Music Reviews - Jazz/Concord and Rhythm Willie: Herb Ellis (DVD-Audio)

      Date posted: March 20, 2004

Herb Ellis - Concord

Herb Ellis, guitar; Joe Pass, Guitar; Ray Brown, bass;
Jake Hanna, drums
Hi-Res Music HRM 2006 DVD-Audio 96/24 Stereo
from Concord analog 15 IPS masters

Rhythm Willie
Herb Ellis, guitar; Freddie Green, rhythm guitar; Ray Brown, bass; Jake Hanna, drums; Ross Tompkins,piano
Hi-Res HRM 2010 DVD-Audio
96/24 Stereo from Concord
analog 15 IPS masters

About as amiable as it gets, this session from 1974 has been remastered to DVD-A from the analog stereo tapes, and presents 9 standards, ranging from The Shadow of Your Smile to Love For Sale, with Herb Ellis playing most of the lead guitar at left, but with Joe Pass embroidering, underlining, and sweetening with much more than rhythm guitar. Ray Brown provides bass leadership, as is his wont, while Jake Hanna keeps the rhythm strong with his drum kit through all the electric guitar doodling.

The music is engaging through this 35-minute set, though I wouldn�t call it “one of the greatest recordings I�ve ever heard”, as did Carl Jefferson, the moving force behind Concord Jazz and the Concord Summer Festival. It was recorded at the “Wally Hyder” Studio in LA, and sounds a little too studio, lacking dynamics and fire, but is full of infectious playing. I listened for comparison to Bill Evans Trio at Shelley�s Manne Hole”, recorded in 1969 by Heider (correct spelling) and team, with Larry Bunker, drums, and Chuck Israels, bass. This is a substantially better sounding recording even on CD (JVC XRCD), and I would welcome a DVD-A or SACD release from the original analog tapes. There is, however, lots to enjoy in Jazz/Concord without truly transparent sound.

Rhythm Willie, though released in 1975, could have come from the same sessions, although the addition of pianist Ross Tompkins brings more energy to the proceedings. The tunes are not all as familiar, which may leave more room for Ellis to stretch, and engage in some really interesting interchanges of creativity with Tompkins, while Green maintains the momentum as strictly rhythm guitarist. This allows Ray Brown to come to the fore frequently with solos, and he�s at his best here. To complete the propulsion, Tompkins� stride style works well with Ellis�s energy, heard best in A Smooth One (there are no writing credits anywhere in the package, by the way, an odd omission for a jazz label like Concord).

     Andrew Marshall

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