April 1997

Quincy Jones
Q Live in Paris circa 1960
Qwest/Warner Bros.

This album helps explain why so many people who heard Jones' 18-piece "Free and Easy" band, and those who played in it, wish it had survived the demise of the Harold Arlen-Johnny Mercer musical. After the show folded in Paris in early 1960, Jones kicked off a European tour that included a concert at the Alhambra Theater in Paris. He hoped to save the band, but before the year was out, business was so bad that he had to give it up.

Decades later, nearly an hour of the Alhambra concert surfaced on a noisy bootleg CD. Cleaned up, remastered and legitimized on Jones' label, it is evidence of the musicianship, excitement, swing and just plain fun that radiated from a remarkable band of all-stars. Although in spirit it resembled the Count Basie band of the period, Jones' outfit exceeded Basie's in adventuresomeness.
Four of Jones' arrangements and one each by Al Cohn, Ernie Wilkins and Nat Pierce support solos by Clark Terry, Budd Johnson, Julius Watkins, Phil Woods, Quentin Jackson, Jerome Richardson, Benny Bailey and Melba Liston, among others. It is impossible not to single out Watkins' astonishing French horn solo on "Everybody's Blues" and the playing of Terry, Woods and bassist Buddy Catlett on "Walkin'." Those are high points, but all of the soloists are superb throughout.

The section work consistently achieves the elusive balance between crisp articulation and loose swing. The reeds flawlessly nail Jones' solid transcription of Clifford Brown's trumpet solo from the original Prestige recording of "Stockholm Sweetnin'." In a nice piece of concert programming, Clark Terry follows with "I Remember Clifford." The recording balance and sensitivity are better than one would expect from an ad hoc taping, good enough to let us hear the banter and merriment of the musicians enjoying themselves and one another. The collegial vitality of the ensemble and the good-natured aura of the evening leave the listener smiling, wishing that there were more live recordings of this remarkable band, regretting that Jones couldn't keep it together.

Originally published in April 1997
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