Lennie Niehaus: Bunko
Lennie Niehaus (alto sax)
Complete Fifties Recordings One: Quintet & Octet (Lone Hill Jazz LHJ10238)
Lennie Niehaus (alto sax), Stu Williamson (trumpet), Bob Enevoldsen (valve trombone), Bill Holman (tenor sax), Jimmy Giuffre (baritone sax), Pete Jolly (piano), Monty Budwig (bass), Shelly Manne (drums).
Composed by Lennie Niehaus.
Recorded: Hollywood, CA, January 11, 1955
Rating: 96/100 (learn more)
The first track Lennie Niehaus recorded as a leader was a sprightly "I'll Take Romance." Well, I'll take Niehaus, and you may too, once you hear the brilliant series of albums he recorded for Contemporary in the mid-'50s – octets, sextets, and no-piano quintets, using only the best of the West. Yes, his sessions represent the quintessence of West Coast cool: his slightly acerbic alto; brief punchy solos; a swinging rather than "blowing" line; contrapuntal playing both elaborate and simple; peppy arrangements for revitalized standards as well as his own catchy originals – even the ballads have a lift.
"Bunko" jumps and shimmers with a bouncy tune you can hum immediately. But Lennie's tricky arrangement shuffles compact ensemble moments using all eight, fleet solos by himself and Stu Williamson, and the melody line played early and late by an inner quartet of alto, Bill Holman's tenor and the rhythm section of Monte Budwig and Shelly Manne. Neatly shifting gears yet always moving forward, this "Bunko" avoids all bunk.
Reviewer: Ed Leimbacher