Mosaic Records Returns to The Classic Vee Jay Catalogue Chronicling the '59-'61 Sessions of Post Bop Pioneers Paul Chambers & Wynton Kelly
Mosaic Records is proud to announce the release of The Complete Vee Jay Paul Chambers-Wynton Kelly Sessions 1959-1961. The material included in the 6-CD set contains all of the recordings pianist Wynton Kelly and bassist Paul Chambers did together under their own leadership, as well as their sessions as sidemen with the excellent altoist Frank Strozier that features the stunning trumpet work of Booker Little. Sidemen on the various Kelly or Chambers-led sessions include such all-stars as reedmen Cannonball Adderley, Wayne Shorter and Yusef Lateef, trumpeters Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan and Tommy Turrentine, trombonist Curtis Fuller, and drummers Jimmy Cobb and Philly Joe Jones.
Just as most great baseball teams need a terrific keystone combo" at shortstop and second base, most great Jazz ensembles need their own top quality tandem on piano and bass. From 1959, as co-members of the incredible Miles Davis Sextet with Cannonball and Coltrane, and through much of the following decade, Wynton Kelly and Paul Chambers were as fine a pairing as one could hope to find, creating a unique groove that enhanced many top leaders musical endeavors.
Possessing the extraordinary ability to surrender entirely to the bandleader's vision while completely maintaining their own identities, and choosing the overall quality of the music over personal attention are the perfect characteristics of great sidemen, and Kelly and Chambers epitomized those qualities, while bringing their own brilliant musicality and versatility to each situation. But their formidable talents as leaders have often been overlooked. This set should go a long way in correcting that oversight.
Jamaican-born and Brooklyn-raised, Kelly made his first recordings for Blue Note Records in 1951, but didn't really receive serious notice until working with Dizzy Gillespie in the mid '50s, and soon began playing and recording with giants like J.J. Johnson, Sonny Rollins, Johnny Griffin and many more. He often accompanied singer Dinah Washington (beginning in the late '40s), but his greatest recognition came with Miles from 1959-63, and then guitar immortal Wes Montgomery after that. His brilliant style, described by Miles as a combination of Red Garland and Bill Evans" combined with his fine musicianship and delightful sense of swing, made him an excellent soloist, and some of his best trio work is contained on two full CDs in this set.
Chambers, born in Pittsburgh in 1935 and raised in Detroit, first played with many of the greats who came from that fertile musical environment like Donald Byrd, Pepper Adams, Elvin Jones and Tommy Flanagan, before joining Davis quintet in 1955. A regular member of most of John Coltrane's recording groups for Prestige Records, Chambers went on to arguably become the most recorded Jazz musician on any instrument from 1957 until 1965, when health problems set in.
In February of 1959, during a Chicago engagement shortly after Kelly joined the spectacular Davis Sextet, Chambers made his first recording for Vee Jay, Go," featuring his Davis bandmates Adderley, Kelly and Cobb, plus an emerging new talent, Freddie Hubbard.
Vee Jay, the Chicago-based label that made its mark in the more commercial Black music marketplace, but had just entered the Jazz field, showed a great recognition of talent by signing Kelly, Chambers, and Strozier, as well as Morgan and Shorter, the new front line of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. These men provided the nucleus for a number of fine recordings on Vee Jay during those years.
Mosaic's late 2000 release, The Complete Vee Jay Lee Morgan-Wayne Shorter Sessions, featuring all of their Vee Jay dates as leaders, did not include the August 1959 session that resulted in Kelly Great," which also includes Philly Joe on drums, and was Kelly's first album for Vee Jay. Other albums included in the set are 1959's Fabulous Frank Strozier," 1960's Kelly at Midnight" and Chambers lst Bassman," (featuring Fuller, Lateef, Turrentine and drummer Lex Humphries) and Kelly's 1961 trio albums Wynton Kelly!" and Someday My Prince Will Come." For most of the sessions Jimmy Cobb, who worked with Kelly and Chambers with both Miles and Montgomery and in many other situations, brings his own unique blend of impeccable taste and sensitive swing to the proceedings. A variety of alternate takes and tracks that had previously been only available on Japanese imports abound, totaling 74 tracks of exceptional music from a dynamically exciting era.
As always, exceptional care and tremendous detail have gone into this package. Producer Michael Cuscuna has beautifully transferred the material from the original tapes and masters, with top quality 24-bit mastering by engineer Malcolm Addey. The always outstanding accompanying booklet includes excellent Chuck Stewart photographs from the original sessions with additional photos by the legendary Francis Wolff, and contains detailed notes on each session.
But most importantly, this set does great justice to two of Jazz finest artists, both of whom left us tragically at terribly young ages (Chambers in 1969 at 33, and Kelly in 1971 at 39), but who left behind a legacy well served by the remarkable music contained in this set.
Mosaic Records will release The Classic Columbia Condon/Mob Sessions 1940-59 (8 CDs) in late April and The Complete Pacific Jazz Joe Pass Sessions (5 CDs) in July.