Kansas City Sessions Import
Though known as the "Kansas City sessions," Milt Gabler taped these proceedings in New York City for his Commodore label. The musicians, however, represented the soul of the Kansas City influx. The first 10 tracks--five tunes with one alternate each--come from September 1938 and feature a group drawn from the Count Basie Orchestra's ranks. It's the great Basie rhythm section of bassist Walter Page, drummer Jo Jones, and rhythm guitarist Freddie Green (who also sings on "Them There Eyes"), with a frontline of Lester Young, trumpeter Buck Clayton, and Eddie Durham, who's heard far more prominently on electric guitar than trombone. A master of half-valve smears, Clayton sounds superb, whether elegantly muted or expressively open, but it's Young who will rivet a listener's attention, both on tenor sax or playing clarinet with a strikingly original sound and conception.
Young's clarinet virtually defines the sonority of later "cool" alto saxophonists like Lee Konitz and Paul Desmond, and the blend with the transparent textures of the two guitars is particularly advanced. The second session is by a very different Kansas City Six from 1944, with Young and Jones the only returning members. It's a far more conventional setting, with trumpeter Bill Coleman and trombonist Dicky Wells competing in brashness and pianist Joe Bushkin in place of the guitars. The sometimes aggressive cast to the band only highlights Young's superbly relaxed phrasing. His opening solos on the three takes of "I Got Rhythm" are textbook example of relaxed swing, and their inspiration to Wells is apparent in his solos that follow. The CD concludes with four tracks by the Kansas City Five from March 1938, the earliest session here. It's the first Kansas City Six without Young present, still well worth hearing for the superb play of Clayton, Durham, and the rhythm section. --Stuart Broomer
sessions, and the overal sound makes you think of the John Kirby groups despite
the somewhat different instrumentation. But Young triumphs. An example of some of the wonderful things recorded by the Commodore label.
My only complaint is that this particular edition did not come with anything in the way of liner notes which is worth a one star reduction.