Here are twenty–one danceable and gently swinging numbers recorded in 1953–54 by the underrated (and almost forgotten) saxophonist Tab Smith who shows clearly why he was held in such high regard by Count Basie, Lucky Millinder and others for whom he worked as a sideman. Smith, who nimbly straddles Jazz’s swing and contemporary eras, displays a strong Lester Young influence on tenor, while his creamy alto (heard on most selections) enkindles memories of such early pioneers as Johnny Hodges, Russell Procope, Willie “The Lion” Smith and Benny Carter (sounding much like Benny on the bouncy title track and the standard “In a Little Spanish Town”). While Smith is loose and comfortable at any tempo, he’s especially effective on romantic ballads such as “My Ideal,” “Prisoner of Love,” “Imagination” and “Don’t Take Your Love from Me,” and makes another powerful statement on Ellington’s “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.” The vocalists (on “I’m a Bouncin’ Mama,” “For Only You,” “If You Believe in Me,” “Crying My Blues Away,” “Baby Please Don’t Go,” “They Call Me a Fool”) aren’t identified, nor are most of the other personnel. The set closes with a straightforward Basie–like head arrangement entitled “Zig Zag” on which Smith’s athletic alto burns a deep and impressive groove. But this is the exception; most of the selections are more solicitously produced (and sometimes reinforced by an echo–chamber effect, especially on the ballads). For those who dig the accessible and unpretentious sounds of the Swing Era, a real treat.
Contact:Delmark Records, 4121 N. Rockwell, Chicago, IL 60618. Phone 773–539–5001; fax 773–539–5004. Web site, www.delmark.com
Track Listing: Top
Personnel: Tab Smith, alto, tenor sax; Irving Woods, trumpet; Charlie Wright, Robin Darby, tenor, baritone sax; Teddy Brannon, Lavern Dillon, piano; Wilfred Middlebrooks, Lloyd Anderson, bass; Walter Johnson, drums. Other personnel unidentified.