I have long been a great fan of Gene Ammons. He was a superb bluesy tenor player with an enormous tone out of Hawkins but perfectly capable of playing in a modern environment. Above all he played with total authority. He worked a lot with organ combos in which he always sounded at home even though he purported not to think much of organists. He was a great battler with other horns and completely at home in the slow and medium blues. Quite a package really.
For his very best records you probably have to go to his sessions with Groove Holmes, his battles with Sonny Stitt, or stuff like Boss Tenor. This is not far below those standards.
There are two sessions here. Tracks 1 to 6 feature Gene with Joe Newman on trumpet, Jack McDuff on organ, and bass, drums and conga. Newman is a bit under recorded and not heavily featured. Rhythm is fine but might have been better with guitar to add a bit more bite. Ammons plays beautifully on all tracks both ballads and blues. Maybe, just maybe, he could have been pushed a bit more.
Tracks 7 to 12 have Ammons with Frank Wess, Johnny Hammond Smith on organ, and bass and drums. Wess sounds a bit like Ammons but softer. There is no real competition between the two. Well as Wess plays I am not absolutely sure this is really his bag. He plays flute on half the tracks and does so extremely well but flutes maybe don't have much place in organ groups. Organ plays in a more modern Jimmy Smith style than on the earlier tracks and bass and drums are fine. Lack of guitar again is a problem, at least to me. Ammons himself is superb on what is a set of blues with the exception of the ballad Angel Eyes where he turns in one of the great ballad performances, tender but at the same time , utterly masculine.
A very good set from one of the modern tenor masters but not quite his best.