This album is more common in mono than stereo, but we found the sound of the mono pressing we played seriously wanting. It’s dramatically smaller and more squawky and crude than even the worst of the stereo pressings we played.
We had a copy we liked years ago but that was years ago. We don’t have that copy anymore and we don’t have a stereo that sounds the way our old one did either.
Michel Legrand rounded up 31 of the greatest jazz players of the ’50s, divided them up into three groups, and the result was this album, a landmark recording.
We’re talking jazz GIANTS: Coltrane, Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Ben Webster, Herbie Mann, Art Farmer, Donald Byrd, Phil Woods — everybody who was anybody is on this record.
Each of their unique voices contributes memorable solos, then receeds into the group to provide the structure for the rest of the music. Which is an awkward way of saying everybody does his thing in service to the song and then gets out of the way. The Jitterbug Waltz, which opens up side one, is a perfect example: the arrangement is completely original, and within its structure, Miles Davis, Phil Woods, John Coltrane and others solo beautifully, each taking a turn at the melody. If three minutes into this song you don’t like what you’re hearing, jazz is just not for you.
Check out Michel’s After The Rain album if you have a chance. It’s one of my favorite jazz LPs. As I say in the review, it’s pure magic.
A Big Group of Musicians Needs This Kind of Space
One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.
Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.
And most of the time those very special pressings are just plain more involving. When you hear a copy that does all that — a copy like this one — it’s an entirely different listening experience.
The Jitterbug Waltz
This is one of the best tracks on the album. If this first song doesn’t do it for you, you can save yourself the trouble of playing through the rest of the album.
A Night in Tunisia
This is the song I spoke about in my commentary concerning the brass. Four trumpets, two trombones, four saxes, (including Teo Macero on baritone!) and French horn make up the brass contingent, soloing and playing in every combination there is. To back them up we have rhythm, piano and vibes. That’s a lot to get right, and this song will help you distinguish more right from less right.
Blue and Sentimental
Stompin’ at the Savoy
Wild Man Blues
Don’t Get Around Much Anymore
In a Mist
Throughout this superlative album, the arrangements are colorful and unusual, making one wish that Legrand had recorded more jazz albums through the years.