If you're looking for the roots of alternative rock or obscure college playlist fodder, look elsewhere; this is prime-time '80s pop chart glory, as seen on MTV (over and over and over). Though the songs here cover a breadth of style and genre (if not necessarily substance), there's a remarkable unity of purpose and hook-laden musical accomplishment that's sorely missed. If this collection woefully shortchanges hip-hop, it still underscores a distinctly irony-free era where style admittedly triumphed over substance, as opposed to the '90s, where style caricatured substance.
Released for the first time on this 1999 Challenge CD, this live set features the unusual duo of guitarist Jim Hall and valve trombonist Bob Brookmeyer, two-thirds of the 1957 Jimmy Giuffre Three. Although there are occasions when one of the musicians accompanies the other one, much of the time Hall and Brookmeyer function as equals, improvising together on a set of standards plus an ad-lib blues called "Sweet Basil." Their ability to improvise while thinking of the whole picture and their knack for spontaneously harmonizing really come in handy during this intriguing and frequently exciting outing. Among the selections reborn in the playing of Hall and Brookmeyer are John Lewis' "Skating in Central Park," "Body and Soul," "Darn That Dream," and "St. Thomas." A successful effort that should not have taken 20 years to release.