French jazz pianist Martial Solal's American recording debut took place at the 1963 Newport Jazz Festival, with his set recorded and initially released by RCA Victor, though it was deemed too short for release, so a few numbers recorded during his afternoon rehearsal were added to lengthen the album, with applause duplicated from other numbers. Joined by Bill Evans' former rhythm section, bassist Teddy Kotick and drummer Paul Motian (who also made up his trio during an extended gig at New York City's Hickory House prior to Newport), Solal blends Art Tatum-like runs with an inherent lyrical side in a decidedly advanced bop setting. In addition to his enjoyable arrangements of standards and timeless jazz compositions, his extended work "Suite Pour Une Frise" also merits praise. In spite of a CD reissue by Cloud 9 in 2004, this is still a rather difficult release to acquire.
Chet Atkins earned and held the title of "Mr. Guitar" for 50 years before passing away in the summer of 2001. Signed to RCA in 1947, he would help define the "Nashville Sound" in the late '50s while simultaneously releasing a steady string of instrumental albums. RCA Country Legends captures Atkins on 14 wonderful tracks recorded between 1949 and 1976. Atkins recorded the self-penned single "Barber Shop Rag" with mandolinist Jethro Burns and guitarist Homer Haynes. Burns' speedy runs work as a nice counterpoint, and bring out equally inspired work from Atkins. Curiously, Atkins and his buddies even add vocals on an infectious cut titled "Boogie Man Boogie." There's a nice duet with writer and fellow guitar picker Jerry Reed on "Twitchy," and a spunky take on "Tiger Rag" worthy of Django Reinhardt. There are also a number of solo pieces, including "Petite Waltz," "Yes Ma'am," and the closer, "Liza." These cuts capture a quintessential Atkins, just a man and his guitar, handling the rhythm and lead without blinking.
Best known as a superior and advanced cool-toned trumpeter, Tom Harrell shows throughout this consistently brilliant set that he has also developed into an excellent composer and a particularly talented arranger. All ten songs and arrangements are his, and the music both swings and is quite original. Harrell doubles on flügelhorn and utilizes a wide variety of interesting musicians, including clarinetist Greg Tardy (who plays beautifully on the opening "Petals Danse"), acoustic guitarist Romero Lumbambo (heard on the more Brazilian-oriented numbers), the great free bop tenor Dewey Redman, pianist Danilo Perez, electric guitarist Mike Stern, tenorman David Sanchez, and several strings (including Regina Carter) among others.