Earl Klugh Trio, Vol. 1 gives listeners a rare chance to hear the guitarist playing straight-ahead jazz. Some bebop musicians contend that playing dull background music year after year means you can kiss your bebop chops goodbye, but there's no evidence of that on this rewarding CD. With Klugh sticking to acoustic guitar and employing Ralph Armstrong on upright bass and Gene Dunlap on drums, someone who is best known for recording schlock offers tasteful and lyrical interpretations of such well known standards as "I'll Remember April," "Night and Day" and "One Note Samba." Klugh also excels on "Lonely Girl" (a beautiful but underexposed Neal Hefti piece) and pleasantly surprises by demonstrating that the theme from the '60s sitcom Bewitched and the Aretha Franklin hit "I Say a Little Prayer" (written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David) can work in an acoustic bebop setting.
Jazz has always had a soft spot for pop music. Icons like trumpeter Louis Armstrong blessed the masses with his positivity and raspy voice in 1967's "What a Wonderful World" and saxophonist John Coltrane transformed Rodgers and Hammerstein's 1960 musical smash "My Favorite Things" into a swinging affair. Fast forward to 2014 as singer, songwriter and producer Jose James continues the practice with a fine rendition of 1972's "Simply Beautiful" by the one-time prince of R&B, vocalist Al Green.
At the Half Note Cafe is a live album by American trumpeter Donald Byrd recorded in 1960 at the Half Note in Manhattan and released on the Blue Note label originally as two single LP issues (BLP 4060 and BLP 4061). he Allmusic review by Thom Jurek awarded the album 4½ stars and stated "This was a hot quintet, one that not only swung hard, but possessed a deep lyricism and an astonishing sense of timing, and one need only this set by them to feel the full measure of their worth".
Unlike some labels, Blue Note doesn't need to cobble together alternate takes, false starts or second-rate sessions to put out previously unheard material. With prolific artists like Morgan, the label recorded more than they could ever practically issue in any given year. As a result, over thirty years later, sessions like INFINITY surface. Like many other Morgan albums from the same period, it features Jackie McLean on alto and Billy Higgins on drums, compositions by Morgan (and one by McLean), and was recorded in one day at Van Gelder studios. In other words, it was conceived as a real release from the outset.