Various Artists

The Golden Age of American Popular Music: The Jazz Hits from the Hot 100 1958-1966

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Though the decade roughly spanning the mid-'50s to the mid-'60s is rightly remembered as the time when rock & roll asserted itself as the most popular music in the United States, pop charts and pop radio still accommodated plenty of non-rock singles. This volume of Ace's long-running stellar Golden Age of American Popular Music series focuses entirely on jazz 45s that managed to make the charts between 1957 and 1966, sometimes in a very big way. Even casual listeners to oldies radio will recognize the biggest smashes here, including Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto's "The Girl from Ipanema," Ramsey Lewis' "The 'In' Crowd," Cannonball Adderley's "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy," Vince Guaraldi's "Cast Your Fate to the Wind," Dave Brubeck's "Take Five," and Cozy Cole's "Topsy II." What's great about this 28-track compilation, however, is that it also has quite a few songs that haven't been played a lot since their heyday, but have a similarly enduring combination of jazz with varying elements of pop, R&B, soul, bossa nova, and Latin music. There's Herbie Hancock's original version of "Watermelon Man"; Mongo Santamaria's instrumental "Yeh, Yeh!," later made into a vocal hit by Georgie Fame; Mel Tormé's anguished classic "Comin' Home Baby"; Jimmy Smith's cinematic "Walk on the Wild Side"; the Young-Holt Trio's exuberant soul-jazz novelty "Wack Wack"; Eddie Harris' interpretation of the film theme "Exodus"; Jimmy McGriff's explosive instrumental cover of Ray Charles' "I've Got a Woman"; Richard "Groove" Holmes' bopping cover of the overdone "Misty"; and even Nelson Riddle's "Route 66 Theme." The overriding common element is a catchy melody or riff, without compromising the straight jazz skills of the players. While some serious jazz buffs might scorn this set as sellout commercial fodder, in fact it's an exemplary anthology of the most accessible jazz of its era, and of jazz that crackled with pop appeal without losing its sense of swing or cool.

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