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Al Cohn
The Al Cohn Quintet Featuring Bob Brookmeyer
1956

Both Cohn and Brookmeyer spent time in Woody Herman's band, honing their arranging skills before becoming key members of the cool jazz establishment. Thus one can expect from this 1956 meeting a selection of perfectly crafted, gently swinging numbers delivered with the same starched shirt crispness the cool jazz fellows made their stock and trade. And that's exactly what occurs: the session emphasizes sculpture over soul and style over sizzle on a group of standbys and new charts that fit in quite comfortably with the old ones.

"The Lady Is A Tramp establishes the template: a relaxed gait with tight, uniform lines and solos that play it safe by hewing close to the changes. Cohn's usual sparring partner around this time was Zoot Sims, and the two of them traded licks on a number of hot-blooded records. But Brookmeyer lowers the temperature by adding a layer of elegant sophistication, his valve trombone nestling in comfortably among the rhythm section. Cohn contributes a few nifty originals, from "Back To Back to "Winter, a lyrical, melancholy blues that is the highlight of the album and tugs out some inventive soloing from the front line.

One could criticize Brookmeyer and Cohn (and others of their ilk) for sticking to formula on record, but it's hard to find fault with an approach this is so consistently enjoyable.

Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, Paul Gonsalves, Coleman Hawkins, Wynton Kelly
Sittin' In
1957

There's always going to be high expectations for one-time meetings between giants such as this. We have three excellent players in Gillespie, Getz, and Hawkins, one wild card in Gonsalves, and a crack rhythm section with Kelly at the helm. One would think that all you would have to do is give these guys a few standards, a ballad, and a blues or two, and stand back and watch the fireworks.

However, due to a carefully selected program and novel approach, this album becomes a little more special. "Dizzy Atmosphere kicks things off in cracking form with plenty of gymnastics. Getz shows that he has enough fire in his belly to keep up with Hawkins, and Gonsalves, still enjoying the confidence that his legendary solo at Newport surely gave him, holds his own with the upperclassmen. Gillespie, of course, takes things high into the stratosphere.

But after that we get two ballad medleys in which a different player is given the spotlight on each tune. This allows all the players to stretch out in what would otherwise be a crowded field and develop their solos over a few minutes' time. We know that Getz and Hawkins are going to thrive in this environment and suspect that Gonsalves probably picked up a thing or two from Johnny Hodges, and none of the three disappoint. Although Gillespie is more known for quick tempos, he clearly knows his way around the slower numbers. These two lengthy ballads are absolutely beautiful and feature a roster of players who know a thing or two about turning music into poetry.

It's surprising given the line up that this album hasn't been in print before, but it's good to have it back. One of the best reissues of the year thus far.

Harry "Sweets Edison
Sweets
1956

Harry "Sweets Edison was one of the most talented players to come out of the Basie band, and he made bold statements on several small group sessions from the fifties and sixties. Mostly content to enliven other peoples' sessions, Sweets, from 1956, is one of the few dates he led.

Edison possesses a sharp, biting tone with a mute and a fiery open sound that he uses in an almost architectural approach to soloing in its logic and craft. Add Ben Webster and you have a front line that's practically unbeatable. No surprises here; just a typical set of standards and blues that allows for plenty of tasty soloing. The rhythm section turns in a fine performance, but Barney Kessel makes the key contribution by playing solid four to the bar swing rhythms and adding the occasional colorful touch here and there.

Sweets has the feel of a group of friends who got together to swap stories, and what tales they have to tell.

Joe Newman
Joe Newman Quintet at Count Basie's
1961

From Basie's band to Basie's Club. Joe Newman was another talented trumpeter who found his footing with the Count before fronting his own groups, no doubt to take advantage of the extended freedom in material and ample soloing time. Newman had the brassy tone and intelligence of Armstrong combined with a deep understanding of the blues learned from Basie which he uses to great effect on "Someone To Love, a small gem of muted soloing that covers a wide variety of interesting avenues. There's also a coolly tempered "On Green Dolphin Street that bears a resemblance to Miles's Prestige quintet and a galloping romp through "Caravan. Nothing points to Newman's Basie influence like "The Midgets, a blues-based original with jackhammer riffing.

While Newman is excellent throughout, Oliver Nelson, known by most as the man behind Blues and the Abstract Truth during this same year, is still sorting through his influences, at times playing solos with the passion of textbook exercises. The rhythm section holds its own, especially Art Davis, who wisely is given several key solo spots.

The Al Cohn Quintet Featuring Bob Brookmeyer
Tracks: 1. The Lady Is A Tramp 2. Good Spirits 3. A Blues Serenade 4. Lazy Man Stomp 5. Ill Wind 6. Chloe 7. S-H-I-N-E 8. Back To Back 9. So Far So Good 10. Winter 11. I Should Care 12. Bunny Hunch.
Personnel: Al Cohn—tenor saxophone; Bob Brookmeyer—valve trombone; Mose Allison—piano; Teddy Kotick—bass; Nick Stabulas—drums.

Sittin' In
Tracks: 1. Dizzy Atmosphere 2. Ballad Medley: I'm Through With Love, Without A Word Of Warning, Sweet Lorraine, Love Walked In, September Song 3. Ballad Medley: On the Alamo, Stompin' At the Savoy, This Time the Dream's On Me, Time After Time, Gone With the Wind 4. The Way You Look Tonight.
Personnel: Dizzy Gillespie—trumpet; Stan Getz, Paul Gonsalves, Coleman Hawkins—tenor saxophone; Wynton Kelly—piano; Wendell Marshall—bass; J.C. Heard—drums.

Sweets
Tracks 1. Hollering at the Watkins 2. Used To Be Basie 3. How Deep Is the Ocean 4. Studio Call 5. Willow Weep For Me 6. Opus 711 7. Love Is Here To Stay 8. K.M. Blues 9. Walkin' With Sweets.
Personnel: Harry Edison—trumpet; Ben Webster—tenor saxophone; Jimmy Rowles—piano; Barney Kessel—guitar; Joe Mondragon—bass; Alvin Stoller—drums.

Joe Newman at Count Basie's
Tracks: 1. Caravan 2. Love Is Here To Stay 3. Please Send Someone To Love 4. The Midgets 5. On Green Dolphin Street 6. Wednesday's Blues.
Personnel: Joe Newman—trumpet; Oliver Nelson—tenor saxophone; Lloyd Myers—piano; Art Davis—bass; Ed Shaughnessy—drums.


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