Jazz trumpeter Chet Baker explored a rich catalog of Broadway show tunes on Plays the Best of Lerner & Lowe. The album’s eight tunes were selected from four different productions, all scored by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe. Half of them came from My Fair Lady, two from Brigadoon, and one each from Gigi and Paint Your Wagon. The tracks were recorded over the course of two days in July, 1959. It’s a tight 43 minutes, with only the eight-minute-plus “On the Street Where You Live” allowing some leg room for the soloists.
The rhythm section consists of bass by Earl May and drums by Clifford Jarvis. The drummer was not yet 18, with these sessions marking Jarvis’ debut as a session player. Piano duties are split down the middle between Bob Corwin and Bill Evans. Allowing for shifting textures, Herbie Mann can be heard playing various flutes on three tracks and tenor sax on two. His tightly restrained alto flute solo on “I Talk to the Trees” exemplifies the taste he displays throughout. Zoot Sims mainly sticks with tenor, though he steps out on alto sax for a superbly sweet-toned solo on the album-closing “Show Me.” Pepper Adams anchors the album on baritone sax.
Teaming up for a session in October 1958, alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley and vibraphonist Milt Jackson laid down the joyful Things Are Getting Better over the course of one day. Backing the co-leaders on this date are Wynton Kelly on piano, Percy Heath on bass, and Art Blakey on drums. The original vinyl release contained seven cuts, expanded on earlier reissues with the addition of two alternate takes (“Serves Me Right” and “The Sidewalks of New York”). Those tunes repeat on this latest remaster.
Jackson rather dominates out of the gate with a stirring solo on his own “Blues Oriental,” but Adderley asserts his own confident authority soon enough. Adderley’s title tune is a terrific slice of the feel-good soul jazz for which the sax man was so well known. A playful take on Dizzy Gillespie’s bebop classic “Groovin’ High” features effortlessly deft solos by both co-headliners. The naked sax intro on “Sounds for Sid” (dedicated, according to Orrin Keepnews, to a favorite disc jockey of Adderley’s) is one of the most thrilling moments on the 53-minute disc. The rest of the band stays relatively out of the spotlight, though pianist Wynton Kelly gets in some killer licks on the finale, an uptempo take on Cole Porter’s “Just One of the Those Things.”
Mulligan Meets Monk is a self-explanatory title for the collaboration between pianist Thelonious Monk and baritone sax legend Gerry Mulligan. Billed as “jazz without coasts or borders,” this 1957 release marked the meeting of Monk’s East Coast jazz sensibilities with Mulligan’s West Coast style. The original six album tracks are augmented here by four previously-available alternate takes. Filling out the quartet for this album are Wilbur Ware on bass and Shadow Wilson on drums. Wilson was just shy of two years away from his untimely death at age 39 when these tracks were laid down.
Of the tunes selected, authorship tips heavily toward Monk, with four being his handiwork. Only one Mulligan original, “Decidedly,” appears. Theirs was an unlikely pairing, two distinctly different musical visions that could’ve easily clashed. Instead, everything was beautifully simpatico. Monk and Mulligan’s obvious respect for one another can be heard throughout these exciting musical explorations. The steady build-up of Mulligan’s dominant solo on “Straight, No Chaser” (the album version) gives way to a tasteful passage by Ware before Monk says everything needs to in just over a minute. It’s a masterful performance, arguably the highpoint of a great album.