By the year 2000, the golden oldie rotation of "Band of Gold" was the main thing keeping the memory of this singer alive. Yet, deep in the catalog of this classic jazz label lies this ambitious, largely successful recording which shows just how diverse and indeed brilliant Freda Payne can be. The album is divided half into big band tracks, half into small combo. The main presence in both cases is alto saxophonist Phil Woods, and this is one of the few recordings he doesn't turn into a football scrimmage for bebop yardage. There is an incredible wealth of material here, and it is definitely impressive to consider that Duke Ellington wrote a song specifically for the session. It is the singer's confidence and marvelous vocal abilities that steal the show at every turn, but that is not to demean the contributions of top-drawer jazz musicians such as pianist Walter Perkins and guitarist Jim Hall. The record is dominated by Tin Pan Alley material, to be sure, but on the second side some serious jazz is attempted, including a beautiful "Round Midnight" and a version of "Lonely Woman" by Ornette Coleman. When it comes to the latter tune, the author of the liner note seems to be straining to hide his contempt, referring to the song as a "composition" in italics, as if it was too touchy to print such a thing in a regular font. It is hoped that an Impulse re-issue will see the light of day in this case so that the line "all that's left is a band of gold" will no longer be true in the case of this virtuoso songstress.
AllMusic Review by Eugene Chadbourne