Various Artists

Tenor Giants [Enja]

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This CD actually reissues two former live LPs, one featuring Ben Webster and the other a later session from Gene Ammons. Webster is heard at a Providence, RI, gig playing five standards and one original (his medium-tempo blues "Cookin' for T") less than a year before he moved permanently to Europe. Assisted by a top-notch rhythm section (pianist Junior Mance, bassist Bob Cranshaw and drummer Mickey Roker), the great tenor is in fine form throughout the set so the familiar repertoire and merely adequate recording quality should not scare anyone away. Gene Ammons's performance with a trio headed by pianist Horace Parlan (and including bassist Red Mitchell and drummer Ed Jones) was performed in Sweden just 13 months before Jug's death but there is no obvious decline in his playing. Ammons (like Art Pepper) was a more intense and freer improviser after serving a long prison sentence than he had been earlier, while remaining quite recognizable. The music is purely straightahead, unlike some of Ammons's studio albums of the era, with three hard-swingers and a two-song ballad medley (Parlan is showcased on "Polka Dots and Moonbeams"). It is particularly nice to hear Gene Ammons verbally introducing the songs and his performance overall makes for a fine complement to the otherwise unrelated Webster date.