Big Bands of the '50s & '60s begins where the previous volume of Rhino's Masters of Jazz series left off, picking up the story of the big bands at the dawn of the '50s, when the genre was beginning to lose steam. Consequently, the 18 tracks on this collection don't all adhere to the formula that was written by the big bands documented on the previous disc. Instead, this compilation presents variations on the formula, whether its Jimmy Smith & Wes Montgomery playing with a large band as support or the innovations of Charles Mingus' "Better Get Hit In Yo' Soul." Of course, the beginning of the disc features several standards, like Count Basie's "April In Paris" or Stan Kenton's "What's New?." But, our of all of the discs in the Jazz Masters series, Big Bands of the '50s & '60s has to stretch the most to make its case. It's to its credit that it does and, in the process, it provides a neophyte with a good basic knowledge of the music.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine