Two new releases from V.S.O.P Records to recommend…
The Doug Webb Quartet – Sets the Standard – VSOP 128CD, 59:10 (3/18/16) ****:
(Doug Webb – tenor sax, soprano sax; stritch; Alan Broadbent – piano; Putter Smith – bass; Paul Kreibich – drums)
The American Jazz Quintet – Gulf Coast Jazz – Wade in the Water – VSOP 129CD, 43:59 (1959) ****:
(Ellis Marsalis, Jr. – piano; Harold Battiste – tenor sax; Alvin Batiste – clarinet; Ed Blackwell – drums; Richard Payne or William Swanson – bass)
V.S.O.P Records is a small label run by Peter Jacobson out of San Diego. They have an eclectic catalog of jazz releases both on their own label as well as from boutique labels such as Mode, Studio West, and Tampa Records. Their West Coast jazz releases have long been a favorite of mine and I especially prize issues from Pete Jolly, Frank Rosolino, and Marty Paich.
Their latest releases, available March 18, 2016, are from LA-based saxophonist Doug Webb, as well as a follow-up release from The American Jazz Quintet (out of New Orleans) from 1959 that concentrates on jazz interpretations of gospel and spiritual music.
The Doug Webb set was recorded on May 26, 2014 at the conclusion of a West Coast jazz weekend sponsored by the LA Jazz Institute (See our review of last years’ event.) Pianist Alan Broadbent was present for the Memorial Day weekend event of 2014, and the opportunity to record with Alan was too good to pass up for Webb, as Broadbent is among the very best piano accompanists anywhere. His work with Charlie Haden’s Quartet West is testament to his intuitive skills in helping to interpret standards and especially ballads.
Webb is a first choice saxophone sideman for LA-based sessions and his own CDs on PosiTone Records have elicited critical acclaim. On Sets the Standard, Webb concentrates on well known standards (with the exception of “These Things” which he composed). Backed by veteran bassist Putter Smith, and drummer, Paul Kreibich, Webb gets to explore such well known classics as “My Shining Hour,” “Chelsea Bridge,” and Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz.” His tone on the stritch (a straight alto sax also once played by Roland Kirk) on “Trouble Is a Man” shows his mastery of this instrument, which on a ballad can be an issue. He gives a very tender reading of this Alec Wilder tune.
“Little Girl Blue” a duet with Broadbent defines beauty as both men caress the melody, and only Hank Jones comes to mind as an accompanying pianist of such exquisite taste. “Jitterbug Waltz” is a feature for soprano sax, and it whets the appetite for more soprano features from Doug on future releases.
With musicians of this caliber it is no surprise that all the issued tracks were first takes.
We reviewed Gulf Coast Jazz – Vol. 1 last June and I wondered at that time what Peter Jacobson, VSOP owner, had in mine for future releases. The Vol. 1 indication should have been a clue that there was more to come from The American Jazz Quintet. Made up of New Orleans stalwarts that all went on to full careers, these 1959 sessions were an early indication of their talents. We all know about Ellis Marsalis, Jr., father to Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo, and Jason. He is still active, but is perhaps better known as a jazz educator. Reed players Harold Battiste and Alvin Batiste were both legends in New Orleans, but less known country wide. Drummer Ed Blackwell went on to acclaim in avant circles as a drummer for John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman.
As Vol. 1 was composed of original compositions, Wade In the Water is made up of gospel and spiritual arrangements of well-known tunes. The quintet, however, puts their own interpretations on these familiar numbers. Whether it be the freer tenor saxophone of Harold Battiste on “Wade in the Water” or the more upfront bass and drum-driven take on “I Got Shoes”, the quintet gives a contemporary feel (still fresh after 35+ years) to gospel standards. Even “The Saints”, perhaps the most well known New Orleans jazz tune of all time, is vibrant with Alvin Batiste’s clarinet leading the way with Ed Blackwell asserting himself on the drums. Alvin Batiste stands out the most, getting strong features, on “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” and his own “Valse de Batiste” providing clear evidence.
Might there be a Vol. 3? Doubtful, but I sure wish there were more releases from this quintet. They did regroup in 1987,and recorded another album then. Hopefully there is another hidden session somewhere out there. (Peter, start looking…)
TrackList – Sets the Standard:
My Shining Hour, Trouble is a Man, Star Eyes, Little Girl Blue, These Things, Gone With the Wind, Jitterbug Waltz, Chelsea Bridge, Ask Me Now, I Remember You
TrackList – Wade in the Water:
Wade in the Water, Lil’ David, I Got Shoes, When the Saints, Nigeria, Reminiscence, Sinner Don’t Let This Harvest Pass, Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen,Valse de Batiste, Harold’s Church
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