Two complete LPs from the defunct Famous Door label are reissued on this single CD, both featuring underrated horn players from the late '40s. Herbie Steward was one of Woody Herman's Four Brothers, but by the time he recorded in 1981 he was playing alto, soprano, and clarinet rather than tenor. Although he had been a studio musician for years, he could still swing well, as shown on such songs as "Take the 'A' Train" (taken as a waltz), "The Song Is You," and "Gone With the Wind." He is heard in a quintet also featuring guitarist Eddie Duran and either Smith Dobson or Tee Carson on piano.
This two-fer combines two of trumpeter/flügelhornist Clark Terry's albums for the Impulse! label: 1964's The Happy Horns of Clark Terry and 1967's It's What's Happenin'. Generally considered one of Terry's best '60s outings, The Happy Horns of Clark Terry is a jaunty, swinging affair that finds Terry joined by such names as saxophonists Phil Woods and Ben Webster, bassist Milt Hinton, and others. Featuring a lively take on Duke Ellington's "Rockin' in Rhythm," Bix Beiderbecke's "In a Mist," and even an Ellington medley, the album is a must-hear for Terry fanatics.
This album is billed as 'acid jazz', and if that's defined by hard-funkin' horns combined with modern beats, then this is certainly it. But it certainly doesn't fall into the usual image of acid jazz, as being sort of mellow and ambient. This is anything but mellow; in fact, it's easily the most lively of the JB Horns albums. Part of the reason the formula works so well here is that the drum programs are fortified with traditional funky instruments like the clavinet and Fender Rhodes. And Maceo himself gets down on the Hammond organ on several occasions in addition to blowing his horn. I would definitely recommend this CD to any Funkateer who loves hearing Maceo, Fred and Pee Wee blow their horns, particularly if they don't mind a little of that hip-hop flavor. It's a little less organic-sounding than their usual works, so jazz-oriented Funkateers might balk at the album's overall sound. It's slick, but not so slippery that you can't get both hands on the funk.
A portrait of the artist as a young man, The Nightfly is a wonderfully evocative reminiscence of Kennedy-era American life; in the liner notes, Donald Fagen describes the songs as representative of the kinds of fantasies he entertained as an adolescent during the late '50s/early '60s, and he conveys the tenor of the times with some of his most personal and least obtuse material to date. Continuing in the smooth pop-jazz mode favored on the final Steely Dan records, The Nightfly is lush and shimmering, produced with cinematic flair by Gary Katz; romanticized but never sentimental, the songs are slices of suburbanite soap opera, tales of space-age hopes (the hit "I.G.Y.") and Cold War fears (the wonderful "The New Frontier," a memoir of fallout-shelter love) crafted with impeccable style and sophistication.