Richard Simon albums are always the same - variety. You get the cream of the West Coast, including some blasts from the past. You get an assortment of fun tunes - this time the composer plays on each one (except "Pastel" by Red Callender, who taught Simon.) And you get simple straight-ahead swinging, in maximum-strength doses. The therapy works - I hear this and I feel good.
"Ray Brown Your Head" is full and round, with snapping strings and the familiar groove. Gabe Baltazar comes on like gangbusters while Gerald Wiggins plays a riff from "Walkin'" (the Miles Davis version.) But mostly this is Simon's show, and show us he does. "I Hear a Rap CD" is a great title; it's based on what you think it's based on. Marty Higgins steals it blind, though Simon gets another fat solo (while quoting "Lullaby of Birdland") and both Baltazar and Buddy Collette get brief licks. Ronnell Bright's "Sea Mist" is very lush, and a piano feature. Simon has some nice bowing on the top, but it belongs to Ronnell. His solo is plaintive, and a tad laid back; his rapport with the drummer is great. Simon's solo is plucked high, getting a sound between a cello and a guitar. His quote is "Smile", and that's what I'm doing.
Watch out for Baltazar's "Bop Suey"! The theme quotes a TON of bop classics - I hear "Ornithology", "Salt Peanuts", "Move", "Well, You Needn't", "Pent-Up House", "Groovin' High", "Four", "Blues in the Closet", "Jumpin' With Symphony Sid" - and I still missed a bunch! Baltazar and Buddy are dueling altos, trading the phrases with delirious glee. The tune proper is based on "How High the Moon", and both altos go mad. Wiggins' "Sonar" is a stately number, bringing dignity after the alto madness. Baltazar is soft and assured, and Buddy's flute chirps delightfully, The horn bits are brief on what is a classic "trio" tune, and Wiggins shines as his fingers dig in.
Simon bows into "Just Another day for Love" - it's a deep grainy sound, a little like Paul Chambers. I hear "In a Sentimental Mood" and I think "When Lights are Low". The altos again go at it, making the most of their limited time. Art Hillery's "Boss Waltz" opens with Simon; but for the register, it might be a guitar. (The guitar you hear is Al Viola, and his part is tasty. When Viola solos, he sounds much as Simon did!) "Ode to John" is a MJQ/John Lewis tribute, with a great debt to "Django". The bridge is a bluesy jolt; Howlett Smith plays it for all it's worth. The solos go the same route, with Viola's a standout. "Pastel" brings the bow out, with Simon and Viola the major voices. I think it was dubbed, unless Simon can bow and pluck at the same time. (Who knows?) His tone here is classical, and more melodic than "Just Another Day". It's a gentle float down a lazy river, and with that therapy is complete.
While this is more a "bass record" than his later efforts, everyone gets their moment. The horns are great, the different pianos vary the flavor, and Simon is always trying something different within a familiar context. That's why I like him. That's why I like this.
Rating: *** ½ . Standouts are Buddy Collette, Gabe Baltazar, and Gerald Wiggins. "Bop Suey" is a must.