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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Thelonious Monk, in addition to all his other notable qualities, was actually one of Riverside's most valuable talent scouts, recommending such mainstays as Johnny Griffin and Wilbur Ware, and introducing the label to Sonny Rollins and Clark Terry. The astoundingly adept trumpeter was always greatly appreciated by Thelonious, who quickly accepted the invitation to accompany Terry on this occasion. It was an album full of firsts and rarities: Monk's only Riverside appearance as a sideman; the first of Terry's many recordings on flugelhorn; the first of a great many Riverside dates for the great bassist Sam Jones; and the only occasion on which Monk and drummer Philly Joe Jones recorded together.
A play and an alto saxophonist pulled Dexter Gordon out of West Coast obscurity in 1960 and helped revive the bebop pioneer's career. The play was The Connection, which included a performing jazz band in its cast and inspired a classic original score from Freddie Redd as well as subsequent compositions by Kenny Drew, Cecil Payne, and Cecil Taylor. Gordon was the play's musical director in his hometown of Los Angeles, and some of Gordon's score is documented here. Cannonball Adderley produced the session (and many others for Riverside/Jazzland at the time).