V.S.O.P. #24 OMEGA OSL-47 VIRGIL GONSALVES BIG BAND PLUS SIX: JAZZ AT MONTEREY
John Coppola, Billy Catalano, Dick Mills, Mike Downs, Jerry Cournoyer (trumpets); Bob Davidson, Leo Wright (alto saxophone); Danny Patiris, Chuck Peterson (tenor saxophone); Junior Mance, Merrill Hoover (piano); Eddie Kahn (bass); Benny Barth (drums); Virgil Gonsalves (baritone saxophone, leader).
In 1959, Baritone saxophonist Virgil Gonsalves co-produced this recording with Dave Hubert for release on the Omega label. Recorded in San Francisco, it featured one of the finest modern jazz big bands to come out of the Bay Area. Its’ members included, in addition to Virgil Gonsalves, Leo Wright, Junior Mance and Bay area favorites Mike Downs and Danny Patiris. Junior Mance and Leo Wright joined Dizzy Gillespie’s big band shortly after this recording was made. Virgil Gonsalves had recorded for the small Los Angeles Nocturne label in 1954 and for Liberty, the following year, but this was his first and perhaps only recorded attempt at leading a big band. The program is divided between big band and sextet. Many of the big band arrangements are by Jerry Cournoyer who appears to be the co-leader on the big band sides. The recording features the wide stereo sound favored by Omega.
On this session, Virgil Gonsalves plays straight ahead modern jazz, certainly post-bop but not quite hard bop. The big band is tight and the charts are excellent. The sextet is equally up-to-date, featuring some of the best players in San Francisco, and on this date, they are second to none. Virgil Gonsalves went on do play in major rock ensembles like Pacific Gas & Electric, Electric Flag, and The Buddy Miles Express. Nevertheless, he is best known and remembered as an outstanding jazz baritone player who certainly deserves much more attention than he has received over the years. The liner notes, by legendary disk jockey and jazz authority Johnny Adams, are a great reminder that the Beat Era was what was happening in Northern California in 1959.
All of the selections are well chosen and there is not a dull moment in the program. The better soloists each get their turn with excellent features for Leo Wright, Danny Patiris, Mike Downs, Junior Mance, Merrill Hoover and Virgil Gonsalves. A fine recording and a great example of authentic Bay area modern jazz, that everyone will enjoy.
Other sources for CD: City Hall Records