John Graas

Jazz Studio, Vols. 1-2: Complete Sessions

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The Jazz Studio series recorded for Decca during the 1950s produced a lot of enjoyable sessions, though many of them were very hard to obtain until Lonehill Jazz began reissuing them in 2004. The first two tracks, first released as Jazz Studio, Vol. 1, are long workouts that featuring trumpeter Joe Newman, trombonist Bennie Green, tenor saxophonists Frank Foster and Paul Quinichette, pianist Hank Jones, guitarist Johnny Smith (who appeared on the original album as Sir Jonathan Gasser, since he was under contract to Roost at the time), bassist Eddie Jones, and drummer Kenny Clarke. Smith sets up the 22-minute rendition of "Tenderly" with a beautiful unaccompanied solo, then the full rhythm section joins in as the individual reed and brass players take turns. The tempo picks up a good bit just prior to the midpoint, with the solos being much briefer as everyone gets a chance to blow. The second piece, "Let's Spilt," is a bluesy riff tune jointly composed by Hank Jones and Robert Shad that is also an extended performance; it is easy to imagine this snappy tune being played in a 52nd Street nightclub during the 1940s or early '50s. The last six tracks on this compilation come from a recording originally issued as Jazz Studio, Vol. 2, with French horn player John Graas as the leader of this cool-oriented West Coast session, with trumpeter Don Fagerquist, trombonist Milt Bernhart, alto saxophonist Herb Geller, Jimmy Giuffre (who plays clarinet, tenor, and baritone saxes), pianist Marty Paich, guitarist Howard Roberts, bassist Curtis Counce, and drummer Larry Bunker on hand. The mood is considerably more subdued than the bop material recorded by the East Coast musicians heard on Jazz Studio, Vol. 1, but the music has held up very well, with excellent solos and strong charts by Graas and Paich. Highlights include Graas' intricate "Here Come the Lions" and Paich's equally challenging "Paicheck" (note its equally witty title).

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