John Corbett wasn't kidding when he said that he was going to start releasing non-vanguard jazz titles in the Atavistic Unheard Music Series. If this is a representative example, then bring them on. Pianist and composer George Gruntz is in the company of saxophonist Barney Wilen, drummer Kenny "Clook" Clarke, and a pair of unknown Europeans on bass and another saxophone. The unheard record in question is a 1960 soundtrack to a Swiss film called Mental Cruelty, which was made by a former soccer star. The soundtrack was issued by Decca, briefly, on 10" EP, until the musicians realized it -- they were paid for a film soundtrack, not a recorded one. Decca refused to pay, lost in court, and had to destroy what remaining vinyl they had, making this a thousand dollar collector's item. Given that this was Gruntz's first soundtrack, it's extremely impressive. There are 18 tracks, all of them in the prevailing hard bop style of the day with some cool and noir-ish elements thrown in. But it feels more like a blowing session in the same way the Miles Davis soundtrack to L'Ascenseur pour L'Echafaud by Louis Malle did; loose blowing based on images and rushes from the film. Wilen is in especially fine form here: His tone has that big full sound with just a hint of the edge of Sonny Rollins in it. Gruntz is obviously a cocky, confident young pianist, but he is humbled by Clarke's mastery on the swinging bop tunes and even on the two waltzes, which were the first Clarke had played on record in his life. This is more than a cool jazz record; it is a bit of hipster history with the chops to back up its obscurity. Highly recommended.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek