Tenor saxophonist Buck Hill spent most of his prime years working as a mailman in the Washington, D.C., area and occasionally playing jazz at night. He was already a veteran when he began recording in 1978 and, fortunately, his legacy has been well documented ever since. A thick-toned tenor, Hill has a style that is boppish and looks both toward swing and hard bop simultaneously. Joined by a fine, if obscure, Washington-based rhythm section, Hill performs five of his basic originals and four standards on this date, including "Blue Hill," a lyrical "But Beautiful," a cooking "I Want to Be Happy," and a melodic rendition of Duke Ellington's "Warm Valley." This out of print CD is an excellent example of Hill's musical talents.
This edition presents, for the first time ever on CD, two of the best albums made by Pee Wee Russell in the late 50s. “Pee Wee Russell Plays” (1959), featuring the leader (who is also the composer of all the tunes) along with stars like Buck Clayton, Vic Dickenson and Bud Freeman. As a bonus, the complete album “Portrait of Pee Wee” (1958), selected as one of 100 best jazz albums of all time, and also featuring Vic Dickenson and Bud Freeman, plus the great trumpeter Ruby Braff.
A later set from Shirley Scott, but one that's recorded with an old school lineup that includes Art Harper on bass and Mickey Roker on drums – plus some guest tenor work from the mighty Buck Hill! The tunes are a lot more open and fluid than Scott's sound on Prestige in the 60s – with a bit of the vibe she picked up during her 70s years, as she really started to loosen up from before. And although the tunes are mostly familiar numbers, this approach really changes them up – moving them farther from the standard ballad mode of earlier Scott albums. Shirley plays piano on one track – "Yours Is My Heart Alone" – and all others feature organ, on titles that include "Skylark", "Triste", "More Than You Know", "Blues For Groove", and "Have You Met Miss Jones."
Two years after the first installment comes Buck 'Em!: The Music of Buck Owens, Vol. 2, a double-disc set chronicling the eight years when Buck Owens was a crossover superstar thanks to his prominent role as a co-host of Hee Haw. Buck started to slide into a rut toward the end of this run – a process accelerated by the tragic death of his right-hand man Don Rich in 1974, a loss from which Owens never fully recovered – but producer Patrick Milligan slyly disguises this trend by nestling deep cuts, live tracks, and outtakes among the best of his hits, thereby painting a portrait of Buck Owens as a musician nearly as adventurous as he was during the purple patch of the '50s and early '60s.
Omnivore's 2013 double-disc set Buck Em! The Music of Buck Owens (1955-1967) provides an interesting spin on Buck Owens: through a collection of mono singles, live tracks, alternate takes, early 45s, and other rarities, it tells an alternate history of Buck's prime years. If there's a hit on this 50-track collection, it's almost always in a version that's slightly different than what usually shows up on a standard greatest-hits. "Second Fiddle," "Love's Gonna Live Here," "I Don't Care (Just as Long as You Love Me)," "I've Got a Tiger by the Tail," and "Before You Go" are all in mono, there's an early version of "Ain't It Amazing Gracie," and "Act Naturally" is live, so they're familiar enough to not feel jarring and they do provide the core of a collection that winds up wandering into some pretty interesting territory.