Bill Perkins

The Bill Perkins Octet on Stage

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In 1998, Capitol (which owns Blue Note) reissued six Pacific Jazz CDs filled with music from the mid-1950s, the prime period of cool West Coast jazz. For this set, tenor saxophonist Bill Perkins is showcased in an all-star octet also including altoist Bud Shank, baritonist Jack Nimitz, trumpeter Stu Williamson, trombonist Carl Fontana, pianist Russ Freeman, bassist Red Mitchell and drummer Mel Lewis. Perk's tone is heard throughout at its coolest (influenced by Lester Young but distinctive within the style) and there are plenty of short spots for the other key voices. The program includes five swing-era songs including "Song of the Islands," "When You're Smiling" and two versions of Harry "Sweets" Edison's "Let Me See" plus three newer pieces, but no bop standards. At least as important as the solos are the arrangements of Perkins, Bill Holman, Lennie Niehaus and Johnny Mandel. Their use of restrained colors, the quiet rhythm section and advanced harmonies on a whole give one a definitive look at West Coast Jazz of the mid-1950s. Recommended.

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