When one thinks of music in New Orleans during the 1950s, they mostly think of Dixieland and R&B. However, there was at least one group (the American Jazz Quintet) who played top-notch modern jazz. Caught on rare live recordings from 1956 (and one from 1958) are tenor saxophonist Harold Batiste (the group's leader), clarinetist Alvin Batiste, pianist Ellis Marsalis, either Richard Payne or William Swanson on bass, and drummer Ed Blackwell, with altoist Warren Bell added on "Yesterdays." Considering that Alvin Batiste, Blackwell, and Marsalis (all heard in their recording debuts on this CD) would each have major careers, this CD is of strong historic interest. But in addition, the music (all but four songs of which are originals by bandmembers) is dynamic and adventurous for the period, making this little-known set well worth searching for.
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