Johnny Smith is an exquisite jazz guitarist known mostly to fellow musicians and serious jazz fans. This beautifully packaged and expertly annotated eight-CD limited-edition boxed set from Mosaic includes his complete small-group recordings for Roost, most of which have languished out of print for decades. Smith's unique voicings on his instrument set him apart from other players, yet he maintains a lush, crystal-clear tone no matter the tempo or setting.
Buddy Rich, the most remarkable drummer to ever play jazz, can easily have his career divided into three. During 1937-1945 he was a notable sideman with big bands including those of Bunny Berigan, Artie Shaw, and Tommy Dorsey. In 1966 he formed his own successful orchestra that capitulated him to his greatest fame. During the 20 years in between, Rich led short-lived bebop big bands, a variety of combos, toured with Jazz at the Philharmonic, recorded with all-star groups, and had stints with the orchestras of Dorsey and Harry James. This seven-CD set draws its material from Rich's second period and it can also be divided into two. The first half has Rich recording for producer Norman Granz in a variety of combos.
These sessions document unequivocally why Dizzy Gillespie is still considered one of the greatest improvisers in the history of jazz, for his mastery of the instrument, his command of time, his control over musical ideas, and his ability to entertain. He was blessed during this period, which spans 1954 to 1963, with stellar sidemen, unparalleled arrangements, and a surge of excitement for making music.
Though Duke Ellington is justifiably legendary for leading the best and longest-lasting big band in jazz history, he often recorded and occasionally performed with small bands as well. Since Ellington would often lead a small group through newly-written material to test it out before creating big band arrangements, the 11 tracks here, recorded in three sessions with four-to-eight-player lineups, are basically demos. ~ CD Universe
This seven-CD limited-edition box set from Mosaic is another mind-boggling collection. The masterful trombonist J.J. Johnson recorded steadily for Columbia during the 1956-61 period, heading groups that ranged from quartets to sextets that performed solid hard bop. Johnson is joined on various selections by tenors Bobby Jaspar (doubling on flute) and Clifford Jordan; cornetist Nat Adderley; the young trumpeter Freddie Hubbard; pianists Hank Jones, Tommy Flanagan, Cedar Walton, and Victor Feldman; bassists Percy Heath, Wilbur Little, Paul Chambers, Spanky DeBrest, Arthur Harper, and Sam Jones; and drummers Elvin Jones, Max Roach, Albert "Tootie" Heath, and Louis Hayes.
The first recordings with small groups made for the Savoy label by one of the most fine trumpeters in moder jazz-wich replaced Miles Davis on Charlie Parker's combo and later became a founding member of The Jazz Messengers and Jazz Prophets. Only master takes.
Reissued in this two-CD set are all of the recordings from the first Cannonball Adderley Quintet, a group that despite its talents failed commercially. With Cannonball on alto, cornetist Nat Adderley, pianist Junior Mance, bassist Sam Jones, and drummer Jimmy Cobb, it is surprising that the group did not make it, but the Adderleys were fairly unknown at the time.
Lots of rare music was uncovered when these recordings were first released. Duke Ellington did a remarkable number of private recordings with small groups taken from his orchestra and the selections included on this CD reissue are some of the best. A "Combo Suite" from 1967 introduces Billy Strayhorn's "Intimacy of the Blues" along with five forgotten but worthy originals while the music on the second half of the program (some of which features organist Wild Bill Davis) dates from 1970; "All Too Soon" showcases Ellington's new tenor Harold Ashby. Excellent music.Scott Yanow, All Music Guide