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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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HAL McKUSICK

Four Classic Albums,
Second Set

AVID AMSC 1172

 

 

CD 1
1-10: ‘East Coast Jazz’
1. Taylor Made
2. You Don’t Know What Love Is
3. They Can’t Take That Away From Me
4. Lullaby For Leslie
5. Minor Matters
6. Blue-Who
7. By-Ian
8. What’s New
9. Interwoven
10. Give ‘Em Hal

Hal McKusick (alto sax, clarinet): Barry Galbraith (guitar): Milt Hinton (bass): Osie Johnson (drums) recorded NYC, 1955

11-20: ‘Featuring Art Farmer’
11. Down and Dirty
12. Alone Together
13. Criss Cross
14. Gone With The Wind
15. When Your Lover Has Gone
16. Pon-Su
17. Makin’ Whoopee
18. Isn’t It Romantic
19. For Art’s Sake
20. Old Devil Moon

Hal McKusick (alto sax, clarinet, bass clarinet): Art Farmer (trumpet): Eddie Costa (piano): Milt Hinton (bass): Gus Johnson (drums) recorded NYC, 1957

CD 2
1-11: ‘In A Twentieth Century Drawing Room’
1. My Inspiration
2. Gift Of The Magi
3. You’re A Lucky Guy
4. Can’t We Be Friends
5. Step Lively Osie
6. Minor Seventh Heaven
7. Theme
8. Alto Stratus
9. How Long Has This Been Going On
10. Brother Jack
11. Immortal

Hal McKusick (alto sax, clarinet): Barry Galbraith (guitar): Milt Hinton (bass): Osie Johnson (drums), Sol Gubin (drums) and string quartet, recorded NYC 1955
12-17: ‘Triple Exposure’
12. The Settlers And The Indians
13. I’m Glad There Is You
14. Something New
15. A Touch Of Spring
16. Blues Half-Smiling
17. Saturday Night

Hal McKusick (alto and tenor sax, clarinet): Billy Byers (trombone): Eddie Costa (piano): Paul Chambers (bass) Charlie Persip (drums) recorded NYC 1957

AVID AMSC 1172 [78:46 + 74:04]


Avid revisits Hal McKusick’s discography to create a CD twofer out of four LPs made between 1955 and 1957. In his section of the original sleeve note he is very clear that East Coast Jazz was an album somewhat in thrall to the precedent of Gerry Mulligan piano-less quartet. With guitarist Barry Galbraith, bassist Milt Hinton and drummer Osie Johnson McKusick conjures up ten tracks, seven of which were written by Manny Albam. McKusick’s pure-toned refined alto is a constant pleasure especially in ballads at which he excels. The contrapuntal lines established with Galbraith add a layer of density to the ensemble sound. Happily, his clarinet is as pure as his alto on his outings on the latter instrument. Much here is Mulligan and Giuffre-like stylistically but Albam’s superior, thematically interesting tunes give this date an individuality that doesn’t pall. His album featuring Art Farmer – where Eddie Costa is at the piano - sees more arrangements by Albam and also by Al Cohn. Farmer plays with expressive richness throughout and the arrangements allow both front-liners to dovetail or play unisons – and to swap trades - with great felicity. McKusick’s use of the bass clarinet and Farmer’s tightly muted work ensure a full, subtle range of colour on Old Devil Moon. The Curse of Avid strikes, though, as two tracks on this first CD are swapped. They’ve transferred the B side of the LP first, adding the A side later and somewhere down the line tracks 16 and 17 have done the dirty.

In A Twentieth Century Drawing Room – the allusion is hammered home - sees McKusick and confreres teamed with a cello quartet. This somewhat tricksy and of-its-time album has a certain genially swinging charm. Certain malleable, filmic elements – try Al Cohn’s Theme - give more ballast and Galbraith is a big support. Overall though this is a bit of a damp squib. Triple Exposure is a whole lot better – Billy Byers shares front line duties on trombone, Costa is back and he, Paul Chambers and Charlie Persip form the engine room. Swing comes easily and McKusick proves a fluent, if sometimes slightly predictable improviser. His clarinet playing betrays a Lester Young influence – all to the good, as far as I’m concerned - though Costa plays the stand-out solos, his most adventurous coming on McKusick’s composition Blues Half-Smiling. Byers often plays muted and he doesn’t get to stretch out too much.

These four LPs clearly contain inconsistencies. The album with Art Farmer is possibly the pick of the bunch but East Coast Jazz is not too far behind. McKusick is apt to be overlooked when thinking of great alto players of the mid-50s, so this competitively priced twofer gives a good opportunity to test his wares.

Jonathan Woolf



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