This fourth installment in the Classics Illinois Jacquet chronology contains some of his very best recordings from the early '50s, originally released on the Mercury and Clef labels. The first three tracks were recorded in Los Angeles on January 18, 1951, with excellent support from pianist Carl Perkins, guitarist Oscar Moore, bassist Red Callender, and master percussionist J.C. Heard. The next session took place in New York four months later with an equally outstanding group composed of Hank Jones on piano and celeste, guitarist John Collins, bassist Gene Ramey, and the mighty Art Blakey inside of the drums. The ballads are superb, the ambling grooves irresistible, and "Cotton Tail" is taken to the verge of a nice rolling boil. "Weary Blues" is not the famous old-time stomp by Artie Matthews but rather a relaxed original ambulation in blue, quite soulful and dignified. Its flip side, simply entitled "Groovin'," is a case study in jamming with all five burners lit. The next three tracks were recorded on March 21, 1952, using what was essentially the Count Basie Orchestra with John Acea at the 88s. Jacquet rolls along in front of this steamy 14-piece band, sounding completely at home and in command. This outstanding compilation closes with eight tracks recorded in July and December of 1952. On the July date, Jacquet's remarkable rhythm section consisted of Hank Jones, Freddie Green, Ray Brown, and Jimmy Crawford, augmented with Count Basie himself at the organ. The December band was an amazing variation on the previous ensemble: Hank Jones now played the organ with Sir Charles Thompson sitting in on piano along with guitarist Joe Sinacore, bassist Al Lucas, and ace drummer Shadow Wilson. Given the excellence of each and every performance, the jaw-dropping collective personnel, and the overall striking artistic integrity of the featured tenor saxophonist, this CD belongs among the very best recordings by this artist or anyone else who had a hand in the development of early modern jazz.
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