Chuck Wayne has long been a jazz connoisseur’s musician whose ability and technique has always outclassed guitarists with much larger reputations. Popularity seems never to have been Wayne’s primary focus; for decades he simply consistently did a first rate job in the studios and on stage, as both a sideman and as a leader. His music doesn’t jump out at you demanding your attention – it is thoughtful, subtle music that takes some listening before you realize you are experiencing one of the guitar masters at work.
Knowledgeable jazz guitarists and jazz guitar fans will be delighted to know that another Chuck Wayne recording is now available. The 1964 trio session Morning Mist, recorded by Rudy Van Gelder, complements the bebop Wayne recording Tasty Pudding and the elegant sextet and big band recording String Fever. The new reissue of Morning Mist presents a concise, restrained Wayne of honed studio discipline. A deep classical influence is also evident. This beautifully recorded disc highlights his harmonic sophistication - reminding us this guitarist is the same Chuck Wayne who accompanied Tony Bennett and Sarah Vaughan, and who wove such magic with the original George Shearing Quintet.
Nine of the ten tracks are less than four minutes long. Bassist Joe Williams and drummer Ronnie Bedford accompany with tact and subtlety, moving through a collection of standards and Wayne originals; there is an overall “after hours” feel to the session. What is striking about several of the tracks (for example, "Goodbye," "See Saw," and "Someone To Watch Over Me") is the near perfection of the performances: everything is in place, including solos that seem to have wasted nothing in their development. A few tracks left this reviewer wanting more, specifically longer Wayne solos and more solo time for Williams and Bedford. There is also a persistent desire to hear this trio stretch out a bit and turn up the tempo, but that is quibbling considering the beauty of the music.
Highlights of this recording include the Ronnie Bedford’s light, precise touch and concise solos on “See Saw,” “ L’il Darlin,” and “This Song Is You.” Joe Williams’ bluesy bass provides a deeply rooted foundation throughout the session; he’s especially memorable on “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be” with his best solo work of the session. This is an excellent trio, their timing and rapport is a pleasure throughout the recording. Chuck Wayne’s playing is typified by his effortless transitions between single note and chordal phrasing, by his crystalline technique no matter what the tempo, and by his ability to build a solo with a conclusion that seems almost inevitable. Morning Mist is highly recommended.
Personnel: Chuck Wayne, guitar, banjo; Joe Williams, bass; and Ronnie Bedford, drums.