The main fault to this set (an Atlantic album reissued in 1999 as a Koch CD) is simply that there is not enough of it. Trombonist Vic Dickenson, who receives top billing, is just on two of the six selections, for a total of 11 minutes. Dickenson's octet (which also includes trumpeter Buck Clayton, Hal Singer on tenor, clarinetist Herbie Hall, pianist Al Williams, guitarist Danny Barker, bassist Gene Ramey, and drummer Marquis Foster) is fine, the arrangement on "The Lamp Is Low" is catchy and Clayton takes honors. But one suspects that the Dickenson name was used originally to help sell the music of the other band, which is led by trumpeter Joe Thomas. The lyrical Thomas is joined by the extroverted trumpeter Johnny Letman, trombonist Dicky Wells (who has a few speechlike solos), tenor saxophonist Buddy Tate, clarinetist Buster Bailey, pianist Herbie Nichols, guitarist Everett Barksdale, bassist Bill Pemberton, and drummer Jimmy Crawford. With riff-filled arrangements by Dick Vance (the ensembles are not jammed), this intriguing nonet mixes together Dixieland and swing players along with a notable pianist-composer. Herbie Nichols is mostly heard in an accompanying role, taking his longest solo on the lengthy "Blues for Baby." Nichols, who was completely neglected by the beboppers, fit into this trad jazz setting surprisingly well. A fun and very obscure reissue.
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AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow