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The Best of Benny Golson

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Album Review

Benny Golson's acclaim as a player and composer is widespread in the jazz community, and this collection has been issued as part of a celebration of his eightieth birthday. It bookends his career, with many large ensemble selections from 1957 and 1958 in his pre-Jazztet days, and a few cuts from the 1980s onward with a second edition of the Jazztet, and select small combos. Trumpeter Art Farmer was his longtime partner in the original Jazztet, and he is featured, as is trombonist Curtis Fuller, the one musician who has worked with Golson through his entire career. Surprisingly, this reissue featuring nine tracks includes only six of the dozens of songs written by Golson, two standards, and a prototypical hard bop, stereo separated composition of Gigi Gryce, "Reunion," with an immortal democratic sextet featuring Max Roach, J.J. Johnson, and Kenny Dorham. While not a definitive "best-of" compilation, it does offer an interesting mix as to why Benny Golson is one of the all-time great jazz artists in the second half century of the music. The late-'50s sessions are the most valuable, and include the all-time classic "Whisper Not," a light blue traipse with a nonet, the elegant bopper "Are You Real?," and the basic 12-bar tiptoe tune "Blues After Dark," all signifying the epitome of cool. Fuller's presence is undeniable as Golson's main foil on most of the six tracks from his early years, especially during the cover of "I Didn't Know What Time It Was," with ultimately passive voicings from the horns jolted by an occasional quick 3/4 burst, and swimming with Detroit masters Tommy Flanagan on his ever vivacious and classy piano, and bassist Doug Watkins for a ballad treatment of "April in Paris." The final three selections are from 1986, 1997, and 2004, including a revived and spirited Jazztet with Fuller and Farmer on a live nine-and-a-half minute version of "Along Came Betty," a two-tenor infused studio version of "Five Spot After Dark" with Ron Blake, and the all-time hit "Killer Joe" with muted trumpeter Eddie Henderson ably abetting Golson in a composed display of reserved watching and warning — keep at least one eye open for that devilish "Killer Joe"! Pianist Mike LeDonne cut his teeth with Golson, and is a standout on the final two selections. Without the Argo/Chess and Mercury label recordings of the Jazztet, his contributions as a member of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, or many other great compositions Golson has written, this cannot be a comprehensive greatest-hits package, but it does serve as a very good primer for those who have still not yet discovered what a grand master he truly is. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi


Born: 25 January 1929 in Philadelphia, PA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Benny Golson is a talented composer/arranger whose tenor playing has continued to evolve with time. After attending Howard University (1947-1950) he worked in Philadelphia with Bull Moose Jackson's R&B band (1951) at a time when it included one of his writing influences, Tadd Dameron on piano. Golson played with Dameron for a period in 1953, followed by stints with Lionel Hampton (1953-1954), and Johnny Hodges and Earl Bostic (1954-1956). He came to prominence while with Dizzy Gillespie's globetrotting...
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The Best of Benny Golson, Benny Golson
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