Max Roach – Deeds, Not Words

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Master jazz drummer Max Roach pretty much put the “be” in bebop, playing with practically every major figure in jazz, from Bird to Dizzy to Miles to Mingus and more. It’s a tribute to his own musical vision that his numerous solo recordings are just as worthy as his famous sessions. Roach’s first solo date for Riverside, 1958′s DEEDS, NOT WORDS, nevertheless finds the drumming doyen in grand company. Listening to the fleet-fingered musical dialogue between Roach and saxophonist George Coleman on “It’s You or No One,” or the way trumpet demon Booker Little blows the roof off of “Jodie’s Cha-Cha,” it’s immediately clear that a major part of Roach’s genius lies in surrounding himself with jazz giants who can bend notes, beats, and phrases to their desires in just as seamless a manner as the man on the skins. (cduniverse)

Personnel: Max Roach (drums); Max Roach; Oscar Pettiford, Art Davis (upright bass); George Coleman (saxophone, tenor saxophone); Booker Little (trumpet); Ray Draper (tuba).

Tracklist

01. You Stepped Out Of A Dream
02. Filide
03. It’s You Or No One
04. Jodie’s Cha-Cha
05. Deeds, Not Words
06. Larry-Larue
07. Conversation
08. There Will Never Be Another You

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Sonny Clark – Cool Struttin’

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Recorded in 1958, this legendary date with the still-undersung Sonny Clark in the leader’s chair also featured a young Jackie McLean on alto (playing with a smoother tone than he had before or ever did again), trumpeter Art Farmer, and the legendary rhythm section of bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Philly Joe Jones, both from the Miles Davis band. The set begins with one of the preeminent “swinging medium blues” pieces in jazz history: the title track with its leveraged fours and eights shoved smoothly up against the walking bass of Chambers and the backbeat shuffle of Jones. Clark’s solo, with its grouped fifths and sevenths, is a wonder of both understatement and groove, while Chambers’ arco solo turns the blues in on itself. While there isn’t a weak note on this record, there are some other tracks that stand out, most notably Miles’ “Sippin’ at Bells,” with its loping Latin rhythm. When McLean takes his solo against a handful of Clark’s shaded minor chords, he sounds as if he may blow it — he comes out a little quick — but he recovers nicely and reaches for a handful of Broadway show tunes to counter the minor mood of the piece. He shifts to both Ben Webster and Lester Young before moving through Bird, and finally to McLean himself, riding the margin of the changes to slip just outside enough to add some depth in the middle register. The LP closes with Henderson and Vallée’s “Deep Night,” the only number in the batch not rooted in the blues. It’s a classic hard bop jamming tune and features wonderful solos by Farmer, who plays weird flatted notes all over the horn against the changes, and McLean, who thinks he’s playing a kind of snake charmer blues in swing tune. This set deserves its reputation for its soul appeal alone.

Personnel: Sonny Clark (piano); Jackie McLean (alto saxophone); Art Farmer (trumpet); Paul Chambers (acoustic bass); Philly Joe Jones (drums).

Tracklist

01. Cool Struttin’
02. Blue Monir
03. Sippin’ At Bells
04. Deep Night
05. Royal Flush
06. Lover

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The Amazing Bud Powell – Time Waits

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One of jazz history’s greatest pianists, Bud Powell suffered from mental illness and heavy medication that often interfered with his playing. When he recorded this session in 1957, at age 33, his most incandescent inventions were already behind him, but what remained was a pianist of extraordinary depth, capable of the deepest blues and a rhythmic incisiveness like Thelonious Monk’s. And he was still a composer of first-rate bop lines, like “John’s Abbey” and “Time Waits,” the latter a reference to his once blazing “Tempus Fugue-it.” The rhythm section of bassist Sam Jones and drummer Philly Joe Jones is absolutely masterful at the slow and medium tempos that Powell had come to favor, with Jones often prodding the pianist into exuberance. This is the finest of Powell’s later recordings, revealing a bop pianist who paled only in comparison with his former self.

Personnel: Bud Powell (piano); Sam Jones (bass); Philly Joe Jones (drums).

