The Quintessence is perhaps the most accurate title ever given to a Quincy Jones & His Orchestra recording. Issued in 1961 for Impulse!, this is the sound of the modern, progressive big band at its pinnacle. Recorded in three sessions, the core of the band consists of Melba Liston, Phil Woods, Julius Watkins, and bassist Milt Hinton and pianist Patricia Brown on two sessions, with bassist Buddy Catlett and pianist Bobby Scott on another. The trumpet chairs are held alternately by players like Freddie Hubbard, Clark Terry, Thad Jones, and Snooky Young, to name a few. Oliver Nelson is here, as are Frank Wess and Curtis Fuller. Despite its brevity – a scant 31 minutes – The Quintessence is essential to any appreciation of Jones and his artistry. The deep swing and blues in his originals such as the title track, "Robot Portrait," and "For Lena and Lennie" create staggering blends.
Dinah Washington was accompanied by an orchestra organized and conducted by Quincy Jones on this 1957 album, and she was singing to arrangements mostly written by the young bandleader, swing charts of pop standards by the likes of Cole Porter, George Gershwin, and Duke Ellington. The result had much in common with the swing albums of Frank Sinatra in the same period, especially because Jones' arrangements were heavily influenced by Billy May and Nelson Riddle. Sinatra's records were regarded as "pop, " of course, and Washington's, at least when released on the EmArcy subsidiary of Mercury Records, as "jazz, " but her precise articulation and attention to lyrical meaning left little room for improvisation, and while Jones allowed for brief solos from a band that included Charlie Shavers, Clark Terry, Urbie Green, and Milt Hinton, the jazz categorization was actually arbitrary. Whatever musical genre you assign it to, however, this is an excellent Washington album. [For the 1998 reissue, Verve added seven bonus tracks recorded around the same time and with much the same personnel, though they were intended as singles and thus are inferior contemporary tunes. Often, however, Washington sounds more comfortable and enthusiastic on these pop and R&B songs than she does on the standards.]
From 1958 to 1970, orchestra leader Billy Vaughn placed 36 LPs on the Best-Selling album charts in the USA. This release contains 2 LPs in full - "Orange Blossom Special & Wheels" peaked at #11 in the U.S. Pop Album charts where it remained for 43 weeks while "Berlin Melody" reached #20 and stayed 18 weeks in the charts. Both LPs produced hit singles -"Wheels" reached #28, "Orange Blossom Special" #63, "Blue Tomorrow" #84, "Berlin Melody" #61 and "Come September" made #73. Included 3 bonus tracks making this a total of 28 tracks of the best of The Great American Songbook and the pop world of the late 1950s and early 1960s performed with a happy, dancing beat.
In a musical career that has spanned seven decades, Quincy Jones has earned his reputation as a renaissance man of American music. Jones has distinguished himself as a bandleader, a solo artist, a sideman, a songwriter, a producer, an arranger, a film composer, and a record label executive, and outside of music, he's also written books, produced major motion pictures, and helped create television series. And a quick look at a few of the artists Jones has worked with suggests the remarkable diversity of his career – Miles Davis, Frank Sinatra, Count Basie, Lesley Gore, Michael Jackson, Peggy Lee, Ray Charles, Paul Simon, and Aretha Franklin.
This impossible-to-find LP from the 1950s contains two fine selections featuring a quartet comprised of Lionel Hampton, Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown and Buddy Rich but is most memorable for the other two numbers which add the great clarinetist Buddy DeFranco to the band. Their version of "It's Only a Paper Moon" is remarkably uptempo and really swings hard; Hampton challenges his fellow legends to some spectacular playing.