J.J. Johnson & Kai Winding Quintet: Complete Fifties Studio Recordings (1955)
The first thing that piqued my interest about Complete Fifties Studio Recordings (compiled from the Savoy, Prestige, Columbia, and Bethlehem labels) was the inclusion of a rare Mingus piece called "Reflections. When you get to track number six after traveling through the preceding tunes (including the delightful "Bernie's Tune ) you might utter "Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore.
The piece starts off with the lowest "F on arco bass, and then the first trombone plays a slightly disjunct and slightly dissonant line against it. The second trombone enters in the style of a canon but quickly the chase becomes a mutual search for harmony over the bass pedal. Mingus slides down to Eb (below the normal range) and the drums and then piano enter, adding a different, faster tension. The mutual search for harmony is the bridge into the next sections of this little suite-like piece that then becomes a ballad evoking "Duke Ellington's Sound of Love (to be written years in the future). A remarkable piece; a little symphony in just over four minutes.
J.J. Johnson might be called the father of bebop trombone, with legendary mobility on his instrument. Trombonist Kai Winding was also a great player, and their playing in tandem is so in tune and so rhythmically together that they are like musical twins.
Both Johnson and Winding were composers as well as virtuoso players. Johnson's "Lament, "Stolen Bass, "Hip Bones, and "Riviera are highlights, while Kai Winding's "Gong Rock asks the musical question, to paraphrase Frank Zappa, "is that a real gong or is that a Sears gong? Beautiful jazz playing is contributed by all the musicians on this compilation: Billy Bauer, Kenny Clarke, Wally Cirillo, Dick Katz, Paul Chambers, Milt Hinton, Wendell Marshall, Al Harewood and Osie Johnson.
Maybe this isn't revolutionary, earth-shattering music (and it even detours into cocktail jazz at moments), but it's a good balance of instrumental virtuosity, incredible ensemble playing, interesting compositions and arrangements, and swinging, singing playing by all, especially the front line.
Track Listing: CD1: Blues for Trombones; What is this Thing Called Love?; Lament 4-The Mayor; Bernie's Tune; Reflections;; Op; Blues in Two's; The Whiffenpoof Song; Give Me the Simple Life; Close As Pages in a Book; Turnabout; Trombone for Two; It's Sand Man; We Two; Let's Get Away From It All; Goodbye; This Can't Be Love. CD2: Out of This World; Thou Swell; Lover; Lope City; Stolen Bass; It's Alright With Me; Mad About the Boy; Yes Sir, That's My Baby; That's How I Feel About You; Gong Rock; It's Alright With Me (Alt. take); Don't Argue; How Long has this been going on?; Riviera; Dinner For One; Hip Bones; Wind Bag; We'll Be Together Again; Bag's Groove.
Personnel: J.J. Johnson, Kai Winding: trombones; Billy Bauer: guitar; Wally Cirillo, Dick Katz: piano; Charles Mingus, Paul Chambers, Milt Hinton, Wendell Marshall, Peck Morrison: bass; Kenny Clarke, Osie Johnson, Al Harewood: drums.
Record Label: Lonehill Jazz