Bob Koester, the main man at Delmark Records, labels the music produced by Kevin O’Donnell’s Quality Six “unclassifiable,” and he’ll get no argument from these quarters. It has elements of blues, swing, classic New Orleans and even occasional whiffs of bop, played by a sextet whose front line includes violin, guitar, alto sax and trombone. Violinist Andrew Bird handles most of the vocals (trombonist Dieckmann is heard on “Red Boa,” guitarist Bunn on “Margaret,” guest guitarist Jon Williams on “There, There, There”), and he’s a blues disciple who emotes with ample emotion and world–weariness. Leader/drummer O’Donnell supplied the lyrics for nine of the ten vocal tracks (eight of his compositions and the traditional ”Stack o’ Lee”). The melodies are generally fine, and the lyrics are too, although some of them contain allusions that aren’t always easily unraveled. The most well–known song on the date is the Gershwins’ “Lady Be Good,” and it is given a Grappelli/Reinhardt/Hot Club of Paris treatment with Byrd again handling the vocal. While Bird’s fiddle and voice are often prominent, everyone makes an important contribution, and there are no top bananas in the ensemble. Alto Greene has the most “modern” approach, and everyone swings into another gear whenever he solos. Among the instrumentals, O’Donnell’s loping “Blues for Andrew” is a standout as Bird rises to the occasion with a persuasive solo. This is a well–played session but so wide–ranging that one wonders where its audience might lie.
Track listing: Moten Swing; Heretic Blues; Girl from New York City; Self Inflicted; My Friend Eddie; Could You Please Move Over?; Stack o’ Lee; Candy Dish Stomp; Oh! Lady Be Good; There, There, There; Margaret; Blues for Andrew; Red Boa; Mope (62:58).