Steve Lacy

The Complete Whitey Mitchell Sessions

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Although this compilation was issued in 2004 under soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy's name, the two original records which make up this Lone Hill Jazz CD were separate dates issued under the leadership of bassist Whitey Mitchell (brother of bassist Red Mitchell) and tenor horn player Tom Stewart by ABC-Paramount. The first ten selections come from Mitchell's sessions, with snappy arrangements of standards contributed by Neal Hefti. The sextet also includes Stewart, trumpeter Don Stratton, guitarist Joe Puma, and drummer Osie Johnson. The leader's bass has a prominent role, though there's plenty of solo space for Lacy, Stratton, and Stewart, too. Although Hefti was primarily arranging standards on this date, he leans more toward cool jazz rather than the swing style associated with his writing for Count Basie. Highlights include the breezy "Strike Up the Band" (with a few nice drum breaks by Johnson), the easygoing "I Let a Song Go out of My Heart," and the beautifully voiced "You Stepped Out of a Dream." The Stewart sessions feature three separate dates with slightly different personnel. On the first six tracks, pianist Dave McKenna and drummer Al Levitt join Stewart, Lacy, and Mitchell. Stewart is the dominant soloist (whose instrument could be easily mistaken for a trombone by a novice jazz fan), though Lacy's imaginative flights are remarkable for such a young musician, especially since the soprano sax was not yet popular among up-and-coming jazz artists during the mid-'50s. The songs include a mixture of traditional jazz, standards, and obscure works. The breezy "Rosetta," the little known "My Heart Is a Hobo," and a rather brief "Let's Get Lost" (the latter omitting McKenna and adding Herbie Mann on tenor sax) are among the high points. Due to the rarity of the original LPs, picking up a copy of this CD is a far cheaper alternative, though the sloppy song credits contain several errors and omissions.

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