Record companies continue to exploit the treasures in their vaults, releasing scores of selections recorded as far back as the '20s and '30s. This is good news for buyers who are new to the musical form as well as those customers looking for a regular fix. This column looks at several recently reissued albums.
"Heart and Soul"
Rhino/Atlantic Jazz Gallery
* * * *
A tone that communicates like someone speaking directly into your ear, a style that places emphasis on emotional warmth and blues essence--these aspects are at the matrix of the alto saxophonist's ouevre.
This two-CD set documents Crawford's 40-year career, which despite many highs, has never made Crawford a star. The first CD begins with tracks recorded with Ray Charles--his employer in the '50s and early '60s--then segues into cuts from several excellent small-band albums he made for Atlantic.
"Misty" is a nonpareil rendition of that lovely Garner ballad, phrases darting here and there, then slowing, like schools of fish in an aquarium tank. "The Peeper" is one of many back-beat blues, with crisp-as-a-new-dollar-bill phrases that make you want to shout.
Later material, which lacks some of the do-or-die urgency of his best work, is also included--drawn from recordings for KuDu and Milestone. The album closes with Crawford accompanying B.B. King and Etta James, the latter on the Charles classic, "Night Time (Is the Right Time)." Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good, recommended), four stars (excellent). Five-star ratings are reserved for classic reissues.