The success of this project will make listeners wish jazz of this ilk had been more frequently released in nifty compilations such as this. It is like some kind of heat-and-serve DJ set, complete with a cover that looks like a hand-colored landscape shot from a '50s science fiction movie, perhaps "Invasion of the Bluesy Snatchers." A key part of the success of any compilation is to avoid the issue of quality through careful programming or some other inexplicable mojo. Since it is impossible for every track to have the same equal value, a compilation relies on charades, presenting an image of the epic and universal appeal of music as pure enjoyment, song to song, whether it is a genius leading the band or...well, Herbie Mann
. It is surely no question of fame, since the latter artist was at least for a time the commercial equal if not the better of tenor saxophone genius Sonny Rollins
, whose "Funky Hotel Blues" is the ultimate performance here. In terms of quality, comparing his improvisations with the flute wheezing of Mann
is like comparing Chateaubriand with "hot 'em" burgers. Yet few listeners will probably bail out of the flutist's "A Sad Thing," possibly because there is a kind of intense happiness that comes from knowing it is the sole track by this Mann
in the collection, but also because it is actually an effective, moody instrumental, and not the only one to be hampered not by the lack of a really good jazz soloist. Guitarist Mundell Lowe
, who could always use some more recognition, becomes a champion by suggesting to his quintet "Let's Blow Some Blues." His playing is so strong that one imagines that if this performance had actually followed that of Rollins
on a stage, nobody in the audience would have complained. There are many classic jazz players lurking in the wings as this collection of tracks unfolds. The first 13 and a half minutes would make a tremendous first act in a play, a loose jam on a tune by Gigi Gryce
that is full of the marvelously happy spirit of hard bop.