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Illinois Jacquet: The Kid and The Brute

The two long blues on which Ben Webster plays are by far the most exciting tracks. Opening the record on the first, he lays down a ferocious challenge, but Jacquet, who in no way appears intimidated by the huffing and puffing, replies in an alert, sparring fashion that contrasts his leaner sound effectively. Jacquet opens on the second, their subsequent exchanges having rare, toe-to-toe intensity, as befits two of the swingingest tenors there have ever been.

The other 13 tracks were made at two 1953-54 sessions with Jacquet’s regular group, in which pianist John Acea and drummer Osie Johnson are rewarding. Chano Pozo’s conga is added on a couple of numbers, as though Norman Granz were acknowledging a silly fashion prevalent among record producers at that time. The leader himself is excellent almost everywhere except when the bad tempo of “On Your Toes” (two takes!) defeats him. Ballads and blues, even a standard from Hawk territory (“It’s the Talk of the Town”), are all handled with taste and agility. “Blue Nocturne,” one of several originals for which he and Acea share credit, is a performance full, one might think, of hit potential, then and now.

The cardboard packaging used on this is, incidentally, much preferable to the clumsy “jewel” box, but why the tiny type when so much space is wasted on inferior art work, and why black type against grey-black backgrounds? Does Polygram have an optometric subsidiary?

Originally Published