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SONNY STITT/Plays Jimmy Guiffre Arrangements: The jazz police never approved of Sonny Stitt because he wasn't interested in pushing the boundaries the way the cat he came up, Charlie Parker, was. Consequently, many boomers relegated Stitt to the back of the bin and missed out on a player that could handily play anything on sax and play it well. So, speaking of pushing boundaries, here we find him teaming up with Jimmy Guiffre for their only pairing on a date that has never before been on cd and finds Stitt moving well out of his comfort zone playing crime jazz, hipster stuff, moody stuff and more. A rare date that probably would have met with the approval of the jazz police, those in the know at the time of it's initial release did their best to spread the word. A tasty date throughout. This is actually a twofer with the second date, "A Little Bit of Stitt", significant in this pairing as it was Stitt's next date. It's a wonderful sax workout throughout that gets your ears bopping.

ANITA O'DAY/Cool Heat: You all know the Ella, Frank, Louie and Darin versions of "Mack the Knife", but dollars to doughnuts you don't know the O'Day/Guiffre face off on same that'll blow your mind. Guiffre brings out the lighter side of O'Day on a positively sunny date backed by an all star cast of old man jazzbos playing with just the right touch. The date is paired with "Anita O'Day Swings Cole Porter with Billy May", significant in this case since the second record was recorded just a few days after the first with O'Day shifting gears so effortlessly she almost seems bi-polar and unmedicated. Even 60 years later, jazz vocal doesn't get much better than what's on board here.

CHET BAKER-BILL EVANS/The Complete Legendary Sessions: Actually the entirety to the "Chet" album with some extra tracks from another album, the face off between Baker and Evans was little more than a one off even though they had the simpatico that came from being sensitive, lyrical players with equal footing in the bad habits department. Totally an after hours session that should have come with a bonus pack of reefer smoke, it doesn't get any deeper than this without going way over the edge. Introspective playing that set the bar that gave rise to the clichés the followed. Still killer stuff long after they've gone.

PEPPER KNEPPER QUINTET: A hard bop date that was considered oddball on a lot of levels in it's initial release, time seems to have the last laugh here as this is some smoking old man jazz that just keeps coming and coming with no let up. Powered by some Miles Davis running mates, you can almost picture this to being the soundtrack to one of those 50s line drawing cartoons where everyone is a hipster doing some bad blowing. This really sounds like the party you always wished you were invited to where the really groovy people hung out. Check it out. This set adds a few bonus tracks where Sonny Redd brings his sax to replace Jimmy Knepper. And for those who are trying to pass as jazzbos, the Pepper here is Pepper Adams, not Art Pepper.

GERRY MULLIGAN MEETS JOHNNY HODGES: Arguably the best of the "Mulligan Meets..." dates from the 50s, these two cutting edge sax men from different generations play with such a simpatico and warmth, this date is as magical as it is lyrical. Easy rolling stuff that almost crosses the line into another realm but manages always to stay on the jazz side of the street, this is a fine example of the kind of album that could never be made today but should be. Paired with this set is Mulligan's "What is There to Say?" that finds him with a vastly different crew in a different setting. However, with Mulligan, it's hard to find a misfire from this late 50s/early 60s period. All told, you are really missing the boat if you pass this one by.

GENE KRUPA/Plays Gerry Mulligan Arrangements-The Complete Studio Recordings: Well kiddies, this recording from the late 50s, with bonus tracks going back to the late 40s, is a mother for ya. The Krupa Orchestra was so loaded with chops that are venerated and missed today that a simple compact disc can't hold everything that's going on here. Recoding in a very transitional period for jazz big bands, Krupa held the wheel firmly in his grip and corralled his charges to circle the wagons and deliver a mighty session. Avoiding every note that makes a lot of big band seem corny today, this is simply, utterly killer instrumental jazz that deserves the recognition today it had in it's original run. A killer date throughout.

ABBEY LINCOLN/Affair: They certainly weren't wrong in trying to Lincoln into a chanteuse in the mid 50s. The surrounded her with Benny Carter and Marty Paich conjuring up some of their most enduring sound craft. An early concept album, probably designed to rival what Sinatra was up to at the time, Lincoln didn't show she was chafing under the thumb if that's what she felt when they were trying to make her fit the format. A song cycle about a young girl falling in love, it magically doesn't sound dated or dusty. While it's certainly more subtle than what rappers are turning out today on this subject, it's message goes a lot farther. Lincoln isn't a fully formed jazz vocalist here, and she doesn't shine her debt to Billie Holliday, but if you want to hear a great vocal date, this is going to fix your jones quite easily. Check it out.

GEORGE RUSSELL/Jazz in the Space Age: Apparently Gil Evans' apartment was a hothouse for more than what Miles Davis would be up to next. With Paul Bley on piano, these sessions that are closer to "West Side Story" than Amon Duul despite the album and song titles, this is music that Carla Bley wouldn't tackle until at least 15 years later. Almost like crime jazz for back alleys on Mars, Russell and a bunch of crème of the crop players made experimental lite music that pushed new frontiers in sitting down jazz. Amazing fresh still today, this is first class malcontent music that's loaded with plenty of wow. Hot stuff.

Volume 35/Number 112
February 10, 2011
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2012 Midwest Record

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