Classical pianist Friedrich Gulda became interested in jazz while visiting the United States during the 1950s, and recorded a live jazz album at Birdland for RCA Victor in 1956, though it would be over six years before he recorded another jazz LP. This pair of big-band sessions features two extended works by the pianist. "Music for Piano and Big Band" is divided into three unnamed movements; it is ambitious but doesn't reach its potential because it overemphasizes his solos while limiting his big band to the background. The first segment flirts with a bluesy theme, while the second is initially slow and moody before seguing into a brisk tempo. He switches to an uptempo hard bop setting for the final section. The second side of the LP features "Music for Soloist and Big Band," which showcases trombone, baritone sax, and trumpet, though it isn't clear who is featured among the trombonists and trumpeters (the baritone saxophonist is Gulda, who started playing the instrument just a few years earlier). Gulda's writing is much more interesting in this extended work, as the band's members, including clarinetist Fatty George, are sharing the spotlight with the leader in this pianoless chart. As a baritone saxophonist, Gulda is still clearly learning the ropes, as he has some problems with reed squeaking during the second movement. Gulda would continue to record over the decades that followed in a jazz setting, but he never really made a lasting mark outside of Europe with his recordings.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden