Joe Newman / Cootie Williams

Jazz in Paris: Jazz at Midnight

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Like many of the Jazz in Paris series of CDs issued under the Gitanes division of Universal, this compilation pairs two unrelated sessions (both originally issued as 10" LPs) by different leaders. A 1956 session led by trumpeter Joe Newman finds him jamming with tenor saxophonist Frank Wess, baritone saxophonist Bill Graham, and trombonist Henry Coker. Pianist Maurice Vander, bassist Eddie Jones, and drummer Sonny Payne make up the rhythm section. All of the players solo in a relaxed manner during the extended workouts of the leader's two originals, while the shorter ballad feature, "Lover Man," focuses exclusively on Newman, Wess, and Vander, as Graham and Coker both sit it out. Cootie Williams' quintet from 1959 is a different matter. Although a good part of the material comes from swingers like Duke Ellington or Count Basie, the trumpeter's supporting cast gives this date more of an R&B flavor, especially due to the unimaginative playing of organist Arnold Jarvis, guitarist Larry Dale, and drummer Lester Jenkins. "Night Train," Jimmy Forrest's honking ripoff of Ellington's "Happy-Go-Lucky Local," rapidly goes downhill following the leader's gruff muted solo. The cheesy vibrato-filled organ introduction to "Mood Indigo" ruins an otherwise good blend between Williams and tenor saxophonist George Clarke. Likewise, Neal Hefti's "Lil' Darlin'" comes off as rather uninspired. Williams' star would rise again when he returned to Ellington's band in 1962, but this dull session is easily one of the low points of his career.

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