One of the most subtle, lyrical and intriguing of all jazz pianists, Ellis Larkins was considered the perfect accompanist. He recorded classic duets with Ella Fitzgerald and Ruby Braff, and fortunately led occasional sessions of his own. Two complete albums from the 1950s, Manhattan at Midnight and Blue and Sentimental, are reissued in full on this single CD. The former is particularly intriguing for it consists of two lengthy medleys that originally filled the two sides of an LP. The "Manhattan at Midnight Suite" has eight songs that musically hint at stories of New York nightlife in the 1950s while "Penthouse Suite" is perfect music for the cocktail hour. Larkins, guitarist Art Ryerson, and bassist Beverly Peer play as one, going smoothly and seamlessly from one song to another. The relaxed ambiance continues even when the performances are briefly uptempo. The Blue and Sentimental album continues the same mood during a dozen concise numbers. The first six are performed by a quartet with guitarist Skeeter Best with each song having "blue" in its title. The remainder of the project consists of duets with bassist Joe Benjamin on six fascinating Larkins originals. Although the music on this CD is perfect for backgrounds, turn up the volume and listen closely. There is a great deal of subtle creativity to discover.
AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow