much going for him. Niehaus had an attractive tone along the lines of Lee Konitz and early Bud Shank, and he was a talented arranger to boot. Produced by Lester Koenig in L.A. in 1956, Lennie Niehaus, Vol. 5: The Sextet is quite representative of Niehaus' Contemporary output of the 1950s. This album finds Niehaus leading a sextet that boasts Bill Perkins on tenor sax and flute, Jimmy Giuffre on baritone sax, Stu Williamson on trumpet and valve trombone, Buddy Clark on upright bass, and Shelly Manne on drums – in other words, the cream of the southern California crop.
Alto saxophonist Lennie Niehaus is better known as the arranger for Clint Eastwood's films, but he has long been familiar to jazz fans as a respected bandleader, composer, arranger, and soloist. This limited-edition audiophile reissue of his first solo recordings (following stints with Stan Kenton and Shorty Rogers) is a stunner. Included is the first 10" LP he recorded with a three-saxophone front line – in this case, with Jack Montrose (tenor), and Bob Gordon (baritone) – and other quintet sessions with musicians including pianist Hampton Hawes, and fellow Kentonite Shelly Manne (who was responsible for Niehaus' record deal with Contemporary's Lester Koenig in the first place).
This early recording by pianist Freddie Redd (a straight CD reissue of the original Riverside LP) features Redd's trio of the time, with bassist George Tucker and drummer All Dreares. The CD reissue is highlighted by the 13½-minute title piece, a suite that in its five melodies depicts the jazz life in San Francisco during the era. Redd shows potential both in his writing and his boppish playing. The remainder of the fine set has the group's interpretations of three other Redd originals and a trio of standards. An excellent effort.
Don Wilkerson was among the unsung heroes of the tenor sax. Although he backed heavyweights like B.B. King and Ray Charles, the improviser's own albums aren't nearly as well known as they should be. But those who were hip to Wilkerson swore by him, and one of his allies was alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley. It was in 1960 that Adderley produced The Texas Twister, Wilkerson's first album as a leader. The tenor man (who was 27 at the time) shows a lot of promise on this album, embracing standards as well as bop-oriented material by Adderley, pianist Barry Harris, and obscure Texas musician Jim Martin.
A hip session from Blue – one that points the way towards some of his later work on Blue Note, and which features a larger than usual group arranged by Jimmy Heath. As on some of Heath's other projects from the time, the groove is tight and soulful, but never so dominant as to overwhelm the soloists. Mitchell's the main player, of course – but the rest of the group features work by Heath, Pat Patrick, Jerome Richardson, and Wynton Kelly. Tracks include "A Sure Thing", "West Coast Blues", "Hootie Blues", and "Hip To It".
For The Quota, Jimmy Heath gathered his older brother, Percy, and his younger one, Tootie, into the Riverside studios along with three young lions of the New York jazz scene. In Julius Watkins, Heath selected a musician who had made himself a mainstay of the New York scene despite the fact that he played French horn, an instrument almost impossibly difficult for improvisation. In a short time in New York, Cedar Walton had become sought after as a versatile pianist who soloed with rare conviction and beauty.
An excellent bandleader and accompanist for many vocalists, including Billie Holiday, Buck Clayton was a valued soloist with Count Basie Orchestra during the '30s and '40s, and later was a celebrated studio and jam session player, writer, and arranger. His tart, striking tone and melodic dexterity were his trademark, and Clayton provided several charts for Basie's orchestra and many other groups. Clayton began his career in California, where he organized a big band that had a residency in China in 1934. When he returned, Clayton led…