To those who follow big bands, especially on the West Coast, trumpeter Ron Stout is well-known as a stellar sideman in ensembles led by Bill Holman, Bob Florence, Buddy Childers, Jack Sheldon, Frank Capp and many others. After years of paying dues, Stout has finally recorded an album as leader of his own quintet, and it's a tasteful showcase for his singular but largely unsung prowess.
Chet, of course, is the renowned Chet Baker, and Stout's "other heroes include Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Kenny Dorham, Sarah Vaughan and Nat "King Cole. He does them proud, as do tenor Jerry Pinter and Stout's impressive rhythm section, supervised by pianist Frank Strauss, steadied by bassist Danton Boller, and secured by drummer Thomas White.
Like Baker, Stout leans toward slower tempos, and half of the album's eight numbers are ballads ("Summertime and "Like Someone in Love, which also claim a balladic pedigree, are performed here at a moderately faster clip). Stout opens leisurely, saluting Baker with a tender reading of one of the briefest standards ever written, "I Fall in Love Too Easily. Like Chet, Stout plays with an abundance of warmth and lends every note its proper weight. "Summertime, on which Pinter makes his charming entrance, is a slightly modified version of the classic Miles/Gil Evans arrangement, while "Someone in Love lays bare Stout's fondness for Dorham's comprehension and clarity.
Chet and Trane inspired "You Don't Know What Love Is, Chet and Sarah Vaughan the breezy "Have You Met Miss Jones, Nat Cole "The Very Thought of You. Mongo Santamaria's "Afro Blue, which Coltrane played on a number of occasions, is the most elaborate (but not necessarily the most engaging) number, and Stout ends as he began, with another unassuming homage to Chet, the lyrical "Polka Dots and Moonbeams.
Stout and Pinter, long-time friends since their days with the Woody Herman Orchestra, complement each other splendidly, and the rhythm section couldn't be more supportive. These may not be household names, but the talent is unmistakable and readily appreciated.