Chuck Wayne was one of many jazz musicians who made their living primarily in studio orchestras, forgoing any sort of fame they might have achieved as a recording artist or club fixture. Thus he falls into the perilous realm of being a “guitarist’s guitarist,” which is just a polite way of saying that his records weren’t popular with the general public when they were released.
At any rate, Morning Mist is a welcome reissue, especially for those collectors who are always looking for neglected gems. One of Wayne’s few sessions as a leader, the album features the restless spirit of a musician anxious to prove himself, yet the relaxed groove of one confident in his chops. A relaxed stroll through the standard “Morning Mist” quickly defines Wayne as a guitarist who employs beautiful chords and inventive single note lines much in the style of Jim Hall or Johnny Smith, yet with enough originality to catch the ear.
However, immediately following is “See Saw,” an off-kilter original that aptly displays Wayne’s compositional skills as well. Keeping with this pattern, the guitarist alternates standards and originals for the rest of the album. Songs like “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be” are treated as earnestly as possible, and the rest of the originals, although not quite as memorable as “See Saw,” nevertheless are reminiscent of pleasant tunes you’ve heard before but can’t quite remember where. Ronnie Bedford and Joe Williams provide cheerful accompaniment, content to let Wayne take center stage. As a further display of Wayne’s range, or perhaps as a tongue-in-cheek finale, “Lovely” features bebop banjo and is mercifully short.
String Fever, the only other Wayne session currently available, is burdened by heavy orchestration. Morning Mist is the one to check out, an overlooked and enjoyable session of first-rate guitar jazz.
Personnel: Chuck Wayne - guitar; Joe Williams - bass; Ronnie Bedford - drums.