This is the third and final guest appearance by clarinetist Bill Smith in the place of Paul Desmond with the Dave Brubeck Quartet. Like the earlier record dates, this 1961 session focuses exclusively on Smith's compositions, resulting in a very different sound for the band than its normal mix of the leader's songs and standards. Smith was a member of Brubeck's adventurous octet of the late '40s and, like the pianist, also studied with French composer Darius Milhaud. So the clarinetist is willing to take chances, utilizing a mute on his instrument in "Pan's Pipes," and having drummer Joe Morello use his timpani sticks on the piano strings in the swinging "The Unihorn." Smith proves himself very much in Desmond's league with his witty solos and equally amusing, pun-filled liner notes. While none of these songs became a regular part of Brubeck's repertoire, even after Smith replaced tenorist Jerry Bergonzi as a member of the quartet in 1982, this is easily the best of the three albums that he made with Dave Brubeck during the late '50s and early '60s.
AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden