The 44th of Jon Turney’s weekly selections comes from a classic night at the 100 Club.
This recording, a near lifelong favourite, preserves a pretty spectacular night’s playing by all concerned. I heard it at first hand, though the much-cherished memory really attaches to the LP. This is the best of Stan Tracey’s many quartets I think – Art Themen on tenor and soprano, the redoubtable Dave Green on bass, and Bryan Spring, one of the finest drummers the country has ever seen.
The piano style was distinctive, of course. I have always loved Stan’s percussive, rhythmic but also – people sometimes don’t mention – brilliantly melodic playing.
Doin’ it for Art, though, begins with some Tracey balladry (more chords, fewer percussive trills), leading in to a sumptuous tenor solo from the man indicated in the title. Simon Spillett’s sleeve notes for the expanded CD reissue 30 years later suggest it is “Themen’s finest recorded moment”. For me the whole thing is the equal of the Bobby Wellins and Tracey track that everyone knows, Starless and Bible Black. Lucky to have been there in that case. And, memory being what it is, even luckier that the crew were there to record it.