Herbie Mann's Californians

Great Ideas of Western Mann

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The immodest title of this one carries a double connotation; it was probably the first album of jazz in which the leader recorded entirely on bass clarinet and, less significantly, the first Riverside album recorded on the West Coast. The first achievement -- which Mann and producer Orrin Keepnews thought of three years before Eric Dolphy broke out his bass clarinet on records -- ought to be more widely known, but the usual prejudices among critics regarding Mann's subsequent popularity among record buyers have decreed otherwise. In any case, Mann phrases on the bass clarinet pretty much the way he does on flute, with a definite personality, plenty of swing, and a airy outlook that makes the instrument sound less sinister. Stylistically, this is strictly a mainstream West Coast bop blowing session, with a young Jack Sheldon offering up splendid, in-the-pocket open and muted trumpet. Jimmy Rowles (piano), Buddy Clark (bass), and Mel Lewis (drums) comprise the swinging rhythm section. Miles Davis' "The Theme" and Cole Porter's "Get Out of Town" contain the tastiest solos, with Mann's own "A Stella Performance" running closely behind, but all tracks are consistently good. On the CD edition, there is one break from the format, the addition of another track from the July 3, 1957, session, the lengthy "Blues for Tomorrow" (originally released on the anthology of that name), by the "East Coast All-Stars" -- with Gigi Gryce, John Coltrane, and Coleman Hawkins.

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