There are those who might prefer his later, pretentious ramblings in Rolling Stone or the liner notes to Bitches Brew, but for an example of jazz writer Ralph J. Gleason at his best, the text on the back of this '50s release of West Coast jazz can't really be beat. The chooglin' of a certain rock group would eventually turn this record label into a mega-corporation, but back in the days when this side was cut it was an outfit practically on the level of Frankie Fourtrack. Indeed, a great deal of the writer's hilarious text has to do with the absurd preparations involved with turning the label's smallish real estate into a functioning recording studio, the details of which certainly qualify this recording for the low-budget home-recording hall of fame, even if the music itself is quite a distance from the type of material usually created in ad hoc recording situations. What listeners have here is the sort of West Coast jazz that was unique to San Francisco and practically to this label itself. It is ultra smooth, and anyone who hears a hint of treble in Duran's tone settings should rush to an ear doctor for tests. The quartet presents a front line of guitar and reeds, the latter played by the interesting Howie Dudune, who brings a particularly appealing sound to the group when he uses clarinet. The choice of standards is imaginative, resulting in a swinging version of "Skyliner" by Charlie Barnet and a gorgeous "Room With a View" from the Noel Coward songbook. Only "Sugar" suffers from the kind of finky funk that turns some jazz listeners away from this scene.
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