Gene Ammons

Gentle Jug, Vol. 2

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From the late '40s until his death in 1974, Gene Ammons was a stunning ballad player. The fact that Ammons had such an appealing tone certainly didn't hurt, but it was the tenor titan's warmth, soulfulness, and vulnerability that made his ballad playing so irresistible. Assembled in 1995, Gentle Jug, Vol. 2 is an excellent sequel to The Gene Ammons Story: Gentle Jug. While that CD contained material from his early '60s sessions Nice an' Cool and The Soulful Mood of Gene Ammons, this collection of ballads spans 1960-1971 and draws on ten different albums he recorded for Prestige. True to form, Ammons is expressive and moving on standards that range from "You Go to My Head" from 1962's Angel Eyes and "My Romance" from 1960's Boss Tenor to "Here's That Rainy Day" from 1969's The Boss Is Back (which was Ammons' first album after serving seven years in prison). Most of the selections are instrumental, although "If You Are but a Dream" (1962) boasts a pleasing vocal by Etta Jones. Neither Gentle Jug, Vol. 2 nor its predecessor are the last word on Ammons' ballad playing -- the Chicagoan made more than his share of memorable ballad statements in the late '40s and '50s. Nonetheless, anyone who is looking for a collection of smoky, romantic mood music can't go wrong with this fine CD.

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