NOTE: This review is of AVID AMSC 1050 (Al Cohn: Leader & Sideman), but under Amazon's slapdash product group system several reviews written about an earlier Avid 4-album release, which includes Al Cohn with Bob Brookmeyer, and with Zoot Sims have been cross-posted incorrectly. Under that system, this review will probably appear under that other compilation also.
Tenor saxophonist Al Cohn is presented here in four diverse settings. The earliest is the album "The Jazz Workshop" from May 1955, on which he was joined by four trumpeters, namely Joe Newman, Thad Jones, Joe Wilder or Phil Sunkel, and Nick Travis, the last-named switching to trombone for three numbers. Dick Katz on piano, Freddie Green on guitar, Buddy Jones on bass and Osie Johnson on drums completes the line-up. As the title implies, and Leonard Feather's original sleeve note confirms, this was something of an experimental session, the results of which justified the effort. Cohn came to the fore with Woody Herman's Second Herd, and later co-led a quintet with Zoot Sims. Alone, he can be heard solo against a four-horn backing, but I think the combination works to best advantage in the slower numbers, particularly the lovely ballad "I'm Coming Virginia" and the introspective "Alone Together".
The December 1955 session features a leaner band comprising Joe Newman on trumpet, Henry Coker on trombone, Al Cohn on tenor, clarinet & bass clarinet, Nat Pierce on piano, Freddie Green on guitar, Milt Hinton on bass and Osie Johnson or Jo Jones on drums. This was issued originally on Bluebird under the title "Natural Rhythm" and credited jointly to Green & Cohn. This is one of the very few sessions which Green led, having spent most of his career as rhythm guitarist with Count Basie, and the superb rhythm section anchors this small-group swing session.
Andy Kirk conducted a studio group in two sessions in March 1956 for the album "A Mellow Bit of Rhythm", using four trumpets, four trombones (one bass), two altos, two tenors, and a baritone. This was issued originally by RCA as "Clouds from the Southwest" but with only one of Kirk's original players present on but seven of the twelve numbers, namely Kenny Kersey on piano, it cannot be regarded as a reunion. Since this compilation is aimed at fans of Cohn rather than Kirk the distinction is unlikely to bother them, and the resurrection of this album of vintage tunes updated by some of the major stars of the fifties is to be welcomed. .
"Cohn on the Saxophone" was recorded in September 1956, with Hank Jones on piano, Milt Hinton on bass, Osie Johnson on drums, and Frank Rehak on trombone on two numbers. This is quite simply a showcase for Al's playing, in which he's ably supported by the great rhythm section. Music like this is made to last, and it has.