It's rather unusual from start to finish - a big band of jazz stars including Ray Brown and Christian McBride on bass, Herbie Hancock and Hank Jones on piano, Kenny Burrell on guitar, Joe Henderson on tenor saxophone, Roy Hargrove on trumpet, and vocalist Betty Carter. This live version of "Now's the Time" begins with the two acoustic bass instruments playing the tune. The improvisation begins with them exchanging choruses of improvisation.
Having the two of them be the focus for the first two minutes is more exciting than some might think. The focus then moves to the two pianists; they trade "fours" for a little while, and then Joe Henderson (tenor saxophone) and Roy Hargrove (trumpet) also trade fours. They are confident solos, and they are followed by the guitarist, Kenny Burrell, and the drummer trading fours. This is, in turn, followed by more trading with the vocalist (Betty Carter), and the instrumentalists; and, of course, the tune is played (and she sings) at the end.
The recording described in this jazz review.
It's amazing how someone got all these musicians together to perform, and why they chose to trade fours rather than have ordinary solos of a few minutes in length. (This may be due to the number of musicians in the band.)
It seems as though the tune was rehearsed, but not well-rehearsed: just before the 3 minute mark of the recording, the pianist starts improvising in the middle of Joe Henderson's 4-bar solo. It's also a little odd that, 2 minutes and 45 seconds into the recording, after the piano soloists, it seems as though part of the recording was cut out. But we'll probably never know why these things occurred.
What makes this recording unique is a few factors: first, the bass for the first two minutes. The bassists play their section really well, and it gets everything ready for the other soloists.
Second, the trading that continues throughout almost the whole thing is rather unusual, even for a live performance. When the pianos trade, Herbie Hancock sounds good, and Hank Jones is outstanding. The case is similar for Henderson and Hargrove - especially Hargrove - who plays every note accurately and never makes any mistakes.
The whole recording is only six and a half minutes, so listen to the recording when you have the time.
This article is based on information provided at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJo98ybAlFc