1. Shoe Shine Boy (first take)
2. Lover Man
3. Georgia Mae
5. Lincoln Heights
6. Embraceable You
7. Shoe Shine Boy (second take)
8. Vamp Till Ready
9. You're Getting to Be a Habit with Me
10. Should I
11. Sandy's Body
12. Thou Swell
13. Show Time
15. But Not for Me
16. Royal Garden Blues
17. Mozelle's Alley
18. Sox Trot
19. In The Forrest
Jo Jones - Drums
Bennie Green - Trombone (tracks 1-3, 5-19)
Emmett Berry - Trumpet (tracks 1-7)
Lucky Thompson - Tenor sax (tracks 1-3, 5-7)
Freddie Green - Guitar (tracks 1-7)
Count Basie - Piano (tracks 1, 7)
Nat Pierce - Piano (tracks 2, 3, 5, 6)
Walter Page - Bass (tracks 1-7)
Harry "Sweets" Edison - Trumpet (tracks 8-19)
Jimmy Forrest - Tenor sax (tracks 8-19)
Tommy Flanagan - Piano (tracks 8-19)
Tommy Potter - Bass (tracks 8-19)
Pete Johnson - Piano (track 4)
Lawrence Brown - Trombone (track 4)
Buddy Tate - Tenor sax (track 4)
Rudy Powell - Alto sax, clarinet (track 4)
The mid-fifties was a time when mainstream jazz seemed to revive after a period in the doldrums. John Hammond''s recordings featuring Vic Dickenson, Ruby Braff and others in the early fifties reminded listeners of the virtues of easy-swinging jazz. The Jo Jones Special from 1955 was another such album (with sleeve-notes by John Hammond), and this generous CD adds another session from 1960 originally released under the title Vamp Till Ready, providing a total of almost 78 minutes of gorgeous music.
The first seven tracks come from the 1955 album and they are distinguished by the sort of swing that the Count Basie band perfected. This may not be surprising, as the line=up reunites the most famous Basie rhythm section of Freddie Green, Walter Page and Jo Jones. Basie even makes guest appearances on the two takes of Shoe Shine Boy, conjuring up the same sort of small-group magic as he had created with the Kansas City Seven in earlier years. There may have been two takes of this tune because the first one ends with a loud laugh, although the listener may feel like joining in with joyous laughter at the sheer ebullience of the track.
All the soloists are excellent, with tenorist Lucky Thomson shining particularly in the theme statement of Lover Man, and trombonist Bennie Green flying weightlessly in the speedy Georgia Mae (which seems to be a version of Sweet Georgia Brown). Here and elsewhere, Nat Pierce's piano style is reminiscent of Sir Charles Thompson in those John Hammond recordings in its economical effectiveness. Jo Jones gets some good drum spots in Georgia Mae and Caravan. Bennie Green and Lucky Thompson are beautifully rhapsodic in Embraceable You.
Bennie Green was also on the 1960 session which produced the LP Vamp Till Ready. The rhythm section hasn't quite got the integration for which the Basie section was unique but they provide a steady base for the three front-line soloists. The tracks here are generally shorter than on the 1955 album, allowing less space for the musicians to stretch out but there is still much fine playing from such soloists as Tommy Flanagan (in You're Getting to Be a Habit with Me), Harry Edison (in Sandy's Body), Jimmy Forrest (in Show Time, But Not for Me and several other tracks) and, of course, Jo Jones, whose expertise with brushes is heard on Thou Swell. This collection also reminds us of Jones's abilities as a songwriter, since he wrote or co-wrote eight of the 19 tracks.
In it original review, Down Beat magazine gave Jo Jones Special five stars. It deserves no less.