A leading African-American West Coast session man (and leader) in the 1950s, bassist Curtis Counce (1926-1963) made some excellent recordings. The best is probably Landslide (1956) in which he fronted a quintet featuring trumpeter Jack Sheldon, tenorist Harold Land, pianist Carl Perkins and drummer Frank Butler.
The same personnel appear on this album, now reissued on high-quality “heavy duty” vinyl, with the original (and judicious) sleeve notes by Nat Hentoff. The decidedly non-PC cover of a young female doctor ecstatically listening to her heart beats with a stethoscope pushed under her open shirt has aroused some controversy. But that’s enough of that already.
On a blend of standards and original compositions, the co-equals demonstrate their evident rapport and inventiveness. The sometimes underrated Sheldon and Land are perfect foils, best illustrated on a lengthy and unique version of Stranger In Paradise. A Counce original – Complete – is kicked off by Butler and the always reliable Perkins, with the horns exchanging delicate choruses. A more introspective Counceltation, the other Counce composition, is equally satisfying. On How Deep Is The Ocean, Land and Sheldon again share the honours with ruminative solos.
A sprightly, uptempo Too Close For Comfort opens with the melody stated by Perkins and approving comments from the horns, with Counce and Butler maintaining a gently propulsive backing. The long Big Foot (9.04), a Parker original, has graceful solos from all concerned. In fact, every track offers satisfying blends of 1950s bop with what would soon be called “mainstream”. Whatever the label, this is high-quality and extremely enjoyable music.
At the conclusion of his sleeve note Hentoff stressed the group identity of these talented musicians, as well as their individual personalities. He concluded “The whole, in so far as creative jazz combos are concerned, is not so much greater than the sum of its parts but is a further entity and extension of expression in addition to its parts.” He was (and still is) right.
Complete; How Deep Is The Ocean; Too Close for Comfort; Mean To Me (22.45) – Stranger In Paradise; Counceltation; Big Foot (22.10)
Jack Sheldon (t); Harold Land (ts); Carl Perkins (p); Counce (b); Frank Butler (d). Los Angeles, 8 & 15 October, 1956; 22 April 1957; 13 May & 3 September 1957.
Contemporary Records CR00389