The original Chico Hamilton Quintet was one of the last significant West Coast jazz bands of the cool era. Consisting of Buddy Collette on reeds (flute, clarinet, alto, and tenor), guitarist Jim Hall, bassist Carson Smith, and the drummer/leader, the most distinctive element in the group's identity was cellist Fred Katz. The band could play quite softly, blending together elements of bop and classical music into their popular sound and occupying their own niche. This six-CD, limited-edition box set from 1997 starts off with a Hamilton drum solo from a 1954 performance with the Gerry Mulligan Quartet; it contains three full albums and many previously unreleased numbers) by the original Chico Hamilton band and also has quite a few titles from the second Hamilton group (which has Paul Horn and John Pisano in the places of Collette and Hall).
Reissue with SHM-CD format and new 24bit remastering. Guitarist Johnny Smith plays the music of Jimmy Van Heusen – a composer whose understated approach is a perfect match for the subtle style of the stringman! The songs are mostly easygoing numbers, in a style that suits Johnny well – and allows him to open up those fluid tones and colors in just the right way. Backing is by a trio that features Bob Pancoast on piano, George Roumanis on bass, and Gerry Segal on drums – working with a vibe that matches the strength of Smith's other Roost sessions from the time – the kind of albums that helped redefine the role of the guitar in jazz during the postwar years.
Reissue with SHM-CD format and new 24bit remastering. A beautiful document of some of the most laidback jazz ever recorded – the sublime 50s recordings of the Johnny Smith group, done at a time when the lineup included Stan Getz! The tunes on the set feature Johnny's mellow electric guitar setting the pace, alongside wonderfully-blown early solos from Stan, plus some other tenor work from Zoot Sims and Paul Quinichette, who also sit in the tenor chair on a few of these recordings. The tunes are mostly standards, but done in a great style that's not exactly cool jazz, but which has a groundbreakingly easy groove that's simply sublime!
For his third Criss Cross release, guitarist Peter Bernstein leads an all-star organ combo that also includes tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, trombonist Steve Davis, organist Larry Goldings, and drummer Billy Drummond. Some of the music that the quintet performs is typical for this type of hard bop/soul-jazz group, including a hot minor-toned blues, "Means and Ends," and Percy Mayfield's blues ballad "Danger Zone." However, a few of the other selections (particularly Bernstein's four originals) are more complex and serve as evidence that the music was being performed in 1996, not 1966. The musicians all play up to their capabilities and Goldings shows that he was one of the most inventive organists of the decade.
Violinist Didier Lockwood tackled a formidable task by dedicating an entire CD to the legendary violinist Stephane Grappelli, who died just shy of his 90th birthday in December, 1997. Although Grappelli's influence on his playing is obvious at times, he is no carbon copy. He generally has a darker tone and doesn't use nearly as many up-tempo runs. With two brilliant partners, bassist Niels Pedersen (who worked with Grappelli on a few dates) and guitarist Birelli Lagrene, Lockwood does a credible job.
Reissue with SHM-CD format and new 24bit remastering. In 1957, Johnny Smith was at the height of his artistic power when he cut this album for the Roost label. Smith had a patented method for shifting from single-string statements of the melody line to complex chordal structures with amazing ease. This ability is put to use for each of the cuts on this album, but is especially useful on such cuts as "Angel Eyes" and "You Go to My Head." Smith's guitar also seemed to have a one of a kind resonance to it, which energized every melody he played, whether on the melody itself or when improvising, making his playing immediately recognizable.
Larry Young's third and final Prestige recording (reissued in the OJC series on CD) concludes his early period; he would next record as a leader two and a half years later on Blue Note, by which time his style would be much more original. For his 1962 outing, Young is joined by the obscure tenor Bill Leslie, guitarist Thornel Schwartz and drummer Jimmie Smith for some original blues and two standards ("I Found a New Baby" and "Sweet Lorraine"). Nothing all that substantial occurs, but fans of Jimmy Smith will enjoy the similar style that Larry Young had at the time.
Reissue with SHM-CD format and new 24bit remastering. An overlooked 50s set from guitarist Johnny Smith – one that features a piano added into his trio, hence the "foursome" in the title! The pianist here is Bob Pancoast, who has a fluid, sometimes gentle touch on the keys – one that spins out Smith's guitar a bit more than usual, with a lyrical flair that we really like – and which is sometimes a bit of a contrast to his better-known mellow mode. The rest of the group features Knobby Totah on bass and Jerry Segal on drums.