Bailey's first recorded solo performance in seven years is a splendid example of the guitarist at his finest. Two of the ten pieces are from a live concert, including an eerily attractive poetry recital by Bailey of Peter Riley's morbid "Dead She Dances." The other eight selections are short studio cuts. In all, this recording is what we have come to expect from Bailey: atonal swatches of sound, unique styling, changes in tempo, and astonishing creative splashes of acoustic guitar. Patterns emerge, dissolve, fade, and reappear, with the unexpected always the norm. Bailey's unique excursions might be compared to musical approximations of abstract expressionist art, with each number unfolding in unanticipated ways. While the highlight of this CD is Bailey's recital, in which he accompanies himself on guitar, there are plenty of wonderful moments on every track.
Big Brass marks one of trumpeter Benny Bailey's earliest efforts as a leader, but it is also one of the best releases of his career. Joined by an all-star septet including Phil Woods, Julius Watkins, and Les Spann in the front line, plus a rhythm section consisting of Tommy Flanagan, Buddy Catlett, and Art Taylor, Bailey and his musicians shine in their interpretations of charts by Quincy Jones, Hale Smith, Oliver Nelson, and Tom McIntosh.
This final installment of a 1975 concert in Amsterdam finds tenor saxophonist Clifford Jordan in fine form, joined by Cedar Walton, Sam Jones, and Billy Higgins. The set includes an extended workout of Jones' "Seven Minds," Sonny Rollins' calypso favorite "St. Thomas" (which is marred somewhat by problems with the master tape), and two enjoyable works by Walton. Like the previous two volumes, this one is also recommended.
The second of three volumes recorded in 1975 featuring tenorist Clifford Jordan with Cedar Walton, Sam Jones, and Billy Higgins finds the quartet in top form. Walton's "Midnight Waltz" is the first of three extended performances, the upbeat midtempo waltz featuring a rollicking solo by its composer, while Jordan's suave playing is buoyed by Higgins' driving rhythm. Walton's "Bleecker Street Theme" sounds more like a set closer due to its barely one-minute length; then the focus turns to standards, including a spacious treatment of "I Should Care" that has Jordan taking quite a few liberties with the melody from the very beginning, followed by a glistening interpretation of "Stella by Starlight." The CD reissue adds Higgins' tribute "Alias Buster Williams," which opens with a drum solo and then transforms into an uptempo post-bop setting with a Latin undercurrent as the band is added.
CD and Two-LP set, featuring guests like Jerry Douglas and Sam Bush, arrives April 21st for Record Store Day.