Jazz CD Reviews
The Best of Benny Golson – compilation – Concord Original Jazz Classics
Published on March 17, 2009
(Benny Golson, tenor sax; with Art Blakey, Paul Chambers, Tommy Flanagan, Barry Harris, J.J. Johnson, Wynton Kelly, Arthur Taylor, others)
What a welcome antidote this collection is to the preponderance of jazz today that seems to have forgotten what good melodies and interesting arrangements are! Benny Golson never forgot, from the start his compositions – heavily featured on this CD – contrast terrific and catchy melodies with fascinating harmonic underpinnings and plenty of tempi contrasts. Many of his over 200 compositions have become jazz standards – just look at this nine-track playlist.
Golson and his music were central to the Spielberg/Tom Hanks film The Terminal. The Eastern European emigrant stuck in Kennedy Airport came here to get Golson’s autograph which his father had attempted to do years earlier and failed. Golson paid his dues with a wild variety of bands, including Earl Bostic, Tiny Grimes, John Coltrane, Quincy Jones, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, and his own famous Jazztet.
The disc spans Golson’s recordings from 1957 to 2004. The first three tracks are mono, and things spring into life stereowise with Blues After Dark, Golson front-lining with trombonist Curtis Fuller. On Along Came Betty, which tune helped reinvigorate the Jazz Messengers, the front line of Fuller and Golson is join by Art Farmer on Flugelhorn. Little observations from Golson adorn the paragraph on each of the tracks in Marc Myers’ notes – such as the spiffy pimps strutting into Birdland inspiring the title of Golson’s closing track here, Killer Joe. If Golson is not a big part of your collection, this compilation would be a great place to start!
TrackList: Whisper Not, Reunion, Are You Real?, Blues After Dark, I Didn’t Know What Time It Was, April in Paris, Along Came Betty, Five Spot After Dark, Killer Joe
– John Henry