This is arguably the best recording of one of the greatest alto players that ever lived. Don't take my word for it, countless Down Beat magazine Polls, musicians of the calibre of Marty Paich and Sonny Stitt will testify to this.
Art was from LA, and from humble beginnings. He played with Benny Carter's and Stan Kenton's Big Bands from an early age. He struggled throughout his relatively short life with drugs and drink. He was in and out of prison. Most of the 60's was wasted musically through these other activities.
Art was slightly different to other "cool" west coast players in that he played with a high degree of emotional intensity. He always committed himself totally to a performance, and it shows.
Art had the most wonderful tone, it can make you cry one minute, and have you on the edge of your seat the next. His melody lines were inventive (he admits he didn't remember half the tunes on this session, so he weaved his way in and out of the melody)
This session consists of the Miles Davis rhythm section, serious players from the East Coast. His then wife kept this recording date a secret from him, as he was a mess at the time and she felt he couldn't cope with the pressure. He turned up totally unprepared, he had to use a plaster to repair the cork on his alto.
Despite these problems they produced a true classic. Listen to the way he develops the ballad "Imagination", his playing always rhythmical, yet full of emotion.
"Straight Life" is his signature tune, a fast bebop number, sinewy and melodic. He has recorded this many times, and I would say this is the best.
There is not one weak track on this CD. It is an essential purchase for any jazz fan. Forget the West Coast stereotyping, this stuff is pure magic.
I would say one of the top 10 jazz recordings of all time..... not many would disagree.