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.
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.
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.
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.
Ernie Henry was one of Riverside's earliest "discoveries." He recorded for the label, as a leader and as a sideman with Thelonious Monk and Kenny Dorham, for little more than a year before his sudden death at the end of 1957. The brilliant and unrealized promise of the young alto saxophonist, which was just beginning to be recognized (he was with Dizzy Gillespie's big band when he died), was dramatically exhibited on this final collection, one side of which is from an unfinished album featuring good friends and colleagues like Lee Morgan, Benny Golson, Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones.
This early recording by Blue Mitchell finds the distinctive trumpeter in excellent form in a quintet also featuring tenor saxophonist Benny Golson (who contributed "Blues on My Mind"), either Wynton Kelly or Cedar Walton on piano, Paul Chambers or Sam Jones on bass and drummer Art Blakey. The consistently swinging repertoire includes a surprisingly effective version of "When the Saints Go Marching In." "Studio B," recorded in the same period but formerly available only in a sampler, has been added to the program. It's an enjoyable date of high-quality hard bop.
Bill Evans' debut as a leader found the 27-year-old pianist already sounding much different than the usual Bud Powell-influenced keyboardists of the time. Even in 1956 (more than a year before he joined the Miles Davis Sextet), Evans had his own chord voicings and a lyrical yet swinging style. Three selections (including the original version of his classic "Waltz for Debby") on this CD reissue are taken solo, while the other nine (including his future theme "Five," "Speak Low" and two versions of "No Cover, No Minimum") are performed in a trio with bassist Teddy Kotick and drummer Paul Motian. A strong start to a rather significant career.
This CD reissue brings back one of Lennie Niehaus' finest recordings of the 1950s. His alto is featured throughout the dozen selections and the varied settings (Niehaus is backed by a string quartet, a standard rhythm section, and sometimes two other saxophonists in addition to performing four numbers with a standard quintet) give him an opportunity to show off his writing abilities. Niehaus varies tempos a lot (the strings are often heard on faster material), there is solo space for the tenor of Bill Perkins, baritonist Bob Gordon, and Stu Williamson on trumpet and valve trombone, and the leader's boppish alto is heard at the peak of his playing powers. Bop collectors can consider this disc to be essential.