What a magnificent idea. Stanley has always been regarded as one of the master ballad players, ever since he enchanted a generation with a few bars of Early Autumn with Woody in the Columbia studios on 27 December 1947. His talents in this direction were so great that, throughout his lifetime, his ability as a blues player was overlooked. The case was that he injected chunks of blues into almost everything, and the potent contrast in his ballads gave them their piquancy.
Here Acrobat have imaginatively roamed across the catalogues, sitting an obscurity from Roost or Prestige alongside Norman Granz’s finest – in fact seven out of the 12 tracks are plucked from Norman’s labels and several of those come from albums that you really ought to have.
At the time of its first release, Impromptu – taken so fast that only Alun Morgan could count the tempo – was regarded as in poor taste. I thought it stunning, and it remains one of the most breathtaking displays of jazz virtuosity, ranking with Tatum for the microscopically correct intonation in a hurricane by Stan, Dizzy, Oscar and Herb.
Stan was never without a wonderful pianist, and one of his finest and first was Al Haig, shepherding the junior boppers through their chorus-by-chorus modulations on Crazy Chords. Nails is the gargantuan blues (from Buster Harding) that originally let the Eddie Jones armada out on the Basie ocean. Here it’s slipped gently from the bassist towards Stan who plays beautiful simple blues across the whole band.
As you’d expect, every track is its own stand-out, but the classic concert with JJ Johnson at the Shrine in 1957 had to be represented by its greatest track, Billie’s Bounce. It’s lucky that Norman recorded that night, for the quintet never touched that height again.
Crazy Chords; (2) Navy Blue; (3) Jumpin’ With Symphony Sid; (4) Impromptu; (5) Nails; (6) Gladys; (7) Blues For Mary Jane; (8) Chocolate Sundae; (9) Billie’s Bounce; (10) Blues For Herky; (12) Crow’s Nest (77.34)
Getz (ts) with:
(1) Al Haig (p); Gene Ramey (b); Stan Levey (d). NYC 21 June 1949.
(2) Horace Silver (p); Joe Calloway (b); Walter Bolden (d). NYC 10 December 1950.
(3) Jimmy Raney (g); Al Haig (p); Teddy Kotick (b); Tiny Kahn (d). Boston, 28 October 1951.
(4) Dizzy Gillespie (t); Oscar Peterson (p); Herb Ellis (g); Ray Brown (b); Max Roach (d). LA, 9 December 1953.
(5) Count Basie Orchestra, NYC, 25 December 1954.
(6) Lionel Hampton (vbs); Lou Levy (p); Leroy Vinnegar (b); Shelly Manne (d). LA, 1 August 1955.
(7) Lou Levy (p); Leroy Vinnegar (b); Stan Levey (d). 24 November 1956.
(8) Harry Edison (t); Gerry Mulligan (bs); Oscar Peterson (p); Herb Ellls (g); Ray Brown (b); Louie Bellson (d). LA, 1 August 1957.
(9) Jay Jay Johnson (tb); Oscar Peterson (p); Herb Ellis (g); Ray Brown (b); Louie Bellson (d). LA, 7 October 1957.
(10) Oscar Peterson (p); Herb Ellls (g); Ray Brown (b). LA, 10 October 1957.
(11) Roy Eldridge (t); Herb Ellis (g); Ray Brown (b); Stan Levy (d). LA, 11 October 1957.
(12) Cal Tjader (vib); Vince Guaraldi (p); Eddie Duran (g); Scott LaFaro (b); Eddie Higgin (d). San Francisco, 8 February 1958.
Acrobat ACMCD 4398