Personnel: Illinois Jacquet (alto saxophone); Kenny Burrell (guitar); Tommy Flanagan (piano); Wendell Marshall (bass guitar); Ray Lucas (drums); Willie Rodriguez (congas, bongos).
First recognized for his bright tone and proto-R&B approach, Illinois Jacquet rose to prominence in the 1940s playing with Lionel Hampton, Cab Calloway, and Count Basie. DESERT WINDS (recorded in '64) finds Jacquet in a somewhat more reflective mode than the hyped-up style for which he is known. The laconic, bluesy contributions of guitarist Kenny Burrell, and a rhythm section that includes Latin drumming from the distinctly grooving Willie Rodriquez help craft the subtle mood. The warm, pristine sound associated with Rudy Van Gelder's engineering (the album was cut at his studio) doesn't hurt either.
The group acquits itself admirably on hard-swinging bop ("Lester Leaps In"), aching, wistful ballads ("You're My Thrill"), and loping '60s grooves ("When My Dreamboat Comes Home"). "Blues for the Early Bird" allows Jacquet to stretch out, while the title track, with its beautiful, serpentine melody, seems to meld Latin rhythm with a vague Eastern flavor (Jacquet and Burrell turn in especially tasteful, lyrical solos on this one). Dazzling individual chops and group interplay abound throughout, making DESERT WINDS a fine slice of soulful early-'60s jazz.