Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2024 February 19 • Monday

The 818th Soundtrack of the Week is a bit different, being a Billy Taylor group playing Jimmy Jones's jazz arrangements of Richard Adler's music for the Broadway musical Kwamina.

There's quite a group here: Billy Taylor on piano, as well as leading the ensemble, plus Clark Terry on trumpet and flugelhorn, Jimmy Cleveland on trombone, Julius Watkins on French horn, Jay McAllister on tuba, Phil Woods on alto sax, Frank Wess on tenor sax, Jerome Richardson on baritone sax, Les Spann on guitar, George Duvivier on bass and Osie Johnson on drums.

The record kicks off with "Something Big", a breezy and swinging "Old Devil Moon"-ish tune that ought to elevate anyone's mood. I can't listen to this without snapping my fingers. Taylor takes a great solo.

"I'm Seeing Rainbows" starts with some startling drum work from Johnson before settling into a fairly uptempo and energetic jazz groove. The melody reminded me a bit of "Just You, Just Me".

This is followed by "Ordinary People", a tender ballad that features Phil Woods and, according to the liner notes, took eleven takes and two hours to get.

Cha-cha rhythm and a bit of Mancini-ish whimsy infect "The Cocoa Bean Song", which benefits greatly from Osie Johnson on the drums. Taylor plays wonderfully as well with a bright, light and cheerful touch that might remind you of Vince Guaraldi.

The first album side closes with "What's Wrong With Me", which lets Phil Woods cut loose on a brisk, driving yet relaxed piece that has some West Coast jazz energy in it.

Flip the record and first up is "Nothing More To Look Forward To", a soulful and swinging number with a but of a New Orleans feel to it.

"Another Time, Another Place" has a Cole Porter meets Duke Ellington sort of shape and lets Jimmy Cleveland step out on the trombone, as well as Mr. Woods again on the alto. Les Spann gets a nice guitar break too! And Taylor has a relentless and brilliant piano solo

Then it's ballad time again with "Happy Is the Cricket", a delicate and beautiful piece in which Taylor's piano is mesmerizingly lovely.

Finally there's "Sun Is Beginning To Crow", another gloriously swinging tune, definitely ending on a high and letting the baritone sax take the spotlight also. It's a mystery to me why these tunes aren't standards. I don't think I'd ever heard any of them before, and that's just bizarre.