This Collectables reissue pairs up two albums by pianist, arranger, and Modern Jazz Quartet musical director John Lewis. Original Sin was Lewis' second experiment with a symphony orchestra. This ballet was originally performed in 1961 at the Alcazar Theatre in San Francisco, CA, with the libretto provided by beat poet Kenneth Rexroth based on Adam and Eve. Without the added excitement that improvisation could have provided, Original Sin comes across stiff. On the other hand, Essence, released in 1964, allows space for improvising around the charts provided by vibraphonist Gary McFarland. Arranged by Lewis, it featuring an array of jazz greats including Eric Dolphy, Phil Woods, Freddie Hubbard, Benny Golson, Jimmy Giuffre, and Jim Hall. Both sessions have their moments, but Essence is the main attraction on this disc.
AllMusic Review by Al Campbell