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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby

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Jazz Giants '58

Verve 0602517621329




1. Chocolate Sundae
2. When Your Lover Has Gone
3. Candy
4. Ballads: Lush Life, Lullaby of the Leaves, Makin' Whoopee, It Never Entered My Mind
5. Woody 'n' You
Stan Getz - Tenor sax
Gerry Mulligan - Baritone sax
Harry Edison - Trumpet
Oscar Peterson - Piano
Herb Ellis - Guitar
Ray Brown - Bass
Louis Bellson - Drums

Norman Granz could be (reputedly) difficult to get along with, but he did a huge amount for jazz. He employed many jazz artists to perform at concerts (notably Jazz at the Philharmonic) and to make records, promoting the careers of such giants as Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson, Billie Holiday, and Ella Fitzgerald (for whom he produced her classic "Songbook" albums). And he resisted the colour bar - insisting that his concerts could be attended by everyone. Perhaps his greatest talent was to put musicians together from many different areas of jazz and hear what they could produce when faced with such a challenge.

Having said all that, I regret to say that this album lacks some of the spark that Granz's sessions often engendered. It mixes the diverse styles of Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan and Harry Edison but, while the music is generally of a high standard, there seems to be little chemistry between the performers. Each musician plays excellent solos but I cannot sense much interplay or empathy between them.

I am tempted to say that the star of the session is not, as you might expect, Stan Getz but Harry Edison - even though the opening track includes some of his over-familiar clichés. The melodic approach in his solos singles him out from the rest. The album also offers a chance to hear what a fine accompanist Oscar Peterson always has been - finding just the right phrases to interpolate into everyone's solos.

Probably the best moments come in the ballad medley, which opens with Mulligan playing Billy Strayhorn's Lush Life (including the difficult verse). Next Harry Edison plays Lullaby of the Leaves, decorating the melody more flowerily than Mulligan did. Ray Brown gets an unexpected ballad feature on double bass in Makin' Whoopee, and then Stan Getz rounds things off with a radiantly lyrical performance of It Never Entered My Mind.

The drums are recorded very low down in the mix, and it often seems as if Louis Bellson was on auto-pilot during the session: content to chug along with the brushes, providing little lift to the proceedings. His Latin-American rhythm in Woody 'n' You is shaky, and Herb Ellis supplies a stronger beat through imitating the bongoes by tapping the body of his guitar.

The playing time (47 minutes) is not very generous but my main discomfort with this album is that it has little of the dynamism of the best jam sessions produced under the Granz aegis - for example, those that Art Tatum recorded with a variety of different musicians.

Tony Augarde





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