There are many ways to skin a cat, and there are many ways to approach a tenor. The goosestepping Jazz Police of Mighty Manhattan will tell you what they think the "correct" ways are, but in jazz, diversity is much more appealing than dogma. Reissued for Fantasy's Original Jazz Classics line, these OJCs are by heroes of the tenor who range from down-home soul-jazzers (Arnett Cobb and Gene Ammons) to a lyrical Lester Young disciple (Paul Quinichette) to a forceful hard bopper/post-bopper who apprecated the energies of the avant-garde (Booker Ervin).
A Texas tenor who was best known for his 1950s hit "Smooth Sailing," Cobb spares no passion on 1960's More Party Time. His accompaniment consists of hard boppers (including pianist Tommy Flanagan, bassist Sam Jones and drummer Art Taylor), but his big, breathy tone is very much a product of the Swing Era. Cobb really digs into material ranging from "Down By The Riverside" to "Sometimes I'm Happy," and his own "Blue Me" shows how convincing he was on a 12-bar blues.
Like Cobb, Chicago's Gene Ammons was a very accessible player who liked his jazz earthy, soulful and emotionally direct. Taken from 1960 and 1962 sessions, Angel Eyes finds him working with and without an organist. Ammons' version of "Angel Eyes" is one of the most moving ever recorded, and he's also quite lyrical and compelling on "It's The Talk Of The Town" and "You Go To My Head." The Chicagoan is well served by such dynamos as tenorist Frank Wess, organist Johnny "Hammond" Smith and pianist Mal Waldron.
Subtlety, meanwhile, defined Quinichette, who pays tribute to Count Basie on For Basie. Interpreting "Jive At Five," "Rock-A-Bye Basie" and other songs associated with the Count, the Prez disciple isn't as restrained as usual. While most of his "cool jazz" recordings of the 1950s took a light approach to bebop changes, For Basie is essentially Kansas City-type swing. Quinichette's talented support includes trumpeter Shad Collins, pianist Nat Pierce, guitarist Freddie Green, bassist Walter Page and drummer Jo Jones (not to be confused with hard bop drummer Philly Joe Jones).
And last but hardly least, Ervin shows us how exciting 1960s modal jazz could be on 1966's Heavy!!! Harmonically, the modal cats had a hell of a lot to say, and that's certainly the case on "Bachafillen" and an imaginative take on "Bei Mir Bist Du Schon." With the passionate, big-toned, recognizable Ervin joined by trumpeter Jimmy Owens, trombonist Garnett Brown, pianist Jaki Byard, bassist Richard Davis and drummer Alan Dawson, the sparks fly in a major way. Superb.