Every great jazz musician has a handful of albums that stand out even above their vast catalog of superb works. I call these sweet spot" recordings, which feed right into what you love best about the artist. Guitarist Mundell Lowe is no exception. According to Tom Lord's Jazz Discography, he has recorded on more than 360 known jazz sessions, and many of those albums are first rate. One of my favorites is Souvenirs: A Tribute to Nick Ceroli (Jazz Alliance).
Recorded in two sessions nearly 15 years apart (1977 and 1992), the first features Mundell with Bob Magnusson (bass) and Nick Ceroli (drums). The second is a collection of four duets—two with Magnusson and two with Mike Wofford (piano). Between the two dates in 1985, Ceroli, Mundell's pal from the Merv Griffin Show, died. Ceroli was a leading West Coast TV studio drummer and big band jazz drummer in the 1960s and '70s. He also toured with pop artists such as Vicki Carr, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme.
What I love about this album is the ability to hear Mundell's chord voicings and improvised lines distinctly, without much else going on to cloud the joy of his art. Here you have Mundell out in the open—either swinging hard or playing ballads beautifully. Souvenirs is like an oil portrait that gives you a chance to see how the artist handles facial features, hands and an expression. Mundell's entire technique arsenal is on display. And dig what he does with Sonny Rollins' St. Thomas and Miles Davis's Star People. Man, oh, man!
JazzWax tracks: You'll find the tracks for Mundell Lowe's first Souvenirs session (1977) here. (P-Town is called Lester Young on the download.) The 1992 tracks aren't in print.
JazzWax clip: Here's Mundell and Nick Ceroli (drums) with Bill Barry (trumpet), Lou Levy (piano) and Monty Budwig (bass)...