At the time that the four lengthy selections on Hollywood Jam Sessions were recorded in 1954, Maynard Ferguson was a 25-year-old trumpeter who had already led his own band in Canada, had short stints with the orchestras of Jimmy Dorsey, Boyd Raeburn and Charlie Barnet, and gained fame as the remarkable high-note trumpeter with Stan Kenton. In 1953 he left Kenton to settle in Los Angeles where he became a greatly in-demand studio player for Hollywood studios. The Hollywood Jam Sessions were originally two LPs that had four side-long jams with West Coast all-stars; all of the music is on this single CD. Ferguson teams up with altoist Bud Shank, tenor-saxophonist Bob Cooper, baritonist Bob Gordon, pianist Russ Freeman, bassist Curtis Counce, and drummer Shelly Manne for the up-tempo blues "Night Letter" and "Somebody Loves Me." All of the musicians are heard in prime form and highlights include Freeman's eccentric entrance (which seems to defy time) on "Night Letter," and on "Somebody Loves Me" where Shank and Gordon jam happily together between their individual solos. Ferguson also takes a valve trombone solo quite effectively on the latter piece. On "Love Is Here to Stay" and the cooking blues "Air Conditioned," Ferguson, trombonist Milt Bernhart, altoist Herb Geller, Cooper, Gordon, pianist Claude Williamson, bassist John Simmons, and drummer Max Roach have opportunities to stretch out. It is particularly rewarding hearing Bernhart playing at such length, possibly his longest solos on record, and to enjoy Bob Cooper and the others in such a spontaneous setting. As for Maynard Ferguson, he shows throughout that he was always more than just one of the most phenomenal high-note trumpeters, taking some excellent middle-register solos along with a few trademark blasts. Hollywood Jam Sessions has some of Ferguson's most exciting performances from his Los Angeles years, recorded right before he became a big band leader in 1956.
AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow