Memphis Convention, a gathering put together by pianist James Williams, features a number of fine musicians who grew up in the musically famous city in western Tennessee. With a constantly shifting cast from one track to the next, one can almost feel the fun the participants are having. Pianist Donald Brown leads a big band through his original "Squindo's Passion" (which sounds like it is based in part on the chord changes to "Sweet Georgia Brown"), showcasing guitarist Calvin Newborn (the late Phineas Newborn Jr.'s brother), tenor saxophonist George Coleman, and himself. Thad Jones' sauntering blues "Ray-El" features trumpeter Bill Mobley (one of many underrated players on the date), flutist Bill Easley, pianist Harold Mabern, and bassist Jamil Nasser. Mobley arranged Mabern's driving "There But for the Grace Of...," which reflects the pianist's gospel roots. Pianist Mulgrew Miller displays his lyrical side with a trio setting of his own "The Sequel." But it is hard to beat a spirited workout of Lester Young's "Tickle Toe," which is anchored by veteran pianist Charles Thomas, who unfortunately recorded only a few sessions near the end of his life (and this was evidently his debut recording). Thomas also appears in the turbocharged workout of Duke Ellington's "Cotton Tail," which features potent solos by alto saxophonist Lewis Keel and tenor saxophonist Herman Green, two more names worthy of wider recognition. Williams adds a new element to Ahmad Jamal's "Night Mist Blues" by playing Hammond B-3 organ to Brown's piano in a groovy septet chart. Released by DIW in Japan, this somewhat hard to find CD is well worth acquiring.
AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden