This Lonehill Jazz CD compiles the contents of two Decca LPs, Jazz Studio, Vol. 3 and Jazz Studio, Vol. 4. The first sessions consist of several different small groups led by French horn player John Graas, highlighted by the three tracks featuring his good friend Gerry Mulligan on baritone sax. In fact, Mulligan's influence on Graas' writing style is apparent, creating tight ensembles that nevertheless consistently swing, with the leader's well-named "Mulliganesque," a brisk cooker, being especially noteworthy. Among the other musicians are pianist Marty Paich, bassist Red Mitchell, and trumpeter Don Fagerquist. Other tracks feature tenor saxophonist Zoot Sims, trumpeter Conte Candoli, alto saxophonist Charlie Mariano, and either Paich or André Previn, with Jimmy Giuffre on baritone sax. Graas' "Rogersesque," which salutes Shorty Rogers (another prominent influence upon the leader), showcases Mariano, Candoli, Paich, and guitarist Howard Roberts to good effect. The last 12 selections are from Jazz Studio, Vol. 4, with all of the compositions contributed by trumpeter and flügelhornist Jack Millman, though the personnel and arrangers vary widely from one song to the next. Like Graas' works, Millman's have stood the test of time, even if they never became a part of regularly played jazz repertoire. The music is still very fresh decades after it was recorded, with some of the cream of the crop of West Coast musicians present, including Gerry Wiggins, Curtis Counce, Chico Hamilton, Bob Gordon, Buddy Collette, Jack Montrose, and Russ Freeman, among others. Perhaps one of the biggest surprises of the date is the Latin-infused "Cathy Goes South," arranged by Johnny Mandel with Maynard Ferguson playing claves.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden