Bill Smith: Folk Jazz (2003)
Those few who recognize Bill Smith probably remember the recordings he made with the Dave Brubeck quartet replacing Paul Desmond in the horn chair (and fewer still have probably actually heard these recordings.) Yet the presence of West Coast luminaries like Jim Hall, Monty Budwig, and Shelley Manne certainly offers the possibility of a little-heard West Coast gem in this 1959 recording. However, the interesting concept that inspires Folk Jazz, essentially jazz treatments of folk tunes, never actually turns into anything worthwhile. It was quite a risk to assume that slight material like “Three Blind Mice” and “Blow the Man Down” could ever be made into serviceable jazz, and most selections don’t swing so much as plod along. It would be interesting to see what would have happened had the group recorded an album’s worth of straightforward jazz instead of being locked into the concept. Smith is only an adequate soloist, and the rhythm section, who could have been the saving grace, founders sluggishly. The only one who seems to make any worthwhile contributions is Hall, who at this point in his career was doing brilliant work and was often the best part of the sessions he was on. In fact, Hall fans may be the only people interested in picking up this lackluster collection of bland cool jazz, and even they might want to pass.
Track Listing: 1. A-Roving 2. Greensleeves 3. Nobdy Knows the Trouble I've Seen 4. John Henry 5. Wayfaring Stranger 6. Three Blind Mice 7. Go Down, Moses 8. Blow the Man Down 9. Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair 10. Reuben, Reuben 11. Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen [Alternate Take 1] 12. Reuben, Reuben [Alternate Take 14].
Personnel: Bill Smith-clarinet; Jim Hall-guitar; Monty Budwig-bass; Shelley Manne-drums.