With the rich store of saxophone greats signed to Blue Note in the '60s -- Hank Mobley, Joe Henderson, Wayne Shorter, et al. -- one frequently forgets about Atlantic's formidable blowing talent from the same decade. Often working outside the hard bop mainstream of the time, such Atlantic heavies as Hank Crawford, Eddie Harris, Yusef Lateef, Roland Kirk, David "Fathead" Newman, and Charles Lloyd made their mark with blues-centric jams, askew bop experimentation, Far Eastern tonalities, and even '60s psychedelic touches. On the other hand, there were bop veterans like Sonny Stitt, who always maintained that compactly frenetic bop tone throughout his career; and then there's Ornette Coleman, who about skipped on every jazz precept to forge his groundbreaking free improvisation theory around 1959. As for Coltrane -- with his bursting-the-seams recasting of modern jazz -- well, he stood apart from practically the whole jazz fraternity just by dint of his mammoth will and lust for the next level. This is not to say Blue Note didn't have its share of varied recordings, but relative to Atlantic's '60s output the label seemed rather stuck in a strict hard bop mode. This Atlantic sampler exemplifies the contrast with a diverse batch of cuts from all of the above roster personnel. In addition to classics by Coltrane ("Giant Steps") and Coleman ("Lonely Woman"), the disc contains stellar live cuts by both Lloyd and Kirk and a wealth of soulful ballads and swingers from Crawford, Newman, and Harris. A nice overview of the label's sprawling jazz catalog.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Cook