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Without mincing words, the final compilation of this three disc series makes the best case for the bop generation and beyond between 1955-'63, closing with a coda from V.S.O.P. The Quintet in 1976. There is little reference to the postwar Swing Era most notably on Volume 1.
Volume 3 begins with a previously unreleased treat. Miles Davis was a last minute entry in Newport in 1955 and performed with Zoot Sims, Gerry Mulligan and some old acquaintances like Thelonious Monk, Percy Health and Connie Kay. His clarion take on Monk's "'Round Midnight" offers a long, beautiful solo followed by the other horns. Although it sounds like a muted trumpet, producer George Wein assures us that he placed the bell of the horn directly into the microphone. The popular Jay & Kai Quintet presents its own dual trombone version of "Lover Come Back to Me" from 1956.
Although Dizzy Gillespie was not working with a big band at the time, in 1957, Wein plugged together a stellar group which included, among others, Lee Morgan, Melba Liston, Al Grey, Ernie Henry, Benny Golson and Wynton Kelly. Although it was not a working band, you'd never suspect it. On their finely textured version of "I Remember Clifford," I applaud whoever did the charts. Since composer Golson was part of the orchestra, that would be a likely guess. Also from that year, Sarah Vaughan and her trio provide a lilting "Black Coffee."
1958 is well represented by the Dave Brubeck Quartet's version of "Jump For Joy," while The Miles Davis Sextet takes "Fran Dance" out for a mid-tempo walk. By this point Davis was officially a Columbia artist and the group was comprised of John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans, Paul Chambers, and Jimmy Cobb. Wein's creative bent in pairing clarinetist Pee Wee Russell with the Thelonious Monk Quartet in 1963 seemed like an inspired choice. In his notes, Wein was disappointed with the performance in that "Monk laid out too much behind Pee Wee... and the tune never got off the ground." I'm puzzled since I don't hear any Russell presence at all on this nine minute track with first Charlie Rouse and then Monk taking typical long solos that are quite good.
The John Coltrane Quartet closes out the Newport Years with, what else, "My Favorite Things." Although mislabelled as a peformance on tenor sax, it is, of course, Trane's soprano that is primarily featured on this 17 minute version. Both Coltrane and McCoy Tyner's opening solo are reasonably similar to the classic studio Atlantic original. Roy Haynes fills in for the missing Elvin Jones. The album concludes with a performance by V.S.O.P. from New York's City Center in 1976, with an all-star group of Miles alumni rendering "Maiden Voyage" (Freddie Hubbard takes Miles' trumpet role here). The others in the group are Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams. Other than being a showcase for the respective chops of Hubbard & Co. and the sizzle of Williams, this track strikes me as unnecessary in the context of this disc.
Otherwise, in a one sentence summary... the ticket holders went home very satisfied.
Track Listing: 'Round Midnight, Lover Come Back to Me, I Remember Clifford, Jump For Joy, Black Coffee, Fran Dance, Blue Monk, My Favorite Things, Maiden Voyage.
Personnel: Track 1-Miles Davis (Davis,trumpet; Zoot Sims, tenor sax; Gerry Mulligan,baritone sax; Thelonious Monk,piano; Percy Heath,bass; Connie Kay,drums) Track 2-Jay & Kai (J.J.Johnson,Kai Winding,trombones; Dick Katz,piano;Bill Crow,bass; Rudy Collins,drums) Track 3-The Dizzy Gillespie Big Band (Gillespie,Lee Morgan, Emmett Perry, Carl Warwick,Talib Daawud,trumpets; Melba Liston, Al Grey, Ray Connor,trombones; Jimmy Powell,Ernie Henry,Billy Mitchell,Benny Golson,Pee Wee Moore,reeds; Wynton Kelly,piano;Paul West,bass;Charlie Persip,drums) Track 4-The Dave Brubeck Quartet(Paul Desmond,alto sax;Brubeck,piano; Joe Benjamin,bass; Joe Morello,drums) Track 5- Sarah Vaughan(Vaughan,vocals; Jimmy Jones,piano;Richard Davis,bass;Roy Haynes,drums) Track 6-The Miles Davis Sextet(Davis,trumpet; John Coltrane,tenor sax; Cannonball Adderley,alto sax; Bill Evans,piano;Paul Chambers,bass;Jimmy Cobb,drums) Track 7-The Thelonious Monk Quartet with Pee Wee Russell (Russell,clarinet; Charlie Rouse,tenor sax; Monk,piano; Butch Warren,bass; Frankie Dunlop,drums) Track 8-The John Coltrane Quartet(Coltrane,tenor sax); McCoy Tyner,piano; Jimmy Garrison,bass; Roy Haynes,drums) Track 9 V.S.O.P. The Quintet (Freddie Hubbard,trumpet; Wayne Shorter,tenor sax; Herbie Hancock,piano; Ron Carter,bass; Tony Williams,drums).