How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Blues Bag was originally released as Veejay 2506 (thank you, Koch, for providing this data plus the players on the outside of the package). The excellent mainstream clarinetist DeFranco plays only bass clarinet here. The sidemen include a collection of masters: Art Blakey, Lee Morgan, Curtis Fuller, Victor Feldman, Freddie Hill, and Victor Sproles.
This disc sounds like a fun night at a jazz club, although it was recorded at United Studios, Hollywood, in 1964. It features one tune each by several composers, including one by Leonard Feather (who also wrote the notes), DeFranco's "Blues Bag," Monk's "Straight, No Chaser," Feldman's "Rain Dance," Ornette's "Blues Connotation," Trane's "Cousin Mary," and Diz's "Kush." Great tunes, great playersand yet the session ends up merely pleasant.
DeFranco's own liners show he understands each tune very well. The problem, I'm guessing, is that he's relying on his solid support, yet he needs to get out there and lead by swinging. He plays his bass clarinet like he usually does his clarinet, and unfortunately he avoids utilizing the extra depth it can afford. I don't know if this was his choice, or his ability at the time, or if he was just (west) coasting... but Blues Bag ends up not at all a bad album despite this problem. Only "Kush" threatens to catch fire. Blues Bag falls short on several levels: it could've been so much more given the talent and compositions involved. Fortunately Koch includes a beautiful picture label, bluesy layout, and design.
Track Listing: Blues Bag; Straight No Chaser, Rain Dance, Blues Connotation, Cousin Mary, Kush.
Personnel: Buddy DeFranco, bass clarinet, clarinet (on Rain Dance only); Lee Morgan and Freddie Hill, trumpet; Curtis Fuller, trombone; Victor Feldman, piano, vibes; Victor Sproles, bass; Abdullah Buhaina (Art Blakey), drums.