Quincy Jones made a number of recordings while traveling through western Europe with his big band nearly 40 years ago. This is the best one we’ve heard. Although sound quality is typical of an early–’60s radio broadcast, which this was, Quincy’s all–star ensemble is kicking butt and taking no prisoners in Lausanne, Switzerland. As no less an authority than alto master Phil Woods (who was there) says in a hand–written note affixed to the liners, “This CD comes closer to the truth of that great band than any other recording I have heard.” Jones hand–picked the personnel for his “dream band,” which had legends–to–be in every section, and as Woods points out, several of its members — including trumpeter Benny Bailey, trombonist Ake Persson and baritone saxophonist Sahib Shihab — remained in Europe to help form the celebrated Kenny Clarke–Francy Boland Big Band, which was based in Paris. Quincy’s ensemble also boasted such highly regarded players as tenor saxophonist Jerome Richardson, trombonists Jimmy Cleveland and Melba Liston, French horn virtuoso Julius Watkins, guitarist / flutist Les Spann and bassist Buddy Catlett. Not much is known about pianist Patti Bown or drummer Joe Harris except that they were top–notch players who did nothing to lessen the band’s over–all quality. The band had a marvelous book, and many of its most magnetic charts are presented on this broadcast including three compositions by the renowned Ernie Wilkins (“Ghana,” “Big Red,” “The Phantom’s Blues”), two by Jones himself (“Birth of a Band,” “The Midnight Sun Will Never Set”), Benny Golson’s mournful “I Remember Clifford,” Bud Powell’s busy “Parisian Thoroughfare,” Bobby Timmons’ blues classic “Moanin’,” Ray Noble’s fiery “Cherokee,” Liston’s luminous arrangement of Claude Debussy’s “My Reverie” and bright originals by Woods (“Soul”) and Billy Byers (“Chinese Checkers”). Fabulous solos abound, with Bailey featured on “I Remember Clifford” and “Moanin’,” Liston on “Reverie,” Woods on “The Midnight Sun” and Cleveland, Persson, Watkins, Richardson, Shihab, Spann, Bown, Harris and tenor Harold McNair adding forceful statements along the way. The concert closes with two versions, long and short, of Charlie Christian / Benny Goodman’s flag–waving “Air Mail Special,” arranged by Al Cohn and punctuated by Harris’s emphatic drum work. If you’ve heard about Quincy Jones’s superlative band and would like to become better acquainted, this is an excellent place to start.
Track listing: Cherokee; Chinese Checkers; Birth of a Band; I Remember Clifford; Ghana; Big Red; My Reverie; Parisian Thoroughfare; Moanin’; Soul; The Midnight Sun Will Never Set; The Phantom’s Blues; Airmail Special; Airmail Special (encore) (67:25).