There are a multitude of reasons why Bags' Groove remains a cornerstone of the post-bop genre. Of course there will always be the lure of the urban myth surrounding the Christmas Eve 1954 session – featuring Thelonious Monk – which is documented on the two takes of the title track. There are obviously more tangible elements, such as Davis' practically telepathic runs with Sonny Rollins (tenor sax). Or Horace Silver's (piano) uncanny ability to provide a stream of chord progressions that supply a second inconspicuous lead without ever overpowering. Indeed, Davis' choice of former Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra and concurrent Modern Jazz Quartet members Milt Jackson (vibes), Kenny Clarke (drums), and Percy Heath (bass) is obviously well-informed.
The vibraphone legend calls this wide-ranging tribute collection his most satisfying effort to date (this is a major catalog), and the one that hits closest to home. No doubt that's because he's digging deep into his past and paying homage to the legends of the instrument who shaped his own inimitable style. The four mentioned by the album title all had unique roles in the development of the instrument as a jazz focal point, and it's amazing to realize the vibes were only invented 75 years ago – just one generation before Burton was born.