The Giants of Jazz imprint sometimes gets it exactly right, and this is a case in point. Buddy DeFranco -- a subject of one of Mosaic Records famous limited-edition box sets -- is one of the great underappreciated clarinet players in the history of the music. Using it as his primary instrument, he was every bit as technically gifted as Art Pepper on the instrument, and more so than Woody Herman. DeFranco expanded the vocabulary for the clarinet, using it as a powerful and delightful tool of complex improvisation and freewheeling creativity. These 15 cuts with the genius hard bop pianist Sonny Clark, bassist Gene Wright, and drummer Bobby White, lay down some seriously swinging hard pop, ballads and standards, that walk the line between past and present, and even future. The nostalgic sound of the clarinet is present near the beginning, but fades almost immediately as the two frontline players go head to head with knotty call and response work on Clark's "Cable Car," and DeFranco's "The Bright One" and especially on Gene DePaul's stunner "I'll Remember April," which moves right through the heart of bebop while keeping the deft, turn-on-a-dime swing even when the pedal is to the metal. But the depth of melodic improvisation can really be heard on tunes like Johnny Mercer's "Laura," or Peter de Rose's "Deep Purple," or even George Gershwin's "Foggy Day," where Clark uses dissonance in counterpoint. This is a beautiful set, and one that should be heard by all serious Clark fans, as well as by those who've been intrigued by DeFranco.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek