Jimmy Witherspoon


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This 1961 large-band jazz date places Jimmy Witherspoon on the Reprise label in the company of some heavy hitters -- Teddy Edwards on saxophone, Gerald Wilson on trumpet, Gerald Wiggins on piano, trombonist Herbie Harper, bassist Jimmy Bond, and guitarist Al Viola -- just to name a few. The program on Spoon, of course, is mostly standards, with Witherspoon doing a wondrous job in his readings of "Lover Come Back to Me," "Ain't Misbehavin," "It Only Happens Once," and "A Blues Serenade." In addition, his takes on Duke Ellington's "I'm Beginning to See the Light," "Do Nothin' 'Til You Hear from Me," and "Just a Sittin' and a Rockin'" are startling interpretations. The arrangements here, by Bob Florence, are colorful, and just large enough to highlight Witherspoon's open baritone. The contrast between the orchestra's pop-jazz leanings and Witherspoon's bluesy swing are sometimes hair-raising. The strange reverb sound that comes across in Collectables' CD remaster is a bit irritating, but this is the only way this brilliant session is available on compact disc. This is one of those recordings that offers a true starting point for the mature Witherspoon at the absolute top of his powers as a song interpreter and singer supported by a deeply sympathetic orchestra.

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