Tracklist

01. Buster Rides Again
02. Sub City
03. Time Waits
04. Marmalade
05. Monopoly
06. John’s Abbey
07. Dry Soul
08. Sub City (Alternate Take)
09. John’s Abbey (Alternate Take)

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Jimmy Smith – House Party

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House Party comes from the same sessions that produced Smith’s better-known The Sermon. The 1957 and ’58 studio dates included both his working rhythm section of guitarist Eddie McFadden and drummer Donald Bailey and the guest pairing of Kenny Burrell and Art Blakey, as well as a coterie of horn players. While The Sermon emphasizes Smith’s funkier side, House Party demonstrates his ability to play dyed-in-the-wool bop on a Hammond organ. The music really springs to life on the two long takes of Charlie Parker tunes, “Au Privave” and the previously unissued “Confirmation.” Blakey’s presence on these adds an immediate spark, and Smith serves up a heady mix of powerful riffs and bubbling, blistering lines that erupt from the organ. The animation spreads to an excellent frontline with trumpeter Lee Morgan and saxophonists Lou Donaldson and Tina Brooks. The rest of the CD is good period fare, with fine work from Morgan, Burrell, McFadden, and Smith but without the same sense of excitement.

Personnel: Jimmy Smith (organ); Lou Donaldson, George Coleman (alto saxophone); Tina Brooks (tenor saxophone); Lee Morgan (trumpet); Curtis Fuller (trombone); Kenny Burrell, Eddie McFadden (guitar); Art Blakey, Donald Bailey (drums).

Tracklist

01. Au Privave
02. Lover Man
03. Just Friends
04. Blues After All
05. Confirmation

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John Coltrane – Lush Life

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The first three tracks on Lush Life (from May and August 1957) were recorded in a trio session with only bass and drums accompanying Trane on tenor. The piano-less format is surprisingly full sounding and Coltrane’s solos are at once fun loving and thoughtful. The playing of Earl May (bass) and Art Taylor (drums) is warm and robust and perfectly compliments Coltrane’s muscular, R&B-inspired lyricism.

Tracks four and five (from January 1958) feature a different rhythm section along with some elegant, delicate piano work from Red Garland. The title track is an unabashedly romantic, film noir-ish tour-de-force that completely enthralls the listener for all of its nearly 14 minutes. In addition, the cut features an astonishingly beautiful trumpet solo from the great Donald Byrd. Recorded in the same period as Blue Train, one of Coltrane’s greatest masterpieces, Lush Life is a perfect example of the master’s early playing at it’s most sensitive and exuberant.

Personnel: John Coltrane (tenor saxophone); Donald Byrd (trumpet); Red Garland (piano); Earl May, Paul Chambers (bass); Arthur Taylor, Louis Hayes, Albert “Tootie” Heath (drums).

Tracklist

01. Like Someone In Love
02. I Love You
03. Trane’s Slo Blues
04. Lush Life
05. I Hear A Rhapsody

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John Coltrane – Soultrane

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This wonderful 1958 session features the tenor sax legend leading pianist Red Garland, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Arthur Taylor on a well-chosen five-song set of jazz and pop standards. The album opens with a lively version of Count Basie’s “Good Bait” that allows Coltrane, Chambers and Garland to indulge in some exquisite, highly inventive solos. While Coltrane’s versions of Billy Eckstine’s “I Want To Talk About You” and Fred Lacey’s “Theme For Ernie” are pretty much straight ballad performances, his bold, powerful style brings out the soulful feel of these two beautiful, reflective melodies.

Personnel: John Coltrane (vocals, tenor saxophone); John Coltrane; Paul Chambers (upright bass); Red Garland (piano); Art Taylor (drums).

Tracklist

01. Good Bait
02. I Want To Talk About You
03. You Say You Care
04. Theme For Ernie
05. Russian Lullaby

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Donald Byrd – Off To The Races

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Before trumpeter Donald Byrd began his flirtations with fusion, funk, and pop in the 1960s and ’70s, he was one of hard bop’s most satisfying practitioners. 1958′s Off To the Races is one of his finest dates from the period, and a stellar personnel list (including baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams, alto saxophonist Jackie McLean, and pianist Wynton Kelly) helps get things cooking. There is the usual Blue Note assortment of ballads, blues, and up-tempo numbers, but it’s the musicianship, particularly the fine, fluid soloing of Byrd and McLean, that makes this a keeper.

