Gerald Wiggins, a quintessential sideman figure on the West Coast jazz scene, played piano with a dexterity and facile skill that easily rivaled the witty speed of Oscar Peterson and the soulful playfulness of Erroll Garner. This was readily acknowledged by his peers in California, but not heard by the jazz world at large until this, his debut U.S. recording, originally for the Dig label owned by the legendary Johnny Otis. With former Nat King Cole bassist Joe Comfort and then emerging jazz drummer Bill Douglas, Wiggins did this session in 1956, and it is a straight reissue of those tracks, with no extra material, at the LP length of just under 40 minutes. Wiggins generally goes back and forth from upbeat post-bop to mellow and sweet easy swingers -- there's little middle ground. The tunes that fly by very quickly include standards "Love for Sale," "Surrey with the Fringe on Top," the quick, popping "Three Little Words" and the Wiggins original "DeSilva Wig" for jazz DJ Walt DeSilva. On these, the trio is, well, wiggin' out! The slower numbers are also done with a taste and refinement exclusive of much older players, but Wiggins has selected some numbers off the beaten path. Duke Ellington's lovable "I Don't Know What Kind of Blues I Got," is somewhat obscure, a delicate read of "The Man That Got Away" is not the best known Harold Arlen tune, and the warhorse "Dinah" is taken at an unusually slow pace, with Wiggins inserting stride references astutely reminiscent of Garner. "Laura" is nice and elegant, but shows the lounge side of Wiggins in a less typical or rote fashion. Comfort and Douglas sound great together, as their finely crafted and in-tune collaboration supporting Wiggins cannot be overlooked. The shortness of this program might be an issue for bargain hunters, but this is an historical document marking the emergence of one of the true unsung heroes in modern mainstream small group piano jazz, and is an item all should find easy to love.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos
feat: Gerald Wiggins Trio