In early 1954, while Woody Herman’s Third Herd was touring Europe, a number of Woody’s sidemen took the opportunity to pick up some spare change by collaborating on a couple of sessions in Paris for French record executive Charles Delaunay. The results of the Paris dates are documented on tracks 1–8 of this reissue on Fantasy; tracks 9–16 were recorded in January ’54 in San Francisco. The core group of pianists Ralph Burns (1–8) and Nat Pierce (9–16), trumpeter Dick Collins, bass trumpeter Cy Touff and reedmen Jerry Coker and Dick Hafer is augmented on tracks 1–8 by tenor Bill Perkins, guitarist Jimmy Gourley, pianist Henri Renaud, bassist Jean–Marie Ingrand and drummers Chuck Flores or Jean–Louis Vitale, and on 9–16 by trumpeter John Howell, baritone Jack Nimitz, bassist Red Kelly and drummer Gus Gustafson. Even though these are small–group sessions there’s a definite Herman aura throughout, as if the Herd were thinned but not dispersed. The mood is heightened by the presence of Touff, perhaps the most prominent bass trumpeter in the annals of Jazz (can you name any others?), and Perkins, whose Prez–influenced tenor lends an extra kick to the Paris dates. Every number swings nicely along, but why the Herdsmen chose to open with something as prosaic as “The Gypsy” is beyond our understanding. Tracks 9–16, designed to showcase trumpeter Collins, who was making a name for himself on the West Coast, have a weightier timbre than the Paris sessions owing to the rumbling bass lines appended by Nimitz. Although he never achieved the fame envisioned for him, Collins was a well–schooled player whose bell–like tone and admirable technique are well worth hearing again, especially on the ballads “I’ll Never Be the Same” and “Easy Living.” He’s also quite good on the last two tracks, Lester Young’s “Blue Lester” and Count Basie’s “The King,” a couple of powerful reasons to stay with the album to its conclusion. Kudos to Fantasy for combining the Paris and San Francisco sessions, thus increasing the playing time to a generous 69:48. Sound quality is about what one would expect from an early–’50s recording. More important is that everyone is in a decidedly swingin’ frame of mind.
Contact:Fantasy Records, 10th and Parker, Berkeley, CA 94710. Web site, www.fantasyjazz.com