It’s almost as hard to comprehend that this buoyant album was recorded almost 15 years ago as it is to accept the fact that neither Rich Matteson (“the world’s greatest Jazz euphonium player”) nor Red Mitchell (“one of the world’s two greatest bassists to share that surname”) is no longer with us. Ironically, the session’s scurrying, bluesy title tune, “Life’s a Take,” was dedicated to Fred Crane, a longtime friend and colleague who passed away shortly before Rich and Red entered a studio in Stockholm, Sweden, in June 1985 to record it. Crane, who Matteson describes in the liner notes as a superlative pianist and composer, left almost no recorded documentation of his artistry. Matteson, an outstanding player in his own right, was also sadly underrecorded, but thanks to Four Leaf Clover we have at least two albums on which his remarkable talents are prominently displayed. Mitchell, on the other hand, recorded often under his own name and as a sideman, but his indomitable presence here is no less welcome because of it. For the uninitiated, Matteson’s ax, the euphonium, is the tenor component of the tuba family, pitched in B–flat, and in terms of sound comes closest to a valve trombone. Matteson’s description of himself as the “world’s greatest” Jazz euphonium player was of course a running gag, as he was for years its only champion — but had there been others he might have earned the prize anyway, playing as he always did with such conspicuous awareness and enthusiasm. Mitchell, the brother of another world–class bassist, Whitey, made no such claim, but those who heard his resonant and metronomic shadings soon became his partisans and admirers. While Matteson and Mitchell are the drawing cards, the disarming program of standards (except for “Life’s a Take”) is considerably enhanced by the presence of Karlsson, a strikingly young (at the time) but extremely capable pianist, and Östlund, an even–tempered but resolute drummer from Iceland. With the ranks of such trail–blazing giants as Matteson and Mitchell becoming inescapably smaller as the years go by, we are assuredly blessed to have recorded evidence of their uncommon virtuosity.
Track listing: Life’s a Take; Easy Living; I Love You; Our Love Is Here to Stay; You Stepped Out of a Dream; There Is No Greater Love; The Shadow of Your Smile (45:36).