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



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Al COHN

Leader & Sideman:
Four Classic Albums Plus

AVID JAZZ AMSC1050

 

 

CD1
Cohn on the Saxophone
We Three [3:45]; Idaho [3:34];The Things I Love [3:49]; Singing The Blues [5:03]; Be Loose [4:16]; When Day Is Done [3:52]; Good Old Blues [4:47]; Softly As In A Morning Sunrise [3:18]; Abstract Of You [3:41]; Blue Lou [4:07];
Mr. Rhythm Freddie green
Up In The Blues [2:34]; Down For Double [3:58]; Back And Forth [2:17]; Free And Easy [3:25]; Learnin' The Blues [3:29]; Feed Bag [2:58]; Something's Gotta Give [2:51]; Easy Does It [3:41]; Little Red [2:08]; Swingin' Back [3:21]; A Day With Ray [4:51]; When You Wish Upon A Star
CD2
The Jazz Workshop - Four Brass, One Tenor...Al Cohn
Rosetta [4:29]; The Song Is Ended [2:44]; Linger Awhile [3:23]; Every Time [2:18]; Haroosh [4:01]; Just Plain Sam [2:55]; I'm Coming Virginia [2:30]; Cohn Not Cohen [2:45]; A Little Song [2:46]; Foggy Water [2:48]; Sugar Cohn [3:08]; Alone Together [3:28]
A Mellow Bit Of Rhythm
A Mellow Bit Of Rhythm [3:36]; Little Joe From Chicago [2:44]; McGhee Special [2:59]; Hey Lawdy Mama [2:58]; Cloudy [3:34]; Froggy Bottom [3:11]; Wednesday Night Hop [3:18]; Walkin' And Swingin' [3:18]; Scratchin' In The Gravel [3:06]; Toadie Toddle [2:31]; Take It And Git [2:48]; Boogie Woogie Cocktail [2:13]
Modern Jazz Festival
Them There Eyes [4:09] (no personnel credited for this track)
 
Featuring: on CD1: Cohn On The Saxophone: Al Cohn (tenor sax), Hank Jones (piano), Osie Johnson (drums), Milt Hinton (bass), Frank Rehak (trombone on `Good Old Blues') rec. New York 29 September, 1956
Mr Rhythm Freddie Green: Al Cohn (tenor sax, clarinet, bass clarinet), Joe Newman (trumpet), Henry Coker (trombone), Nat Pierce (piano), Freddie Green (guitar), Milt Hinton (bass), Osie Johnson (drums on 1,3,4,6,9) and Jo Jones (drums on 2,5,7,8,10,11,12) rec. New York 18 December, 1955
Featuring: on CD2
The Jazz Workshop - Four Brass, One Tenor...Al Cohn
Al Cohn (tenor sax), Joe Newman, Thad Jones, Joe Wilder (trumpets), Nick Travis (trumpet and trombone on 5, 6, 11), Dick Katz (piano), Freddie Green (guitar), Buddy Jones (bass), Osie Johnson (drums), Phil Sunkel (trumpet replaces Joe Wilder on 3,5, 7,11). Thad Jones recorded this album under the pseudonym Bart Valve. rec. New York May 1955.
A Mellow Bit Of Rhythm
Al Cohn, Ed Wasserman (tenor saxes), Conte Candoli, Ray Copeland, Bernie Glow, Joe Newman (trumpets), Jimmy Cleveland, Frank Rehak, Chauncey Welsh (trombones), Tom Mitchell (bass trombone), Sam Morowitz, Hal McKusick (alto saxes), Al Epstein (bar. Sax), Ken Kersey (piano), Freddie Green (guitar), Milt Hinton (bass), Osie Johnson (drums, vocals). All recorded in New York 4 March, 1956 except 2,3,4,5,10 which were recorded in New York on 12 March, 1956 and for which Ernie Royal replaced Joe Newman on trumpet, Fred Ohms replaced Frank Rehak on trombone, Moe Wechler replaced Ken Kersey on piano, Jimmy Raney replaced Freddie Green on guitar and Buddy Jones replaced Milt Hinton on bass. All conducted by Andy Kirk whose orchestra it was.

The small label Avid Jazz has been doing jazz lovers a great service for some time now in producing double cd sets comprising of at least 3 albums and digitally remastered as they claim "for probably the finest ever sound quality". Their fantastic line up of past releases include Cannonball Adderley, Dave Brubeck, Clifford Brown, Benny Carter, John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman, Chico Hamilton and many, many more. Add to this that their prices are highly competitive and you have a winning combination of great jazz for a small outlay. What we have is a tremendous archive of the greatest jazz that could be heard or bought on record during the 1950s, in particular, when so many fantastic jazz greats were in their prime. Now when it comes to the present collection I am in two minds. I have noticed over the years how my tastes have changed and that music I found difficult in the past - 40, 30, 20 years ago I now find perfectly listenable. Such examples in classical include Peter Maxwell-Davies, Bart¢k (the String quartets in particular), Ligeti, etc., and in jazz people like Ornette Colman. However, I have also noticed that the opposite is also the case and lots of composers and jazzmen I found really incredible back then I now find rather bland and in classical this includes a whole swathe of music that takes in many of Mozart's contemporaries working in Bohemia, while in jazz they include people like Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, The MJQ and Al Cohn. Of course I appreciate their abilities and Al Cohn was a highly gifted saxophonist and clarinettist but listening to this two cd set has confirmed to me that I couldn't be happy listening to endless tracks of him. The problem for me is summed up by a friend of mine who is an accomplished amateur drama director and jazz lover. When he's seen a play that doesn't seem to have a point or a jazz band that seems rather pedestrian, even `safe', he complains "there was no blood on the carpet". That's how I feel about Al Cohn today and it's certainly got nothing to do with the era the music was recorded in as I was reminded when some discs I recently bought (a 4 cd set comprising 8 classic albums of John Coltrane on Real Gone Jazz RGJCD223) arrived. These tracks were recorded in 1956-58 so in the same decade as the Al Cohn discs, but what a difference! Put the first of those discs on and you're immediately blown away by a real innovator who pushed the boundaries and became a pathfinder whose influence still exerts a powerful impetus to many young musicians today. I don't see that being a legacy that Al Cohn has passed on good though he was. The music is, as I said above, `safe', rather clinical and predictable verging on the label of `cool jazz', even `easy listening'. I'm sure that there'll be plenty who'll disagree with me and that's perfectly understandable for I find jazz lovers, including me, much more `picky' that classical fans; I love classical music from the 11th century Hildegarde of Bingen to John Adams and Steve Reich but in jazz I can't enjoy much before the 1950s, and, as I've indicated above, not all of that either, and neither do I enjoy jazz that is as I call it `off the wall'; as my friend I mentioned above is fond of saying "those who play only for themselves will end up only playing to themselves". So back to this set. Those who still love the likes of Al Cohn will relish this collection as there are no less than 47 tracks and include some really big and important names in jazz of that period who partner him. One of the things I find endlessly amazing about jazz musicians is their incredible ability to play with people who have different styles and many featured on these discs played with other leaders whose jazz was more innovative that Cohn's. So to sum up this is an excellently remastered set of jazz from the 1950s with some great jazz musicians doing what they did best and at the small price asked is fantastic value however, for me today, as one of the classic jazz standards is entitled "But not for me".

Steve Arloff

 



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