There are many Gene Ammons recordings currently available on CD in Fantasy's Original Jazz Classics, since the versatile tenorman was a longtime Prestige recording artist. Unlike his earlier jam sessions, this particular outing finds Ammons as the only horn, fronting a talented rhythm section (pianist Tommy Flanagan, bassist Doug Watkins, drummer Art Taylor, and Ray Barretto on congas). Ammons explores standards (including a near-classic version of "Canadian Sunset"), blues, and ballads in his usual warm, soulful, and swinging fashion. This is a fine outing by one of the true "bosses" of the tenor.
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Ammons, whose studio recordings of the period were somewhat commercial, is heard in excellent form playing a blues and three standards with the backing of a fine rhythm section: Hampton Hawes (who unfortunately sticks to electric piano), electric bassist Bob Cranshaw, drummer Kenny Clarke and Kenneth Nash on congas. Best of all is a 17-minute blues on which Ammons welcomes fellow tenor Dexter Gordon, cornetist Nat Adderley and altoist Cannonball Adderley; the four horns all get to trade off with each other. This is one of the better late-period Gene Ammons records.
Tenor saxophonists Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt co-led a small group in 1950, and this follow-up, taped in the studio in 1961, finds the two picking up where they left off. The highlight of the date is the jointly written "Blues up and Down," a classic jam which has since inspired a number of other tenor match ups to record it, especially Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and Johnny Griffin. ~ AllMusic
Though Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt were the premier twin towers of jazz tenor sax bar none, they also had great mutual respect for their distinctly different styles. The soulful Ammons and the bop-oriented Stitt meshed well whether playing standards, jamming on familiar melodies, or in ballad form. This recording sees them a bit restrained, teamed with the brilliant organist Don Patterson, the totally obscure guitarist Paul Weeden, and the great drummer Billy James. There's a schism in terms of the stereo separation as each saxophonist gets his own channel, but on occasion they do play together, just not all that much. Some longer cuts allow Patterson to loosen up and take charge, but he is in the main an accompanist on this date from 1962.
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Gene Ammons recorded many albums for Prestige but, if this CD is a good start for listeners unfamiliar with his playing. A reissue of two LPs (Up Tight and Boss Soul) recorded during the same two-day period, these performances find Ammons backed by a pair of four-piece rhythm sections (with either Walter Bishop or Patti Bown on piano and Ray Barretto's congas a major asset) and taking the lion's share of the solo space.