Hal McKusick

Now's the Time

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The decision to include just seven of the twelve numbers from Hal McKusick's Isn't It Romantic recording and eight of the ten from Cross Section: Saxes on this CD reissue is unfortunate, making this a so-called "best-of" set; why not reissue three McKusick dates (including Jazz at the Academy) complete on two CDs so valuable music is not lost? McKusick, a fine cool-toned altoist who sometimes recalls Paul Desmond a bit, also plays some floating atmospheric bass clarinet on these performances. Four of the titles feature a four-sax septet on two arrangements apiece by George Handy and Ernie Wilkins; the latter's interpretation of "Now's the Time" harmonizes Charlie Parker's original recorded solo à la Supersax. Otherwise McKusick is matched with trumpeter Art Farmer in a quintet/sextet with either Eddie Costa or Bill Evans on piano, The arrangements (by Farmer, Al Cohn, Manny Albam, Jimmy Giuffre, or George Russell) are sometimes complex but always lightly swinging, leaving plenty of space for the horns to solo. Recommended to those listeners who do not already have the more complete LPs.

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