Kenny Dorham's Afro Cuban: One of the Blue Note Labels Best

Afro-Cuban was an album recorded in January and March of 1955, and released originally on the 10 inch vinyl format with only 4 tracks.

 The album saw a second life when it was re released by the label in 1957 with the pictured artwork and 3 extra tracks.

The RVG CD remaster adds 2 more bonus tracks to the 7 from 1957 LP.

The original 10 inch tracks, "Afrodesia" "Lotus Flower", "Minor's Holiday", and Gigi Gryce's "Basheer's Dream" are fittingly what the original album was; an Afro-Cuban meets jazz tour-de-force.

The other tracks, "K.D's Motion", "La Villa", and "Venita's Dance" are just hard bop, but the thing is, these 3 so called "filler tracks kick some serious rear end, and turn this already fantastic record into a 5 star masterpiece.

Afro-Cuban is simply one of the best albums Blue Note ever put out, and is probably Dorham's career best. That's saying a lot too, considering how albums like Una Mas, and Live at the Cafe Bohemia are about as good as hard bop gets.

The Leader Dorham's trumpet, Hank Mobley on tenor, J.J. Johnson on trombone, Art Bakey on drums, Cecil Payne on baritone sax, and Percy Heath on bass complete the sextet. Also Potato Valdez brings his authentic congas to the Afro-Cuban tracks.

As you might expect, drummer Blakey does his thing here. Is it possible for Blakey to be underrated? Usually Drummers like Tony Williams and Elvin Jones get top billing over Blakey but I can't recall a bad record he's been on.

I don't think it is a coincidence that he's on so many classic hard bop records other than his own as a leader, the dude's not a subtle drummer, and that ain't a crime for the genre of hardbop. Blakey always seems to grab every band and propel them to the stratosphere.

 Afro Cuban in its original 10 inch form will set you back a cool $300 to $400 too. I'll settle for my reissue.

1971's Head On From Bobby Hutcherson: I Prefer the Connoisseur CD Over the Vinyl

Bobby Hutcherson is one of my favorite jazz musicians of all-time. He's certainly one of the best vibraphonists of all time.

He's been on so many classic and historical Blue Note sessions it's ridiculous. Could you imagine Eric Dolphy's Out to Lunch without Bobby's vibes?

Perhaps it's sacrilege, but when I think about that avant-garde jazz masterpiece, Bobby's icy vibes come to the forefront.

Other than Gary Burton, I can think of no other vibraphonist who matches Bobby's combined creativity as a composer and instrumentalist.

Head On is a very cerebral third-stream sort of record. Perhaps even too high-brow and experimental for most. If you have an open mind to classical and avant-garde free bop experimentation, Head On is a pretty interesting listen. Some of the tracks tend to be a little too down tempo and meandering.

The track "Mtume" is the closest in relation to the funky bonus tracks discussed below.

Lee Morgan Volume 3, Blue Note 1557: A Benny Golson Masterpiece

 Lee Morgan's Volume 3

Lee Morgan's Volume III is a fantastic record pure and simple, one of my personal favorites.

Unfortunately it's one of the few I've never owned on vinyl in any form.

You can get some fine recent reissues, but the original vinyl in top condition can bring in $3000 plus for its seller. Just a little out of my price range, ouch!

Benny Golson, who also was by in large responsible for Blue Note 4003, delivers another hard bop masterpiece here .

Golson composed every single tune on the album, and yes, they are all worth repeated listens. Recorded on March 24th 1957, the record also is astounding for another reason: Lee Morgan's lyrical and powerful trumpet playing. Morgan, out of the Clifford Brown vein... plays an assured well rounded style, and Morgan did this at the young age of 18 years old!

Candido Camero's Beautiful: Catchy Latin Funk on Blue Note

Candido Beautiful LP
One of the best commercial albums Blue Note released after the Liberty purchase of Blue Note, was 1970's Beautiful.

 Candido Camero, age 94 as of  this writing gives us an album full of catchy hooks and grooves played to the hilt, while interpreting the popular tunes of the day, infusing them with his Latin fire.

The luke-warm All Music review not withstanding, this IS one of Candido's best recordings, and should be a gold mine for beat lifters out there.

"Tic Tac Toe" is the Booker T and MG's vehicle that I swear eclipses the original, the power of those damned drums! Beautiful is one of those albums that I did not expect to like this much. So many reviews just blow it off as an overly commercial pop jazz album of the period. They hardly mention the tight rhythm playing, and those completely intoxicating drums.

Lee Morgan's Search for the New Land: Superb Advanced Hard-Bop From 1966

When someone asks me: What's the best Lee Morgan (1937-1972) album? Typically they expect The Sidewinder answer to come out of my mouth.

I can certainly agree, that album is one of the best, and perhaps even equal to my favorite:

 Search For the New Land:

A sextet album recorded in 1964 but released 2 years later, and yes it does sport a stone classic jazz line up:

Lee Morgan on trumpet, Herbie Hancock on piano, Wayne Shorter on tenor sax, the underrated Reggie Workman on bass, the superb Billy Higgins on drums, and for my money, the best jazz guitarist of them all Grant Green. I love the solo Grant takes on the title track, the track is well worth the 15 minutes. Green's solo happens at the 9:15 mark if you listen to the video below.

Stanley Turrentine's 1962 Blue Note Jubilee Shout: Not Released Until 1986

Jubilee Shout review
I have never considered Stanley Turrentine (1934-2000) to be in the upper echelon of saxophonists. Why?

Well, I did not consider him to be a ground breaker as a writer or as an instrumentalist.

like anyone else, I know John Coltrane makes Turrentine seem like an afterthought when you compare the two's critical legacies.

 Other than Charlie Parker, and perhaps Lester Young, who doesn't Coltrane do that to?

I have spent the last few weeks re-accessing Stanley, and there is no doubt, I undervalued his playing and writing.  Jubilee Shout is one of those grossly overlooked records. His larger band stuff like Joy Ride is also very interesting.  I also like his 70's CTI fusion work, Sugar and Salt Song, they are very good records. The track "Minor Chant" from Back at the Chicken Shack sticks out to me as a fine example of Stanley's blues drenched soul jazz playing.

A Pair of Underrated Stanley Turrentine Blue Note Albums: Mr. Natural and Another Story

Japanese cover of Turrentine's Mr. Natural
One of the greatest things about being a vinyl crate digger is finding hidden gems in the particular genre you have a passion for.

This pair of hidden 1960's gems from Stanley Turrentine are hard to complain about:  Mr Natural from 1964, but not released until 198o with those shoddy pseudo-hipster album covers; that paid no mind to the proud Blue Note/Reid Miles designs of the 50's and 60's.

 In fact, those covers I always thought were an embarrassment. The pictured Mr. Natural cover was the Japanese reissue on CD, which does a better job at living up to the Blue Note legacy in my opinion.

Accompanying Stanley on the album are Lee Morgan on trumpet, McCoy Tyner on piano, Bob Cranshaw on bass, with Elvin Jones in the drum chair.

 Another Story was released in 1969, and features Thad Jones on flugelhorn, Cedar Walton on Piano, Mickey Roker on drums, and Buster Williams on bass.

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