Well, the premise of Verve’s Elite Edition series is to uncover esoteric and obscure gems that will have a limited appeal. This means that some albums many of us thought would never again see the light of day have made it to CD after all. But with Billy Bauer’s The Plectrist, Verve has gone off the chart with a highly desirable collectors items that demands the attention of anyone even remotely interested in jazz guitar. In its original incarnation you’re looking at close to a three-digit purchase price, so say “hallelujah” to this limited edition disc which sports excellent 24-bit remastering and four bonus cuts.
A veteran of Woody Herman’s band in the ‘40s and later part of the Lennie Tristano entourage that included Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh, Bauer recorded this sole album as a leader in 1956 and then was almost never heard from again, although he teaches and still plays on occasion. All but pianist Andrew Ackers are known entities (bassist Milt Hinton and drummer Osie Johnson fill out the ranks) and Bauer’s warm and crystal clear lines are rendered beautifully on this mono recording done at Fine Studios in New York City.
Standards mix in well with four of Bauer’s own unique charts, with the guitarist garnering the lion’s share of the solo spotlight. Nothing is taken faster than a medium tempo romp, yet there’s certainly zero lacking in terms of variety and Bauer’s strength as a soloist keeps your attention throughout. Had he stayed on the scene, he might have been as viable a player as Jim Hall or Tal Farlow or Barney Kessel. That’s saying a lot and this disc more than speaks volumes in regards to Bauer’s talents.
Track Listing: It's a Blue World, Maybe I Love You Too Much, Lincoln Tunnel, Night Cruise, Too Marvelous for Words, Lady Estelle's Dream, You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To, When It's Sleepy Time Down South, The Way You Look Tonight, Lullaby of the Leaves, Blue Mist, The Way You Look Tonight (3 alternate takes), Lullaby of the Leaves (alternate take)
Personnel: Billy Bauer (guitar), Andrew Ackers (piano), Milt Hinton (bass), Osie Johnson (drums)