Various ‘Four Classic Albums: Alto Sax / Jazz Trumpet’ 2CD (Avid Jazz) 4/5

For those on a strictly limited budget, but still wish to acquire some all-time great jazz albums, this series could hardly be bettered. Here to entice you this time round, and an excellent idea at that, is a series of albums based around the theme of a given musical instrument performed by the leader. As always, complete discographical details and full facsimile back vinyl album cover sleeve notes make these an ideal way of acquiring some lesser known, but worthy albums.

First off, a quartet of alto saxophone leaders. Of these, pride of place goes to Paul Horn and his seminal West Coast slice of modal jazz, ‘Something Else’. Worthy of a place in any jazz collection and recorded in Los Angeles in 1960, this album featured the likes of Emil Richards in vibes and Billy Higgins on drums. The whole album cooks from start to finish but ‘Mr Bond’ is a fine example of the modal style, and ‘Half and Half’ is now an acknowledged Latin Jazz standard, that has been covered by the likes of Poncho Sanchez and many others. On the Contemporary label, this time recorded in Los Angeles in 1961 and 1962, Jimmy Woods’ ‘Awakening’ is a post-bop recording with six Woods’ originals, and a classic take on Cole Porter’s ‘Love For Sale’. Jimmy Woods is one of the lesser known saxophonists and his ‘Confirmation’ album from the 1960’s was briefly re-issued on OJC in the United States in 2009, and could do with a new re-issue (as could the latter ‘Conflict’, re-issued back in the 1980’s on Boplictiy). The relaxed Blue Note session from Lou Donaldson is in a bop vein, with ace pianist Horace Parlan, on hand for a set of standards, and Donaldson originals. Of the latter, ‘Goose Grease’, stands out, while Parlan’s own ‘Blues for J.P.’ demonstrates what a fine composer he was. Finally, on Cadet from 1958, James Moody offers up, ‘Last Train From Overbrook’, with relatively short pieces, and a brief incursion into Latin Americana on ‘Tico Tico’. Overall, well worth obtaining, if only for the Paul Horn and Jimmy Woods.

Secondly, an ode to the trumpet and, once again, these date from the late 1950’s through to the early 1960’s. The pick of the bunch is Joe Gordon’s ‘Lookin’ Good’, from 1961 on Contemporary and already reviewed previously reviewed in these columns on a separate re-issue, and awarded a five-star rating. Jimmy Woods teams up with Gordon on an all original set by the leader and this is superior post-bop with a tight quintet and a strength of composition one might expect on Blue Note. Almost as good is (little) Johnny Coles and ‘The Warm Sound Of’ album. The fine quartet features pianist Kenny Drew and drummer Charlie Persip on what is a hard to fine original vinyl from 1961. Interestingly, three Randy Weston originals, of which ‘Hi-fly’ is the pick. A fine session by one of the more neglected trumpeters. Leading a tragically short life. Booker Little is nonetheless highly respected and an all-star 1960 date reveals why. Accompanied by Wynton Kelly on piano for two pieces, and by Tommy Flanagan on the remaining four, bassist Scott La Faro and drummer Roy Haynes, this is high-octane music with five Little originals and, as a whole, this album is extremely strong throughout. Rounding off the selection is a Blue Note recording by Louis Smith, with Tommy Flanagan once again in attendance on piano along with Duke Jordan, and Art Taylor on the drums. It includes a ‘Tribute to Brownie’, composed by Duke Pearson as well as four Smith originals, and the standard, ‘Stardust’. An above average 1958 session to complete the quartet of albums on offer.

Tim Stenhouse