Joe Newman, Thad Jones (tp), Al Grey (tb), Frank Wess (ts, fl), Billy Mitchell, Frank Foster (ts), Barry Harris, Jimmy Jones (p), Freddie Green (g), Eddie Jones (b), Sonny Payne, Jo Jones (d), Beverly Kenney (vcl)
Reference: FSRCD 947
Bar code: 8427328609470
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The hallmark of The Basie Band, one of the greatest of all big jazz bands since the latter Thirties, was a propulsive rhythm section and soloists of stature and individuality.
How High the Moon, a mid-western session recorded in 1959 for the Jubilee label, when all The Basie-ites were still sitting in with the Big Band, piles on further proof that the rating is deserved.
Here is the famed rhythm section with Barry Harris, a fine pianist, in for the Count. Freddie Green on guitar, Eddie Jones on bass and Sonny Payne, drums, fill another chapter in the torrid tale that spells out the magic of their swinging beat.
The rest of Basie-ites, the saxophones of Billy Mitchell and Frank Foster, Frank Wess flute, Joe Newman and Thad Jones on trumpet and Al Grey, trombone, find full freedom to blow. Each is spotlighted.
On the other tracks of this collection, a smaller group of Basie-ites, but with Jimmy Jones on piano and Jo Jones on drums, accompanied Beverly Kenney on a 1956 recording for the Roost label. Beverly was a jazz singer, with all the particular qualities, all the necessary touches of huskiness and heart, beat and originality of phrase that identify a singer of jazz. With Joe Newman and Frank Wess on tenor and flute to develop counter-melodies and set down obbligatos, to fill out the ensemble and to strike out for themselves in fresh, free-wheeling solos, the rhythm section—and Beverly—can always depend upon plenty of help.
"Two mainstream small groups with the added benefit of one of the best jazz singers of the mid-1950s. The (1) tracks have the Basie rhythm section with Jimmy Jones in for the Count and their surging swing is a joy. Newman and Grey have several well-taken solos and they and Wess elsewhere ably support the singer. The slightly larger instrumental line-up on the (2) tracks, with Harris in for Jones, has the same flowing swing and many more solo spots for the frontliners.
The definition of a jazz singer then was much narrower than today yet Kenney delighted audiences and critics and especially fellow musicians. Only 24 when this set was recorded, despite her youth she displays a complete grasp of the form. Bill Reed writes extensively about her (chilledairtext.blogspot.co.uk/), quoting from a 1957 interview with Julie London who, citing Kenney among her favourite singers, declares: “I dig her because, well, she phrases like mad. She sings in tune, too; matter of fact, she sings like a musician.”
The last of these qualities is Kenney’s appeal as she allies this musicianship to a youthfully gleaming vocal sound that points her toward greatness. Sadly, it was not to be as she was showing signs of what today might be more readily identified as clinical depression. Four years after this recording she took a lethal combination of alcohol and Seconal. What she would have become had she gained maturity can only be speculated upon, but her death at 28 was clearly a great loss to jazz. The (2) tracks were originally released as How High The Moon; the (1) tracks as Beverly Kenney. Had this reissue included two Kenney albums the star rating would be a definite five. Derek Ansell did a profile on Kenney in JJ February 2013, following two Kenney issues on Fresh Sound in 2012."
Jazz Journal (February, 2017)
"Taking a day off from touring with Count Basie, members of The Atomic Band such as Joe Newman-Thad Jones/tp, Al Grey/tb, Frank Wess/fl, Billy Mitchell-Frank Foster/ts, Freddie Green/g, Eddie Jones/b and Sonny Payne got together with pianists Barry Harris or Jimmy Jones as well as vo-cool vocalist Beverly Kenney for some swinging sounds.
Kenney’s overlooked career has been revisited by Fresh Sound Records in the past, making this set with a large handful of songs by the vocalist all the more rich. She sounds wonderfully ironic on “A Fine Romance” and “Makin’ Whoopee” and sounding West Coast cool during “Isn’t This a Lovely Day” and a delightful “Old Buttermilk Sky.” Grey gets featured on a rich “ When I Think About Lovin’ You” and “September Song” and gets joined in by Joe Newman on a boppy “How High the Moon.” The rhythm section has the pulse of a long distance runner, steady and reliable. Relaxed, casual and as warm as 5 year old Bass Weejuns."
George W. Harris (February 18, 2018)