Lem Winchester ‘Patrolman’ (Fresh Sound) 4/5

The lesser known among jazz vibists of his generation, Lem Winchester was in fact a full-time policeman who also recorded albums with various formations. Here the CD groups together a live recording from the July 1958 Newport jazz festival and a studio album in Chicago on the Argo label (a subsidiary of the legendary blues label Chess) with the Ramsey Lewis trio. The latter is an album devoted to the music of Clifford Brown, though in parts it also serves a showcase of the American songbook repertoire. Of the Brownie originals, the quartet deliver a sedately paced version of ‘Joy spring’ and a similarly serene take on the bop classic ‘Sandu’. Things hot up on Duke Jordan’s ‘Jordu’ where the trio finally have the opportunity to stretch out a little. Lem Winchester excels as a musician on the minor themed compositions such as Cole Porter’s ‘Easy to love’. For the live recording, three standards are interpreted with a truly swinging rendition of Parker’s ‘Now’s the time’ with the quartet in full flow and an impeccable version of Billy Strayhorn’s ‘Take the ‘A’ train that remains respectful to the original. Ideally, one would have like more generous timing and possibly the inclusion of the first side of the Newport recording that featured Randy Weston. That may form part of a subsequent release, but as an indication of where Lem Winchester was at in 1958, this could scarcely be bettered.

Tim Stenhouse