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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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HERB ELLIS

Four Classic Albums

AVID AMSC1032

 

 

CD1
1. Pap's Blues
2. Big red's boogie woogie
3. Tin roof blues
4. Soft winds
5. Royal garden blues
6. Patti cake
7. Blues for Janet
8. Blues for junior
9. Goose grease
10. When your lover has gone
11. Remember
12. Patricia
13. A country boy
14. You know
15. My old flame
CD2
1. People will say we're in love
2. Sweetheart blues
3. Somebody loves me
4. It could happen to you
5. Pogo
6. Detour ahead
7. Ellis in wonderland
8. Have you met Miss Jones
9. A simple tune
10. Pickley wickley
11. I told you I loved you, now get out
12. Cook one
13. Karin
14. Cherry Kijafa
15. Thank you, Charlie Christian
16. Alexander's ragtime band
17. Lemon twist
18. Everything's pat
19. Workin' with the truth

Herb Ellis (guitar) featuring Harry Edison and Roy Eldridge (trumpet), Stan Getz, Jimmy Giuffre, Bud Shank, Art Pepper (saxes), Oscar Peterson, Lou Levy (piano), Ray Brown (bass), Stan Levey and Alvin Stoller (drums) and others
Rec. 1955-60

 

This is another in Avid's increasingly valuable stable of reissue twofers, and it catches Herb Ellis in prime form. The albums are Nothing But the Blues, Herb Ellis meets Jimmy Giuffre, Ellis in Wonderland and Thank You, Charlie Christian. They were recorded between 1955 and 1960.

The Blues album is a swinger, enshrining some real down-home and loping examples of the vernacular in which the guitarist's partners are none other than Roy Eldridge and Stan Getz - Ray Brown is the bassist and Stan Levey the drummer. This tight ensemble generates plenty of inventive swing with no grandstanding solos from Eldridge; instead he plays with controlled passion, Getz often with a keening edge to his tone. This quintet gels superbly. The Giuffre album actually sees a quartet of outstanding sax players - Giuffre himself, Bud Shank, Art Pepper and Richie Kamuca. Ellis is at his most magnificently fluent here, and the deft backing allows him the opportunity to stretch out with bluesy licks and a battery of felicitous lines. He even seems to evoke Segovia and Spanish influence amongst the lexicon of brilliance on offer. Giuffre offers sinuous support and though we hear little individually from the other saxes, they phrase well together - their statements perhaps owing something to the precedent of Benny Carter's sectional writing.

Ellis in Wonderland features Giuffre again, this time with altoist Charlie Mariano and trumpeter Harry Edison as a front line. The pianist here is Oscar Peterson, which is unsurprising given that Ellis was playing in the pianist's group at the time. Open or muted, Edison swings with his customary precision and economy, and there's an up tempo `comic book' feel to Pogo. Detour Ahead receives a beautiful arrangement, full of romance and nuanced voicings. There are clever contrapuntal passages throughout this set and Giuffre demonstrates the sheer subtlety of his swinging impulses, not least on his fluid, baroque tinged work on the title track. Ellis is as expert here as in the last album where he pays homage to Charlie Christian. The playing here is soulful and hillbilly by turn - Ellis was a catholic stylist - and though it's never been received with the kind of acclaim offered to the other albums in this set, it is almost worthy to rank alongside them.

The original liner notes have been retained; their original fonts mean that it makes for an `interesting', indeed rather eye popping read. The music itself is fantastic.

Jonathan Woolf



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