Double or Nothin' promises a creative East Coast-meets-West Coast musical confrontation, but never delivers. Ace trumpet men Conte Candoli, based in California, and Philly-born Lee Morgan, then making his first impression on the jazz world, headline this 1957 session that grew out of a Charlie Persip gig at the legendary Pacific Coast club the Lighthouse. These two all-star groups belie the assumptions made at the time about the differences between the East and West Coast sounds (with underlining racial assumptions). Both trumpet players draw heavily on Dizzy Gillespie for inspiration, and both saxophonists (Benny Golson and Bob Cooper) are more indebted to swing master Lester Young than to any bebop saxophonist. Indeed, the contrast between the two is one of the pleasures of the session. Golson's lines are blurry and oblique, while Cooper's are finely etched and to-the-point. Both are also more noted for their writing skills, which are also on display here. Though the listener may expect such a jam session would feature usual blowing vehicles, here the music is largely original or of more recent vintage (though two [Golson's "Stablemates" and Horace Silver's "Quicksilver"] were destined to become standards). While the repertoire is refreshing, it leads to tentative performances on the tracks in which the two groups interact. The solos have awkward pauses between phrases, and loquacious soloists such as Morgan and trombonist Frank Rosolino rely on pet turns of phrase. The strongest playing comes on the tracks when the Morgan group and the Lighthouse All-Stars play as separate units. Morgan's promise shines through on the opener, "Reggie of Chester," and the All-Stars dig in for their strongest playing on the closing standard "Bye Bye Blues," in a classy setting that has the hallmarks of the Cooper arrangement.
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AllMusic Review by David Dupont