Various

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Angry Tenors

Classic collection of three like-minded swing sessions from the mid-‘40s, each led by a different big-toned tenor player: Illinois Jacquet, Ike Quebec or Ben Webster. None of them sound angry really, although they all have a macho bravura to their playing; Webster’s tone stands out, Jacquet shows a Prez-influence and does some of his typical wailing, but on these generally medium or up-tempo swingers, they all take a pretty similar approach and come up with surprisingly similar results. Probably the hottest solo is by Quebec on ‘Jim Dawg’, and the best tune is ‘Doggin’ with Doggett’ from the Jacquet session.
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Classic Tenors

A well-named album, since Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young were indisputably the greatest tenor players in jazz before Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane, and this album contains perhaps their best sessions. For Young, it’s the incredible 1943 Dicky Wells session, which you can pick up in various places, including on the ‘1941 / 1943’ CD which I recommend in the Young section of these reviews; jazz doesn’t get better than this. For Hawkins, it’s also a 1943 session, on which the rhythmic urgency of his breathless tenor, and his melodic and harmonic inventiveness are just endlessly impressive. Hawkins really roared through the numbers that day; check the almost out-of-control beginning to his solo on ‘Stumpy’! Other things to look out for are pianist Eddie Heywood’s solo on ‘Get Happy’, and the way bass innovator Oscar Pettiford literally takes a breath between the lines of his solos in order to phrase more like a horn player.
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The Horn

This ‘80s Affinity label compilation of the great tenor players of jazz was flawed by its limitation to the material available on the label’s catalogue, but it nevertheless collected together some great, lasting music, and makes for a fascinating package overall. The most glaring omission is Sonny Rollins, and the Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young tracks do not find these players at anything like their peak (the Hawkins track is dull and the Young track is a bit of a dud). But apart from that, it’s all worth hearing again and again. Highlights include a sumptuous Lockjaw ballad, a flag-waving performance by Wardell Gray, an exciting George Coleman track, some inspired melodic improvisation by Zoot Sims, show-stopping solo-saxophone by Coltrane, and a couple of brilliant, helter-skelter two-tenor chases.
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Jazz Club Vocals

The popular ‘Jazz Club’ series of compilations were all pretty good, but this one really stood out. The only weak track is a decent Carmen McRae performance that is completely sunk by an intolerably syrupy string arrangement, replete with backing vocals and harp, but apart from that it’s classics from start to finish. Highlights include an exuberant Louis Armstrong track, an amazing, breathless version of ‘Air Mail Special’ by Ella Fitzgerald, typically emotional performances by Nina Simone and Sarah Vaughan, Jon Hendrick’s definitive reading of Quincy Jones’ classic ‘Stockholm Sweetnin’’, on which an obscure Swedish tenor player pulls off an absolutely brilliant solo, Anita O’Day at her dazzling best, and Dinah Washington’s masterpiece ‘Backwater Blues’ from the Sings Bessie Smith album.
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Lestorian Mode

A classic compilation of sessions from the late ‘40s, featuring Lester Young-influenced tenor players Stan Getz, Zoot Sims, Al Cohn and Brew Moore, as well as baritone players Serge Chaloff and Gerry Mulligan, and a host of other important players, such as Red Rodney on trumpet, Kai Winding on trombone, Duke Jordan and George Wallington on piano, Curley Russell on bass, and Roy Haynes on drums. The tunes and arrangements are unforgettable on these exciting and endlessly inspired bop-influenced swing sessions; the title track and Getz’s ‘Slow’ are particularly evocative.
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Mainstream of the Blues

This 1978 LP must be pretty hard to get hold of now, but it contains some great performances by overlooked mainstream figures such as Emmett Berry, Buster Bailey and Booty Wood; it is worth searching out just to hear ‘So sad blues’, on which Snub Mosley plays the bizarre instrument he invented: the slide saxophone.