A warped vinyl copy finally prompted replacement. Though a purchase of necessity for me, the bonus tracks and judiciously remastered sound of the CD reissue make it an attractive pick-up even for an owner of a vintage LP copy.
To state that Bags makes a more satisfying complement to Wes' musical voice than to Coltrane's (which is not to say that the Jackson-Coltrane session is without its own merits) may be obvious, given their mutual love of that common ground of blues and basic, pretty melodies that, for lack of a better term, was synonymous with "soul jazz" in the late 50's/early 60's. Small wonder that even the normally unfailingly hip, often "in-a-hurry" Philly Joe can't resist providing a big back-beat to the no-holds-barred funk of the three lead soloists (once he settles in behind Wyn Kelly on "Blue Roz," you wish they'd keep it going for another couple of rounds). And listen to Wes comping behind Bags on "Sam Sack," supplying not just chords but infectious riffs.
It's fascinating to hear how this particular rhythm section meshes. Paul Chambers was the paragon of bass players, but listening to Sam Jones' gritty, more focused tone and more unforgiving pulse reminds me that he wasn't far behind the master. And whereas Paul could occasionally lose concentration, going along with the speed-up pulse of Philly Joe or the occasionally yielding one of Jimmy Cobb, Sam keeps Philly Joe in the pocket through all of the musical proceedings here.
Finally, Riverside did admirably by players like these (not to mention Bill Evans and the Adderley brothers). The drums and cymbals may not be as "forward" and the bass and piano as blatantly present as on a Blue Note-Van Gelder date. But the important sonorities have been captured, allowing for a "truer" sound from all of the principals, perhaps most notably Kelley's deft piano touch. The music stays in over-drive, not for an instant wearing out its welcome.
The fact that the bonus tracks are barely distinguishable from the masters hardly matters: more of the same is plenty good enough. (Either take is superior to all other versions--including Clifford's--of Victor Young's "Delilah.")