This CD is often magical. Sonny Rollins, one of jazz's great tenors, is heard at his peak with a pair of piano-less trios (either Wilbur Ware or Donald Bailey on bass and Elvin Jones or Pete La Roca on drums) stretching out on particularly creative versions of "Old Devil Moon," "Softly As in a Morning Sunrise," "Sonnymoon for Two," and "A Night in Tunisia," among others. Not only did Rollins have a very distinctive sound but his use of time, his sly wit, and his boppish but unpredictable style were completely his own by 1957. Originally released as separate albums, A Night at the Village Vanguard was reissued in its entirety, complete with alternate takes, as a two-disc set in 1999; it was part of Blue Note's acclaimed Rudy Van Gelder reissue series.
During October and November 1988, an all-star quartet comprised of some of the then-Soviet Union's top bop-based jazzmen made their initial tour of the United States. They recorded this CD at their final stop, the Village Gate in New York. Altoist Alexander Oseichuck displays a fiery sound influenced by Phil Woods and he is at his best on a duet with pianist Igor Bril on "My One and Only Love." Guitarist Alexei Kuznetsov gets "It's Alright with Me" as an unaccompanied solo and sounds excellent on the five quartet tracks while bassist Victor Dvoskin is fine in support. But the most impressive voice is Igor Bril, particularly during his three solo piano features.
Flugelhornist Clark Terry, three weeks shy of his 70th birthday at the time of this live performance, sounds very much at the peak of his powers throughout Live at the Village Gate. Teamed up with old friend Jimmy Heath, who doubles on tenor and soprano, pianist Don Friedman, bassist Marcus McLauren and drummer Kenny Washington (altoist Paquito D'Rivera guests on "Silly Samba"), Terry performs eight little-known originals. The tunes are all fairly basic, but they inspire these talented musicians to some of their best playing. The hard-swinging music, which includes a trumpet-drums duet on "Brushes & Brass" and some singing from the audience on "Hey Mr. Mumbles," is quite enjoyable, and among the most accessible type of jazz.