Album Review: Bethlehem Records Reissues

For several years in the decade of the 1950s, Bethlehem Records released some fine jazz albums. Recently Verse Music Group has licensed those albums, and is in the midst of reissuing them on both CD (nice enough, that) as well as vinyl, in their original 10” and 12” formats. While I’ve covered a few of these in recent reviews, today’s entry will take a quick look at three more.

Zoot Sims – Down Home
A 1960 set comprising eight numbers, this LP features the tenor saxophonist backed by piano (Dave McKenna), bass (George Tucker) and drums (Daniel Richmond). While there’s but one Zoot Sims original here (“I’ve Heard That Blues Before”), the songs are well selected to showcase the players’ chops and interplay. Leaning heavily in the direction of toe-tapping, lively, accessible jazz, it’s a worthwhile outing. The uncredited production (in hi-fi, not stereo) is clear but not up to the you-are-there ambience that Orrin Keepnews was getting for his clients’ sessions.

Bobby Troup – The Songs of Bobby Troup
A curious release, since Troup was a songwriter and these are all covers, it’s a nice collection nonetheless. Reissued in its original 1955 ten-inch format, the record draws mostly from the Great American Songbook, with all but one of the eight tacks composed in part by Johnny Mercer. (Side note: I attended Georgia State University in the early 1980s, and on one floor of the downtown “concrete campus” they had a Mercer museum. I wish I had paid closer attention.) Troup’s vocals are front and center, but Howard Roberts‘ guitar is a highlight throughout. The instrumental “Laura” is the best track here.

Pepper Adams – Motor City Scene
Technically, this 1960 release isn’t actually credited to Adams (nor to any one musician, for that matter); the lineup features him on baritone sax, plus Donald Byrd on trumpet, Kenny Burrell on guitar, pianist Tommy Flanagan, drummer Louis Hayes and Paul Chambers on bass. All that said, it’s Adams’ sax that’s the highlight of this five-number set. This album has received middling reviews, but I think it warrants closer inspection. Not groundbreaking, perhaps, but it’s a lively, varied collection that showcases each of the players. And the sound (again in hi-fi) is top-notch.

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