One of the most successful of Blue Note's 'blue' period and an album that remains his finest work. Although his tenor sax occasionally grates, this is a brilliant example of late bebop. Supported by Bud Powell (piano), Kenny Clarke (drums) and Pierre Michelot (bass), the simple quartet sound coolly in control. 'Willow Weep For Me' is played with great beauty and 'A Night in Tunisia' is yet another well-crafted version. The wonderful bonus of 'Our Love Is Here To Stay' and 'Like Someone In Love' (from Powell's Alternate Takes) on the CD reissue puts this album in the first division.
This 1963 trio session was only the avant-garde pianist and composer Andrew Hill's second release for Blue Note, with whom he would enjoy a fruitful association throughout the decade. Already, on the previous BLACK FIRE, Hill had established himself as a worthy, somewhat more mainstream alternative to the radical Cecil Taylor. His musical style is heavily chromatic, both dense and angular, similar in part to McCoy Tyner's equally muscular explorations. For the most part however, SMOKE STACK takes things at a ruminative, deceptively leisurely pace. Still, the venerable drummer Roy Haynes remains energetic, supple. and busy throughout the set, much like the fiery Elvin Jones with the John Coltrane Quartet. One highlight: Richard Davis's arco bass stylings, moaning and keening throughout the exotic "Wailing Wall."
Although he is best known for his bluesy soul-jazz outings, tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine's first Blue Note session as a leader was a much more traditional bop affair, and the resulting album, Look Out!, featuring a rhythm section of Horace Parlan on piano, George Tucker on bass, and Al Harewood on drums, shows as much artful restraint as it does groove.
SHADES OF REDD is part of the seemingly endless stream of bop and post-bop albums released on Blue Note in the 1960s, and as such is easy to overlook. That, however, would be a mistake, as SHADES OF REDD is a gleaming gem of a find. With saxophonists Jackie McLean and Tina Brooks in the front line, pianist Freddie Redd leads a rhythm section through nine blues-inflected bop numbers of his own composition. Cool, elegant, and with plenty of swing factor, SHADES OF REDD might sound, theoretically, like any other disc from the period, but this is one of the sets where the elements came together perfectly. Jazz fans of nearly any stripe would do well to pick this up.
Slow Drag was one of trumpeter Donald Byrd's final hard bop dates. Teamed with altoist Sonny Red, pianist Cedar Walton, bassist Walter Booker and drummer Billy Higgins (who takes a surprise vocal on the title cut), this quintet outing features originals by Byrd, Walton and Red along with the standards "Secret Love" and "My Ideal." The music in general finds Byrd looking both backwards toward the blues and forwards toward modal music and hints of the avant-garde. A fine effort.
Organist Roosevelt "Baby Face" Willette is both a shadowy figure and something of a legend in the 1960s jazz scene. While he played with Blue Note heavyweights Grant Green and Lou Donaldson, he had drifted into obscurity by the '70s. But while on the scene, Willette made some fine music in the soul-jazz vein, and FACE TO FACE (1961) was his debut. Willette's Jimmy Smith-inspired organ pilots a combo of Fred Jackson's tenor and the aforementioned Green's ace guitar through some earnest, tasty, blues-tinged grooves. While it's no masterpiece, fans of soul-jazz should snap up FACE TO FACE while they can.
After two Blue Note LPs recorded in Europe (his adopted home since 1962), Gordon finally made it back to the States to record this mid-Sixties release. Curiously, the two previously unreleased tunes seem slightly out of place with the rest of the record, and feel more akin to the kind of work Gordon's labelmates were releasing at the time. "Flick of a Trick" is a sultry, walking eight-bar blues, while "Very Saxily Yours," distinguishes itself from the standards here by virtue of its riffing melody and use of hits during the head.
Originally issued in 1967, NEW AND OLD GOSPEL is one of the final albums in jazz saxophonist Jackie McLean's long and impressive run on the iconic Blue Note label. What makes this adventurous hard-bop album even more significant, however, is the presence of the legendary Ornette Coleman, in a rare turn as both a sideman and a trumpet player. Although Coleman graciously lets McLean, a powerhouse player in his own right, retain the center spotlight, the free-jazz giant undeniably shapes the proceedings, as best evinced on his own composition "Old Gospel," a lively and fiercely funky showcase for McLean's formidable alto-sax lines.
This Blue Mitchell date is a classic, particularly the opening "Fungii Mama," which is really catchy. The trumpeter's quintet of the period (which includes tenor saxophonist Junior Cook, the young pianist Chick Corea, bassist Gene Taylor, and drummer Al Foster) also performs two Jimmy Heath tunes and a song apiece by Joe Henderson ("Step Lightly") and Corea. The record is prime Blue Note hard bop, containing inventive tunes, meaningful solos, and an enthusiastic but tight feel. Highly recommended.