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Paul Gonsalves: Tell It the Way It Is!

Familiar to stateside collectors are the Impulse! albums, Tell It the Way It Is! and Cleopatra-Feelin’ Jazzy, which were recorded in September and May 1963, respectively. This CD compilation opens with the Tell It… session, which brings together a personnel including Gonsalves, Hodges, Nance (who doubles on violin on “Duke’s Place”), trumpeter Rolf Ericson, a well-qualified Ellingtonian at that time, pianist Walter Bishop Jr., bassist and “Duke’s Place” vocalist Ernie Shepard and drummer Osie Johnson.

The lushly romantic, breathy sound that Gonsalves derived from his models, Ben Webster and Lucky Thompson, receives no competition from Hodges or any other hornman on the Cleopatra album, which was obviously conceived in response to the then vastly over-hyped, four-hour-long but visually breathtaking movie. Gonsalves is as lavishly self-indulgent in his tonal sensuality as was the beautiful Taylor in her evocation of the most opulent and politically ambitious tramp in history. Two of film composer Alex North’s themes, “Caesar and Cleopatra” and “Antony and Cleopatra,” open the proceedings, which then turn to such straightahead in-house originals as Burrell’s “Bluz for Liz” and “Cleo’s Asp,” Gonsalves’ “Cleo’s Blues,” “Ellington’s “Action In Alexandria,” which had been written expressly for the tenorman, and Albam’s “Cleopatra’s Lament.”

A bonus track from that session is Andre Previn’s ballad “Second Chance,” a number that may or may not have had anything to do with the original album’s theme. However, there is a curious thing about this pressing. Following “Second Chance,” instead of stopping, the disc continues with 1:16 minutes of silence, counter display ticking all the while, after which we hear 1:12 minutes worth of something that sounds like part of the “Antony and Cleopatra” theme. Of course, none of this has any bearing on the recorded quality of the performances that preceded this anomaly. It’s just unusual to come across a disc that gives us a little more than we actually expected.

Originally Published