Gene Ammons was a deeply soulful tenor saxophonist of many gifts: a large and lustrous tone, an utter mastery of the blues and its offshoots (R&B, soul-jazz), a firm, direct sense of swing, the harmonic knowledge and technical facility to handle bebop's demands, and a ballad style that compellingly approached, but never crossed, the line between sentiment and sentimentality. Spanning the years 1954 to 1970, this set features Ammons (1925-1974) leading five different groups, including three separate quartets, a septet, and an 11-piece band. The latter ensemble, arranged by Oliver Nelson, soars on "The Song Is You," graced by one of the finest solos of Ammons's estimable career. Elsewhere, the boss tenor receives excellent support from such important piano modernists as Wynton Kelly and Mal Waldron. And veteran rock fans might take note of the operatic ballad "Cara Mia." It's the same song that in 1965 became a pop smash for Jay and the Americans. Here it receives a tender reading by a 1954 Ammons septet.
The Song Is You, Light'n Up, Short Stop, They Say You're Laughing at Me, Salome's Tune, Blue Coolade, A Stranger in Town, Scam, Count Your Blessings, Cara Mia, Night Lights, Nature Boy, Calypso Blues
with Bob Ashton, George Barrow, Patti Bown, George Brown, Henry "Pucho" Brown, Henderson Chambers, Rudy Collins, Hobart Dotson, George Duvivier, Gene Easton, Bill English, Red Holloway, John Houston, Wynton Kelly, Wendell Marshall, Oliver Nelson, Walter Perkins, Ben Steuberville, Clark Terry, Ed Thigpen, Mal Waldron, Nate Woodward, Richard Wyands