The 4 Most/Bob Stewart: The 4 Most/Bob Stewart (2005)
The first half of this CD consists of a previously released Dawn album from 1956 called The 4 Most Sing The Arrangements of Joe Derise. The 4 Most was a vocal group quartet that consisted of Al Evans, Chuck Sedacca, Joe Derise and Marv Falcon, supported here by an octet that included Dick Sherman, Gene Quill, Al Cohn, Hank Jones, and others. The 4 Most's style was very reminiscent of the Four Freshmen/Hi-Lo school of jazz vocal harmony, and especially close to the upper range that the Hi-Lo's often highlighted. On the dozen titles from this group, there are several occasions for solo features, including a scatted "Bernie's Tune," "Let A Smile Be Your Umbrella," and "Bye Bye Blackbird."
In 1956, singer Bob Stewart and the members of the Mat Mathews Quintet recorded twelve tracks at the New Jersey studio of Rudy Van Gelder. Let's Talk About Love, originally released on the Dawn label, has now been digitally remastered and licensed to Fresh Sound Records as the second part of this reissue (now called simply Bob Stewart). Listening to this music, now just short of fifty years old, one hears a first-rate jazz crooner. Stewart's voice has deepened since this recording, as his 1990s albums, largely on his own VWC label, attest; his sound here could be compared to that of Mel Torme or Dick Haymes.
These twelve songs are notable for Stewart's comfortable vocals as well as the performances of the other musicians, among whom the most prominent voice is Herbie Mann's flute. The short playing time is average for the era. Most of the tunes are ballads with rather well-worn (by now) titles like "Come Rain or Come Shine," "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea," and "Avalon." Two of the songs were co-written by producer Chuck Darwin with Mat Mathews ("It's Mine After All") and Cohn (Al?) ("When the Blues Come On"). The album concludes with the Gordon Jenkins' "Blue Prelude."
Bob Stewart shows a real compatibility with the music, making these songs come alive with feeling. They may now be regarded as being saloon or lounge vehicles, but I'd prefer to regard this as a collection of expressive performances by someone who wasn't hesitant about bringing a jazz sensibility to these individual tunes. It is a shame that Stewart had to wait 34 years to record his subsequent album in 1990.
Track Listing: Me And My Shadow; Blue Prelude; Bernie's Tune; Ev'rytime I Fall In Love; Remember Me; Bye Bye Blackbird; Similau; Let A Smile Be Your Umbrella; Ooh! Baby It Scares Me; There'll Be Some Changes Made; You're Blase; All's Well That Ends Well; Caravan; Skylark; Look Down That Lonesome Road; If I'm Lucky; Between The Devil And The Blue Sea; Come Rain Or Come Shine; When The Blues Come On; Avalon; Laura; Moonglow; It's Mine After All; Blue Prelude.
Personnel: The 4 Most: The 4 Most: Al Evans; Chuck Sedacca; Joe Derise; Marv Falcon. Plus Al Cohn: tenor saxophone; Gene Quill: alto saxophone; Hank Jones: piano; Mat Mathews: accordion; Oscar Pettiford: bass, cello; Joe Puma, Mundell Lowe: guitar; Charlie Smith: drums. Bob Stewart: Bob Stewart, vocals; Mat Mathews, accordion and leader; Herbie Mann: flute; Oscar Pettiford: bass; Kenny Clarke: drums; Joe Puma: guitar.