Billy Bauer never gained much prominence following his stint with Lennie Tristano, Lee Konitz, and Warne Marsh in the late 40s and early 50s. In the ensuing decades the guitarist made his living as a studio player and teacher. His studio career ended long ago, but he still teaches to this day.
Plectrist, released in 1956 on Norman Granz’s Norgran label and reissued by Verve, is Bauer’s sole outing as a leader. With 11 previously released tracks and four alternate takes, the beautifully packaged disc reveals Bauer not as a Tristano disciple but rather a straight-ahead stylist in the mold of Jimmy Raney and Tal Farlow. His tone is rich and bright, and his lines swing vividly on medium-fast tempos like "The Way You Look Tonight" and Irving Berlin’s "Maybe I Love You Too Much." He begins the album with a ballad, however, interpreting "It’s a Blue World" with high-register block chords. The old Satchmo anthem "When It’s Sleepytime Down South" gets a similar treatment. Four Bauer originals also appear: the boppish "Lincoln Tunnel," the ballads "Night Cruise" and "Estelle’s Dream," and the enigmatic solo piece "Blue Mist," which concludes the original program (and was misidentified as "Moon Mist" on the original back cover).
Bauer’s quartet includes, most notably, the recently departed bassist Milt Hinton, who gets plentiful solo room. Drummer Osie Johnson and pianist Andrew Ackers complete the lineup; Ackers keeps to the background mostly, but plays a strong solo on "You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To."
Billy Bauer, guitar; Andrew Ackers, piano; Milt Hinton, bass; Osie Johnson, drums
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