When Don Sebesky recorded Three Works for Jazz Soloists and Symphony Orchestra in 1979, the idea of combining jazz and European classical music was hardly new. Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, and others were being influenced by classical music back in the 1920s, and the 1950s found everyone from the Modern Jazz Quartet and Gunther Schuller to Gil Evans and Jimmy Giuffre blending jazz and classical. Nonetheless, jazz-classical fusion was an idea that still had a lot of possibilities, and Sebesky explores some of them on this chance-taking, though uneven, project. Initially released on LP by Gryphon in 1979 and reissued on CD by DCC in 1999, Three Works finds Sebesky uniting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with such jazzmen as guitarist Joe Beck, trumpeter Jon Faddis, and trombonist Bob Brookmeyer. The album underscores Sebesky's appreciation of classical greats Bach, Stravinsky, and Bartok, yet the solos are essentially jazz solos. Although not entirely successful, Three Works is enjoyable more often than not, and is certainly ambitious. Sebesky deserves credit for having the guts to take some risks, especially when you consider how predictable and unadventurous so many of the "young lions" who emerged in the 1980s and 1990s turned out to be. Three Works is an album that, despite its shortcomings, is interesting and worth checking out.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson