This double LP was the first jazz concert ever recorded at the Hollywood Bowl (and only the second one held at that L.A. institution). Although not an official Jazz at the Philharmonic concert, it has the same basic format and was also produced by Norman Granz. Trumpeters Roy Eldridge and Harry "Sweets" Edison, tenors Flip Phillips and Illinois Jacquet, the Oscar Peterson Trio and drummer Buddy Rich all jam on "Honeysuckle Rose" and "Jumpin' at the Woodside" and there is also a ballad medley and a drum solo by Rich. In addition the Oscar Peterson Trio plays two numbers, the remarkable pianist Art Tatum (in one of his final appearances) has four, Ella Fitzgerald sings six songs (including a scat-filled "Airmail Special") and collaborates with Louis Armstrong on two others. For the grand finale nearly everyone returns to the stage for "When the Saints Go Marching In" which Armstrong sings and largely narrates, cheerfully introducing all of the participants. This is a historic and very enjoyable release featuring more than its share of classic greats.
Nina Simone Sings the Blues, issued in 1967, was her RCA label debut, and was a brave departure from the material she had been recording for Phillips. Indeed, her final album for that label, High Priestess of Soul, featured the singer, pianist, and songwriter fronting a virtual orchestra. Here, Simone is backed by a pair of guitarists (Eric Gale and Rudy Stevenson), bassist (Bob Bushnell), drummer (Bernard "Pretty" Purdie), organist (Ernie Hayes), and harmonica player who doubled on saxophone (Buddy Lucas). Simone handled the piano chores. The song selection is key here. Because for all intents and purposes this is perhaps the rawest record Simone ever cut. It opens with the sultry, nocturnal, slow-burning original "Do I Move You," which doesn't beg the question but demands an answer: "Do I move you?/Are you willin'?/Do I groove you?/Is it thrillin'?/Do I soothe you?/Tell the truth now?/Do I move you?/Are you loose now?/The answer better be yeah…It pleases me…." As the guitarists slip and slide around her husky vocal, a harmonica wails in the space between, and Simone's piano is the authority, hard and purposely slow.
From bar one, I felt an assurance and naturalness about the rhythms, a clarity and tonal richness in the orchestral and vocal texture, a stylishness of phrasing and embellishment, and a sheer zest and power of dramatic presentation that add up to a totally convincing and gripping whole. […] Neumann and his team have excelled themselves, and so has Handel, and anyone who thinks 18th-century music wanting in musico-dramatic force is urged to acquire this magnificent set without delay.