Live at Falcon Lair has a more interesting back story than many older recordings that have been rescued for posterity, but even the story takes a backseat to the excellent music. Falcon Lair wasn't a club, but the home of Doris Duke (and once the home of Rudolph Valentino), whom pianist Joe Castro married in 1956. Castro developed his musical rep playing around L.A., sometimes in the company of bassist Leroy Vinnegar and drummer Ron Jefferson. He also liked to invite folks over to Falcon Lair to jam, just for the fun of it, and he recorded the sessions for possible release. On this particular recording, captured on April 1, 1956, the trio is joined by Zoot Sims on alto -- not tenor -- sax. The set of eight pieces is decidedly loose, allowing ample space for Sims and Castro to develop their ideas while Vinnegar's walking bass and Jefferson's balanced percussion keep the music moving forward. The set kicks off with a particularly powerful take on "A Night in Tunisia," before offering solid versions of "Pennies from Heaven" and "I'll See You in My Dreams." The quartet also tackles several Castro originals, including the appropriately titled "Swinging With Rudolph." Unlike many vault releases, this one is fresh and vital, and will be of special interest to Sims fans interested in his alto work.
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AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.