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Gene Ammons: Greatest Hits - The 50s

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Album Review

Ten long years after the release of Gene Ammons' Greatest Hits, Vol. 1: The Sixties, the de facto second volume finally emerged in 1998, summing up the 1950s on a single disc of short-play singles and long, glorious blowing sessions. The three singles, all succinct little summaries of progressive bop, cover the years 1950 and 1955, and then the real meat and potatoes kick in: five extended tracks (including the definitive jam of this period, "The Happy Blues") with plenty of ecstatic blowing room for Jackie McLean's alto, Art Farmer and Donald Byrd's trumpets, and Mal Waldron's piano. Throughout, Ammons' massive, booming tone hovers over the disc like a majestic yet benign presence, always funky, always in charge. Unlike the first volume, Greatest Hits: The 50s is sequenced in chronological order, which makes more programmatic sense, and almost all of Ammons' Prestige LPs from the '50s are touched upon. With this release, Vol. 1, and Greatest Hits: The 70s, you can acquire a decent overview of the soulful Ammons mystique. ~ Richard S. Ginell, Rovi


Born: April 14, 1925 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s

Gene Ammons, who had a huge and immediately recognizable tone on tenor, was a very flexible player who could play bebop with the best (always battling his friend Sonny Stitt to a tie) yet was an influence on the R&B world. Some of his ballad renditions became hits and, despite two unfortunate interruptions in his career, Ammons remained a popular attraction for 25 years. Son of the great boogie-woogie pianist Albert Ammons, Gene Ammons (who was nicknamed "Jug") left Chicago at age 18 to work with...
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