Comes up short sonically
Samuel Chell | Kenosha,, WI United States | 03/21/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The reunion of the "very tall band" whet my appetite for the first meeting. Musically, it doesn't disappoint. From the very first track, "On Green Dolphin Street," Oscar plays with uncommon yet swinging economy and restraint, drawing the listener in as on few other recordings (he's clearly showing the influence of both Bill Basie and John Lewis). And when he does finally explode with a torrent of notes, he's neither intrusive nor overwhelming. In fact, he's all but perfect as a complementary and solo voice on this remarkable session. And Bags is, as usual, the master of bop and blues, a peerless player of the instrument when it comes to playing a vibraharp with two mallets (Gary Burton would cut the rotators, add two more mallets, and take the instrument in a different direction). As recently as 5 years earlier, Milt was still playing with fast-spinning rotators, but by the time of this session his distinctive sound is firmly in place. (To a previous reviewer who made reference to the MJQ, if you really want to hear the MJQ minus John Lewis, check out "Bags and Trane.")
One caveat: the audio on this most recent edition is a disappointment. Apparently Verve was enamored of the novelty of "stereophonic sound" at the time of recording because the separation is so extreme the principals could be playing in separate rooms. Oscar's piano sound is squeezed and even slightly distorted; Ed Thigpen's drums lack dispersion and upper-register presence. In fact, there's a slightly "canned" quality to the overall sound, making you want to take the lid off. I have a hunch that if Verve sensed a sufficient market for this recording, they could do wonders by it in terms of refreshing the sound. (Sometimes it's worth paying a premium for a Japanese or Spanish import. Other countries are more likely to view the project of restoration as worth the time and money.)"