Ben Webster – See You at the Fair – Impulse/Universal/Analog Productions stereo-only SACD CIPJ 65 SA, 33.9 min. [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:
(Ben Webster, tenor sax; Hank Jones, piano; Roger Kellaway, piano & harpsichord; Richard Davis, bass; Osie Johnson, drums)
John Coltrane – Coltrane – Impulse/Universal/Analog Productions stereo-only SACD CIPJ 21 SA, 40:00 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:
(John Coltrane, tenor sax; McCoy Tyner, piano; Steve Davis, bass; Elvin Jones, drums)
These are both classic early 60s Impulse sessions which have been remastered for SACD by Acoustic Sounds. The Fair referred to in the Ben Webster album is the New York World’s Fair of 1964, and Webster was especially inspired by the Louisiana Pavilion there. The opener of the nine tracks here is an original blues in honor of the Fair. It’s gets a bit gutsy, but most of the other tunes are vehicles for the rich, fat lyricism of Ben Webster’s unique tenor sound.
Hank Jones is the superb pianist on four of the tracks, but equally adept Roger Kellaway is in for five tracks, although he plays harpsichord on Lullaby of Jazzland and While We’re Dancing. I’m a big fan of jazz harpsichord so I especially dug the unusual sound of these tracks. The rich realism of Webster’s sax is captured beautifully via SACD in such lyrical tracks as the familiar Stardust. In these sessions produced by Bob Thiele the sax is spotlit in the foreground with the keyboards and rhythm section definitely in the background.
Coltrane’s album for Impulse in Rudy Van Gelder’s new Englewood Cliffs studio was generally more conservative and straight-ahead than this previous work with Eric Dolphy in the quartet. (He returned to a more avant style again after 1965.) However, this is not true of the opening and by far longest track on the disc – Harold Arlen’s Out of This World. It’s a hot and vehement solo statement that goes on for 14 minutes (though part of that is an equally tough solo by Tyner). Coltrane sheds new light on two classics – one by Mal Waldron and the other by Frank Loesser, and then he rounds out the session with two of his own tunes: Tunji and Miles’ Mode. The latter is obviously a reference to the modal jazz style which Miles Davis popularized. Its improvisations are heard over a constantly churning rhythm section beat. This session was also produced by Bob Thiele, and it would have been nice if he had thought to include some sort of liner notes; there isn’t even a listing of the quartet members!
TrackList – Webster: See You at the Fair, Over the Rainbow, Our Love is Here to Stay, In a Mellow Tone, Lullaby of Jazzland, Stardust, Fall of Love, While We’re Dancing, Someone to Watch Over Me
TrackList – Coltrane: Out of This World, Soul Eyes, The Inch Worm, Tunji (Toon-gee), Miles’ Mode
— John Henry