How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
The West Coast scene of the fifties produced few big names and ever fewer classic albums, but nevertheless provided fertile soil for some of the most stylish and consistent music in the history of jazz. For the most part, the artists working in the sunny climes of California were content to work within the established boundaries rather than extending them, keeping the art of arranging and sticking close to the melody vital at a time when most players were itching to explore new directions. Lennie Niehaus represents the cool jazz esthetic as well as anyone else; in addition to some skilled arranging for Stan Kenton, he recorded a handful of appealing records for Contemporary (all are currently only available in limited editions) in which he explored arranging for small groups. Vol. 5 is a terrific record that can easily rank with his best work. Niehaus was always able to recruit the best musicians available, and the players here are certainly no slouches; most are skilled on at least two instruments, which provides Niehaus with a wide palate of colors and tones from which to choose. Niehaus always does his best work arranging when a piano is absent; it encourages his more creative side when it comes to filling space. The four horns dart about like moths trapped in a jar, but not without purpose; there is some excellent call and response work as well as some tight ensemble playing. Manne, of course, is his usual enthusiastic self. A fine example of West Coast playing.
Track Listing: Thou Swell, I Wished On the Moon, Knee Deep, Fond Memories, Take It From Me, Belle of the Ball, As Long as I Live, Ill Wind, Three of a Kind, Elbow Room.
Personnel: Lennie Niehaus-alto saxophone; Bill Perkins-tenor saxophone, flute; Jimmy Giuffre-baritone saxophone; Stu Williamson-trumpet, valve trombone; Buddy Clark-bass; Shelley Manne-drums.