When it comes to the classic art of vocalese (i.e. putting words to instrumental solos), no group or individual has really come close to reaching the pinnacle obtained by the group Lambert, Hendricks, & Ross during the late '50s and early '60s. Their versions of "Cookin' at the Continental", "Cloudburst", and "Twisted", too name just a few, are still considered the quintessential examples of this art form. Unfortunately for Dave Lambert and Jon Hendricks, Annie Ross didn't stick around long, cutting short the tenure of this marvelous unit. Then steps in Yolande Bavan and a second breath of life was given to this unique endeavor. They switched labels from Columbia to RCA and proceeded to cut three more records, all live dates, before finally calling it quits in 1964.
Part of RCA Victor's new Classic Edition series (featuring improved sound and original cover art), Live at Newport '63 proves to be a rhapsodic moment captured on tape that at the time provided evidence that the loss of Annie Ross was anything but the demise of the group. Sure, Bavan didn't have the range that Ross did, but she was more than able to keep up with her two gentleman friends and add a different tonal color to the group to boot! The tragically underrated pianist Gildo Mahones and his trio provide the backing, with Coleman Hawkins and Clark Terry added as special guests.
Things get started with a special version of Herbie Hancock's then current hit, "Watermelon Man." Lingering in "soulville" a bit longer, we then get a taste of the Adderley Brother's "Sack of Woe" with Clark Terry sounding tart and tasty. And talk about hip, you can never get enough of Hendricks' catchy and hilarious "Gimme That Wine." These are just a few of the highlights, along with a previously unissued performance of "Bye Bye Blackbird" based on Miles Davis' version from the mid-'50s. Terry and Hawkins sound inspired and Mahones and the trio provide the kind of spunky support that spurs on such performances. In very real terms there's only one way I can think to improve on this disc and that would be for RCA to reissue in the near future the remaining two albums from this period!
Watermelon Man, Sack O' Woe, One O'Clock Jump, Deedle-Lee Deedle- Lum, Gimme That Wine, Yeh-Yeh!, Walkin', Cloudburst, Bye Bye Blackbird
Dave Lambert, Jon Hendricks, Yolande Bavan, vocals; Gildon Mahones, piano; George Tucker, bass; Jimmie Smith, drums; Coleman Hawkins, tenor saxophone; Clark Terry, trumpet