January 1, 2018

Introducing Duke Pearson's Big Band Blue Note Record

Introducing Duke Pearson's Big Band

Introducing Duke Pearson's Big Band is one of my absolute favorite Blue Note recordings. Duke is one of those guys that fell through the cracks during the 60's.

He appeared on many sessions as a pianist, and produced many Blue Note records during the 1960's
Duke lead 10 of his own sessions for the Blue Note label from 1964 to 1969.

Then after his retirement from the label another session was released, and yet a 12th date in 1996, 16 years after his death.

Introducing was released in 1968. A CD reissue from 1998 also features the other big band sessions for Now Hear This, a hell of a deal to say the least.

Lew Tabackin and Frank Foster offer some pretty sweet saxophone work. With Bob Cranshaw on Bass and Mickey Roker in the drum chair hold down a solid foundation.

The unquestioned star here are Pearson's arrangements.They are full of life, bubbling with unpredictability. Compositions like "Ground Hog" and "New Girl" dig their way into your subconscious like the best ear worms do.

Pearson does indeed have the knack for the ear worm. Check out some of his other small group albums that feature Joe Henderson on Tenor sax, Wahoo and Sweet Honey Bee are fine examples of modern hard bop with a touch of forward thinking styles.

Blue Note Gate Fold Cover

I found this copy at a local record store several years ago for $5.99. These late 60's early 70's Blue Notes have begun to rise quite a bit in price. The realization for me is, since I can't afford the high-end stuff selling for 4 figures, you better buy all these cheaper priced issues as much as possible.

If I see any Liberty or United Artist label Blue Note for less than 10 bucks, I don't hesitate to get it. I regularly see this particular Pearson vinyl copy selling in excess of 20 dollars.

Not to mention second and third pressings of artists like Jackie McLean and Andrew Hill are now pushing 100 bucks or more. I wish 10 years ago I would have bought all of them up just to trade or re-sell.

Duke Pearson Big Band Blue Note Label

January 8, 2017

Jutta Hipp: New Faces From Germany

Originally a Blue Note 10 inch LP.

New Faces in Germany  is very brief clocking in at less than 30 minutes, Jutta Hipp displays a very interesting sound to my ears.

The backing band, all German, offers a light but urgent mood reminiscent of some of the better West Coast jazz of the era.

I actually thought at first listen Paul Desmond might be the alto sax here, but in fact is someone I had never heard of, Emil Mangelsdorff (1925-).

 I believe this was the same man in Dave Pike's band at one time and he recorded some free jazz albums too. I am assuming it's the same fella.

Easily the most memorable tune on this recording from 1954 is "What's New" just sublime the ways she masters this trio performance. Hauntingly exciting.

The track the standard "Blue Skies" has a little bit of an off kilter sound at times, I like it. Bluesy and a little forward to free jazz some, just a tad...but I enjoyed it for that, I wonder if you hear it as well?

This original 10 inch LP commands astronomical prices over the thousand dollar mark.

Jutta Hipp remains somewhat of an enigma in that her recorded output is very sparse, that's surprising too considering how good the music is, a shame indeed.

I was fortunate to hear this music via the Amazon Unlimited Music Service, which does currently have most of the Blue Note catalog.

 I was surprised this particular music was available. This service has been well worth the 7.99 a month fee I am paying. The sound is much better than I had thought too.

I also happen to think this is one of the most gorgeous Blue Note album covers. Certainly one that should deserve a premium beyond what the music's value is, and that's quite high in its own right.

October 2, 2016

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

April 28, 2016

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.

February 16, 2016

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!

January 31, 2016

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.

January 30, 2016

Lee Morgan's Search for the New Land: Superb 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.

Hearing the solo in context with the other great solos from Morgan, Shorter, and Hancock is what drives the point home, wow the clean no-B.S. sound is what sets green apart in my opinion.

When I see a Blue Note with Grant Green as a side man, I know it will be a good session.  I know Green will contribute something worthwhile for my ears.

The centerpiece of the album is of course the title track, but believe me there are plenty of reasons to like the album. "Mr. Kenyatta" is nice tune, darned if Green doesn't kick butt again. I love the urgency of the track.

Lee delivers one of my favorite fiery solos on the track "see below", he really digs in on the track stretching the boundaries, the theme on "Mr Kenyatta" is really inventive hard-bop. This album in my opinion is the pinnacle of where hard-bop could go before going out side to the avant-garde.

The Ballad "Melancholee" seems like a Wayne Shorter vehicle, or least that Wayne was in Lee Morgan's mind when it was written. Wayne's playing and the composition has this enigmatic quality to it. I wonder if that would be the same if Joe Henderson was in the tenor spot?

"Morgan the Pirate" is another great advanced hard-bop tune, Shorter and Green do their thing again. These guys were so in the zone in 1964, they were all fresh and creative, pushing themselves beyond where anyone could have conceived the music from a contemporary perspective. I can certainly see why Shorter and Hancock went the fusion route later on by the end of the decade.

 Listen to this record, or any of Herbie, Wayne, or Lee's other records of the 63-67 period, what else can you do inside the bop/hard-bop tradition?

The logical place would be to go to other styles like world music and popular music for inspiration...and ultimately the use of electronic instruments is what they did.

Search For the New Land is certainly one of the best hard-bop records I have ever heard, and fits nicely inside the post bop sub-genre, though the music never becomes too high-brow for the less than well healed jazz aficionado.

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