Arguably the most important jazz musician to come out of Cleveland, Tadd Dameron, who died in 1965, ranks among the dozen greatest composer/arrangers in the genre's history. Born in 1917, he attended Central High with another outstanding jazz artist, trumpeter Freddie Webster, and they played in bands together as teenagers. After leaving Cleveland, Dameron wrote for the big bands of Zack Whyte and Blanche Calloway, then hooked up with the Kansas City outfit of Harlan Leonard, who recorded some of his work. During the mid- and late '40s, Dameron contributed to the repertoires of Jimmy Lunceford, Georgie Auld, Billy Eckstine, and Dizzy Gillespie, and wrote some beautiful charts for Sarah Vaughan, particularly on the lovely composition "If You Could See Me Now." Dameron pioneered writing not only for big bop bands, but also for smaller groups such as the 5- to 10-piece units heard on these selections.
The tunes here include his bop standards "Our Delight," "Lady Bird," and "The Squirrel," as well as other excellent but less well-known pieces such as "Casbah," which has wordless, operatic-style singing by Rae Pearl; "Sid's Delight," recorded later by Miles Davis as "Tadd's Delight;" and two pretty ballads, "I Think I'll Go Away" and "Heaven's Doors Are Wide Open." Dameron's distinctive arrangements feature widely spread voicings and rich, grainy saxophone sounds. He often wrote for groups with powerful lead trumpeters (e.g., Webster and Fats Navarro), heard on a number of tracks here. Navarro solos wonderfully. An astonishing technician, he could play at least as fast and high as Gillespie, but he articulated cleanly and had a bigger tone. Miles Davis also shows up on this album, as does an array of great musicians, including Ernie Henry, Dexter Gordon, Wardell Gray, Charlie Rouse, Allen Eager, J.J. Johnson, and Kai Winding.