Clark Terry - trumpet; Joe Newman - trumpet; Urbie Green - trombone; Charlie Rouse - tenor sax; Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis - tenor sax; Charlie Byrd - guitar; Hank Jones - piano; Milt Hinton - bass; Freddie Waits - drums
This gathering of jazz veterans, headed by former Count Basie and Duke Ellington trumpet star Clark Terry, continued the longstanding tradition of the jam session, a favorite modus operandi of impresario George Wein since he started the Newport Jazz Festival in 1954. For this Sunday night jam on July 7, 1974, Wein was hoping to repeat the "lightning in a bottle" effect he captured in 1972, when he had Terry jamming at Yankee Stadium with a similar lineup of jazz giants. In spacious Radio City Music Hall, which seats 6,000, Terry was joined for this freewheeling jam by fellow trumpeter and Basie alumnus Joe Newman, former Woody Herman trombonist Urbie Green, Thelonious Monk's longtime tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse, tough tenorman Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, guitarist and bossa nova pioneer Charlie Byrd, former Ella Fitzgerald pianist and Jazz at the Philharmonic regular Hank Jones, stalwart bassist and former Cab Calloway sideman Milt Hinton, and ubiquitous hard bop drummer Freddie Waits. Together they shared common ground in the jazz standard repertoire and their mutual love of blues, bebop, and ballads, which they explored to the hilt over the course of four turns.
They find instant chemistry on the swinging uptempo opener "Walkin'," title track of a celebrated 1954 Miles Davis album on Prestige. With Hinton laying down big-toned, insistently walking bass lines and Waits underscoring the proceedings with briskly swinging aplomb, Newman unleashes first with a bold, swaggering trumpet solo to get the party started. He's followed in succession by Rouse's swinging tenor solo, trombonist Green blowing with abandon, and tenor saxophonist Davis charging the jam with his brusque, extroverted tenor work. Jones turns in a typically elegant piano solo and Terry follows with some blistering trumpet work in the high register to cap his exhilarating solo. Byrd, playing a nylon string acoustic guitar, next offers a brilliant fingerstyle solo that deftly incorporates chords and flowing single note lines on this uptempo blues. And as the band drops out, Hinton kicks in a resonant bass solo that showcases his impeccable timing and animated note choices. From there, each of the soloists engages in some rapid-fire exchanges of eights with drummer Waits in classic bebop fashion before taking the hard bop anthem out.
The kindred crew next tackles "Just Friends," a 1931 tune which later became a jazz standard and was covered by the likes of Chet Baker, Billie Holiday, and Charlie Parker, among countless others. Their swinging uptempo rendition gives trumpeter Terry and the robust-toned tenor man and inveterate jammer Davis to stretch and shine with their horns. Green follows Davis' energized sax solo by taking his time and exploring the changes with a much more serene, smooth-toned approach. Rouse too takes a more deliberate approach in his tenor solo, and he's followed by Byrd, whose amplified acoustic guitar sounds oddly out of place here sonically, though he does offer a myriad of ideas during his solo. Drummer Waits also kicks in an extended and dramatic solo that whips up the audience before the nine friends return to the familiar theme at a more leisurely mid-tempo clip, which Terry solos over with soulful aplomb.
Their version of the Duke Ellington-Juan Tizol classic "Perdido" is appropriately sprightly and swinging, providing each of these accomplished soloists an opportunity to step forward and wail with impunity. Rouse's warm tones on tenor and deliberate approach feel just right for this number. Green's trombone is particularly expressive here while Davis delivers another blustery tenor sole that takes the energy level up a notch. Jones' ebullient, old school piano solo here echoes strains of Erroll Garner's distinctive, orchestral style as he deftly tosses is quotes from "Shine On Harvest Moon" and Garner's 1945 hit song "Laura."
The set concludes with a lovely rendition of the melancholy jazz standard "What's New," performed as an intimate showcase for trombonist Green and guitarist Byrd, accompanied only by Hinton on bowed bass and Waits on brushes. Green's lyrical nature is highlighted on this achingly beautiful number as he sings the plaintive melody through his golden-toned horn. Byrd follows with some blues-soaked statements on his nylon string acoustic axe as Hinton walks sparsely behind him and Waits supplies sensitive brushwork underneath. It's a gentle ending to a highly energetic set at Radio City Music Hall. (Milkowski)