Paul Chambers and Wynton Kelly are best known for their work with Miles Davis, though they appeared together on numerous other albums by a host of artists. This Mosaic compilation gathers their entire master takes for the label, along with any viable surviving alternates, with both men generally playing at a consistently high level.
The two men are joined by their associate in Davis' rhythm section, drummer Jimmy Cobb, along with Cannonball Adderley and Freddie Hubbard for the sessions which made up Chambers' Go. The bassist effectively demonstrates his ability playing arco in both takes of "Just Friends," while Adderley's funky solo adds to the flavor of Hubbard's arrangement. For the session which produced 1st Bassman, Tommy Turrentine is the trumpeter, with tenor saxophonist Yusef Lateef (who composed all of the selections for this date), trombonist Curtis Fuller and drummer Lex Humphries joining Chambers and Kelly. "Melody" has little in the way of a theme, but its focus in on the leader's superb bassline, though each player's solo is memorable. Lateef switches to flute for his haunting ballad, which again features Chambers' warm arco technique. Kelly's first label date under his name adds Wayne Shorter (in his debut studio recording) and Lee Morgan, both on loan from Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers, with Philly Joe Jones taking over on drums. Aside from the infrequently performed "June Night," the focus is on originals by the participants. Kelly steals the show with his medium tempo blues shuffle "Wrinkles," though Shorter's explosive "Mama G" merits high praise, too. Kelly's remaining Vee Jay sessions are trio affairs. The one released as Kelly at Midnight is rounded out by Philly Joe Jones, including Kelly's blues "Pot Luck" and the swinging "Temperance," with some choice brushwork by Jones. The trio also excels in two numbers written by guitarist Rudy Stevenson, along with a surprisingly good arrangement of singer Babs Gonzales' "Lullaby of the Doomed."
The final sessions, issued as Kelly!, include numerous alternate takes, a few of which are previously unissued. The personnel is the same, aside from Sam Jones replacing an ill Paul Chambers on the last few songs. An inspired jazz-waltz treatment of "Someday My Prince Will Come" (with four separate takes) and a half-dozen versions of Joe Zawinul's catchy hard bop vehicle "Scotch and Water" stand out particularly.
Cobb returns to the drums, along with the addition of the tragically short-lived trumpeter Booker Little for alto saxophonist Frank Strozier's session. The leader's relaxed slow blues "Lucka Duce" (strangely omitted from the original release), his twisting "A Starling's Theme" and the strutting "Tibbit" are among the highlights, though the two takes of the standard "Just in Time" come off a bit tentative. As soloists, both Strozier (whose contributions are badly underappreciated) and Little are in top form, backed by their seasoned rhythm section. Sadly, this valuable limited-edition boxed set has lapsed from print and will likely command a premium price at auction.