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Various Artists: Texas Tenors

Produced by Bob Porter, this lively collection presents a dozen different tenors and then ends with a bruising, twelve-minute contest entitled “Wide Open Spaces” between James Clay and David “Fathead” Newman. It opens with four of the best players: Illinois Jacquet, Arnett Cobb, Buddy Tate and Budd Johnson. Arnett on “Black Velvet” and Budd on “Serenade in Blue” steal the show artistically, but others do their big, tough-tones thing excitingly. The mix of blues and standards is smart. Johnny Hodges’ “Jeep’s Blues” is the surprising choice of King Curtis, “When You’re Smiling” of Jesse Powell. Powell and John Hardee were clearly among the best of underrated Texans. Notable accompanists include Tommy Flanagan, Barry Harris, Red Garland, Billy Kyle, Junior Mance, Wynton Kelly, T-Bone Walker, Joe Pass, George Duvivier, J.C. Heard and Paul Humphrey. Most of the recordings, from Prestige and associated labels, were made during the 1960s.

The personnel details are printed n tiny, white type on a marbled, black background, and they are hard to read. Why do the record companies persist in aggravating their customers in this way?

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