West Coast Mixed Bag
Gordon Matthews | Durham, NC USA | 11/10/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Contrary to Amazon's listing, this is not a soundtrack; it's a collection of two 10" albums originally issued on the rare Nocturne label, one led by bassist Harry Babasin and featuring valve trombonist Bob Enevoldsen (who also plays bass and tenor), the other led by Enevoldsen and featuring Babasin. On four of Babasin's seven tracks he plays cello instead of bass- plucked, not bowed (Enevoldsen plays bass on these tracks). I don't think the plucked cello sounds very good; to me it sounds like the upper register of a bass being amplified through blown speakers. It's one of those attempts at novelty, like the boo-bam, that has thankfully been left long-forgotten. The other tracks are straightforward, swinging standard west coast jazz. Besides Enevoldsen, Babasin is supported by the always-delighful vibraphone of Larry Bunker and a tasteful but not very prominent Jimmy Rowles.
Enevoldsen plays tenor on two of his tracks. The harsh timbre is somewhat similar to John Coltrane's sound, though there are no other similarities. Enevoldsen doesn't sound quite comfortable with the instrument, and his approach to it is more in the line of an interesting curiosity than anything else. On his other five tracks his trombone swings smoothly and confidently, backed by the sparkling sounds of Marty Paich's piano and Howard Roberts' guitar.
This recording is not a classic or a must-have, nor is it a good starting point for anyone newly interested in exploring west coast jazz. Even approached on its own terms it displays some significant limitations when the two headliners experiment unsuccessfully rather than doing what they excel at. For those who, like me, enjoy exploring the obscure byways of west coast jazz, it's worth the drawbacks to be able to hear these two sessions led by musicians who were usually confined to supporting roles, and I wish Enevoldsen's Tampa album was also available on CD.
Babasin, who bears some physical resemblance to Dave Brubeck, appeared in several episodes to the John Cassavetes private eye tv show, Johnny Staccato."