Willis "Gator" Jackson's initial reputation was made as a honking and screaming tenor saxophonist with Cootie Williams' late-'40s orchestra and on his own R&B-ish recordings. By 1959, Jackson had de-emphasized some of his more extroverted sounds (although they occasionally popped up) and had reemerged as a solid swinger influenced by Gene Ammons and (on ballads) Ben Webster. This CD reissue from 1998 brings back in full two of Jackson's 1959-60 LPs: Blue Gator and Cookin' Sherry. Some of the music (which often falls into the soul-jazz genre) is reminiscent of the funky groove music that would become popular in the late '60s. Jackson sounds fine and is joined throughout by guitarist Bill Jennings, organist Jack McDuff, one of three bassists, one of two drummers, and sometimes Buck Clarke on conga. The accessible music alternates between warm ballads and jump tunes.
AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow