Willie Smith

The Best of Willie Smith

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Although Willie Smith was one of the finest altoists of the swing era and led a few sessions during 1945-47, this GNP set was his only full-length LP as a leader; it has yet to be reissued on CD. Cut two years before his death, the album finds Smith still in top form, performing two basic originals ("Never On Friday" and "Willie's Blues"), a couple of ballads and a few swing standards including "Uptown Blues." Four tunes match Willie Smith with pianist Johnny Guarnieri, Tommy Gumina on accordion, guitarist Irving Ashby, bassist Paul Ruhland and drummer Stan Levey, while the remaining three songs have Smith leading a quintet consisting of tenor saxophonist Bill Perkins, pianist Jimmy Rowles, bassist Max Bennett and drummer Stan Levey. In both settings, Willie Smith is heard at his best.