Although guitarist Barney Kessel interprets seven standard ballads on this CD reissue (a trio set with bassist Monty Budwig and drummer Jake Hanna), this is not a ballad album. Most of the songs are taken at faster than usual tempoes with the emphasis on Kessel's chordal (rather than single-note) solos. The guitarist was in peak form around this era as can be heard on a romping version of "I Love You," "Star Eyes," "Like Someone in Love" and "Get Out of Town." In addition he contributes one of his finest originals, "Seagull," a song that deserves to be revived. This underrated set is well worth exploring.
Altoist Donald Harrison's disc utilizes New Orleans parade rhythms on all of the selections, even while most of the solos (until the final three numbers) are more hard bop than New Orleans jazz. John O'Neal verbally pays tribute to the rhythms on the opening "And How That Rhythm." The other selections include an augmented bop blues ("Two Way Pocky Way"), the tricky "Don't Drink the Water," Thelonious Monk's "Bye-Ya," a pair of Freddie Hubbard tunes well worth reviving ("Crisis" and "Bob's Place"), Sonny Rollins' "Oleo," and the catchy "Spirits of Congo Square."
Although best-known for his work in mainstream swing settings, guitarist Howard Alden has long been interested in later periods of jazz. On this superior outing, he doubles on seven-string acoustic and electric guitars (which allow him to add basslines). Lew Tabackin is on four of the ten numbers (three on tenor, one on flute) and pianist Renee Rosnes appears on six songs (including a duet with Alden on "Warm Valley"), while bassist Michael Moore and drummer Bill Goodwin are on seven. Alden takes "My Funny Valentine" and "After All" as unaccompanied solos but it is his meetings with Tabackin, particularly on exciting versions of two complex Herbie Nichols songs ("House Party Starting" and "The Gig") that are most notable. Recommended.
Guitarist Ray Crawford, best known for his associations with pianist Ahmad Jamal and organist Jimmy Smith, only led one session in his early years. Because the Candid label soon went bankrupt, the set went unreleased altogether until this 1988 CD. Comprised of five Crawford originals, the session finds the guitarist playing fairly advanced hard bop with trumpeter Johnny Coles, baritonist Cecil Payne (in top form), pianist Junior Mance, bassist Ben Tucker, and drummer Frankie Dunlop. Everyone sounds fine, making one regret that this set fell between the cracks for so many years.
This CD, which adds "Drum Conversation" (a Frank Butler feature) to the earlier LP, contains material taken from bassist Curtis Counce's Contemporary sessions which resulted in three other albums but these particular performances were not released until 1989. Half of the program features Counce's 1956 quintet (which includes trumpeter Jack Sheldon, tenor saxophonist Harold Land, pianist Carl Perkins and drummer Frank Butler) while the remainding selections are from 1958 when the group had Gerald Wilson on trumpet and pianist Elmo Hope (who contributed three originals). "Sonor" and "Landslide" are heard in alternate versions and "Woody'n You" has also been since reissued as a "bonus" cut on the CD You Get More Bounce with Curtis Counce. The playing is quite rewarding, and all four of the Counce reissues are easily recommended to hard bop collectors.