Lennie Niehaus's first album is his most intimate. The music is rich in the colorful, complex writing that he would pursue on larger canvases as his career progressed, while the compact sound of a quintet focuses attention on Niehaus the fluent, Parker-inspired yet quite personal alto saxophonist. What emerges are well-balanced performances from two distinct ensembles. Eight tracks recorded in 1954 upon Niehaus's discharge from Fort Ord, California (where he met fellow soldier and future collaborator Clint Eastwood) comprised a debut 10-inch LP and feature an inspired three-saxophone front line with Jack Montrose and Bob Gordon, plus the great Monty Budwig/Shelly Manne rhythm section. Four additional titles by a 1956 unit with Manne, Stu Williamson, Hampton Hawes, and Red Mitchell were added for 12-inch release, and represent Niehaus, a paragon of West Coast jazz, in his most East Coast mood.
with Jack Montrose, Bob Gordon, Monty Budwig, Shelly Manne, Stu Williamson, Hampton Hawes, Red Mitchell