In 1956, Gus Mancuso had a major ally in Cal Tjader. It was Tjader who brought Mancuso to the attention of Fantasy Records and, thanks to Tjader, he ended up recording two LPs for the label -- Introducing Gus Mancuso in 1956 and Music From New Faces in 1958. Introducing Gus Mancuso, his first album as a leader, is an incredibly promising debut. The music is swinging, inspired bop, which was hardly unusual for 1956; the thing that makes this LP so unique is the fact that Mancuso's instrument is the baritone horn. Not to be confused with the baritone sax, the baritone horn has played an important role in marching bands but has seldom been used as a jazz instrument. But Mancuso doesn't let that stop him; he makes the baritone horn sound perfectly natural as a jazz instrument whether he is swinging enthusiastically on "Goody Goody" or being lyrical and romantic on "Ev'ry Time" and the Jimmy Dorsey ballad "I'm Glad There Is You." Introducing Gus Mancuso was recorded at two different 1956 sessions -- one in L.A., the other in the Bay Area. The L.A. session finds Mancuso leading a quartet that employs Gerald Wiggins on piano, Gene Wright on bass, and Bill Douglass on drums -- whereas in the Bay Area his sidemen include Tjader (who is heard on drums instead of vibes), pianist Vince Guaraldi, tenor saxman Richie Kamuca, guitarist Eddie Duran, and bassist Gene Wright. Introducing Gus Mancuso is a fine debut all-around.
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