This unassuming and delightful little album visits a time when jazz and blues were still directly entwined, drawing on the ghosts of guitarists like Charlie Christian, Eddie Durham, Bill Jennings, Tiny Grimes, Barney Kessel, and Kenny Burrell, guitarists who used the blues to enrich the jazz pieces they played on, a kind of ensemble contribution that is all too frequently missing on the contemporary blues scene. Duke Robillard, Jay Geils, and Gerry Beaudoin are all gifted guitar players, each with his own career, but as a trio working three-part harmony lines around each other, they bring a stately ensemble grace to the tracks on New Guitar Summit (the trio also appears under that name when they do live shows).
To call this CD (a reissue of a Pablo date) an all-star session would be an understatement. Joining pianist Oscar Peterson, guitarist Joe Pass, bassist Ray Brown, and drummer Bobby Durham are three classic trumpeters: Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry, and Freddie Hubbard. They clearly inspire each other (Gillespie flew in from the East Coast specifically for this date) and the music ("Daahoud," "Just Friends," the new blues "Chicken Wings," and a torrid version of "The Champ") has plenty of exciting moments.
Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington were (and are) two of the main stems of jazz. Any way you look at it, just about everything that's ever happened in this music leads directly – or indirectly – back to them. Both men were born on the cusp of the 19th and 20th centuries, and each became established as a leader during the middle '20s. Although their paths had crossed from time to time over the years, nobody in the entertainment industry had ever managed to get Armstrong and Ellington into a recording studio to make an album together. On April 3, 1961, producer Bob Thiele achieved what should be regarded as one of his greatest accomplishments; he organized and supervised a seven-and-a-half-hour session at RCA Victor's Studio One on East 24th Street in Manhattan, using a sextet combining Duke Ellington with Louis Armstrong & His All-Stars.