Tracklist

01. Lover Come Back To Me
02. When Your Love Has Gone
03. Sudwest Funk
04. Paul’s Pal
05. Off To The Races
06. Down Tempo

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Cannonball Adderley – Things Are Getting Better

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All-star session recorded in NYC in the autumn of 1958, led by Cannonball Adderley on alto sax, and Milt Jackson on vibes. The rhythm section is also no less noteworthy with Wynton Kelly on piano, Percy Heath on bass and Art Blakey on drums. This date represents an interesting and successful juxtaposition of the two sides of jazz at the time, with Adderley coming from the more improvisational and swinging side of downtown jazz and Jackson coming from the more cerebral side of jazz as ‘high art’. But despite hailing from different sides of the scene, both men are considered venerable “practitioners of the blues” and this is perhaps the tie that binds these men together on this memorable date. The group plays a range of tunes including two of Adderley’s own compositions: the title track “Things Are Getting Better” and “Sounds For Sid” (dedicated to a favorite disc jockey of the time). Jackson also contributes one of his own themes with the original “Blues Oriental”, which leads off the disc. They also play Dizzy’s bop-era classic “Groovin’ High”, while Adderley presents his own modern take on “The Sidewalks of New York”. An important meeting of top shelf jazz musicians in a critical year in jazz history.

Tracklist

01. Blues Oriental
02. Things Are Getting Better
03. Serves Me Right (Take 5)
04. Serves Me Right (Take 4)
05. Groovin’ High
06. The Sidewalks Of New York (Take 5)
07. The Sidewalks Of New York (Take 4)
08. Sounds For Sid
09. Just One Of Those Things

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John Coltrane – Stardust

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These were among Coltrane’s last recordings for Prestige, and they mark a turning point in his career. He was nearing the end of his “mainstream” phase, but he hadn’t yet jumped off into his ’60s exploratory mode. On Stardust, he proves to be quite the balladeer, taking sensuous and lyrical turns on the titular Hoagy Carmichael tune and other standards. This album wasn’t released until the early ’60s, by which time it already seemed worlds away from what Coltrane was up to. The swinging, uptempo “Love Thy Neighbor” provides a change of pace, but it’s the ballads that claim the day on Stardust.

Personnel: John Coltrane (tenor saxophone); Wilbur Harden (trumpet, flugelhorn); Freddie Hubbard (trumpet); Red Garland (piano); Paul Chambers (bass); Jimmy Cobb, Arthur Taylor (drums).

Tracklist

01. Stardust
02. Time After Time
03. Love Thy Neighbor
04. Then I’ll Be Tired Of You

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Art Blakey & Thelonious Monk – Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers With Thelonious Monk

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Released in 1958 on Atlantic Records, It is a collaboration between the Jazz Messengers led by Art Blakey and Thelonious Monk, and is the only time Monk recorded for the Atlantic label, Blakey’s only other appearance being as a sideman for Milt Jackson on his Plenty Plenty Soul album.

Tracklist

01. Evidence
02. In Walked Bud
03. Blue Monk
04. I Mean You
05. Rhythm-A-Ning
06. Purple Shades
07. Evidence (Alternate Take)
08. Blue Monk (Alternate Take)
09. I Mean You (Alternate Take)

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John Coltrane – Settin’ The Pace

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This is Coltrane from the period when he was a member of Miles Davis’ legendary 1950s quintet, accompanied by fellow quintet members Garland and Chambers. This is ‘Trane in a relaxed bop mode, making some swinging relaxed jazz in the vein of Sonny Rollins and Stan Getz (the latter in his more bop-ish mode). This is not the fire-breathing saxophonist of the middle ’60s, but a player who was beginning to push against the boundaries, all the while playing with thoughtful, imaginative lyricism. It’s a set of little-known pop tunes of the era, with the exception of Jackie McLean’s “Little Melonae.” Anyone who likes/loves the mainstream jazz of the ’50s, or Miles’ music of that time, and/or Coltrane fans who want/need to hear their idol in an easy-going context should pick up on this.

Personnel: John Coltrane (tenor saxophone); Red Garland (piano); Paul Chambers (bass instrument); Art Taylor (drum).

Tracklist

01. I See Your Face Before Me
02. If There Is Someone Lovelier
03. Little Melonae
04. Rise ‘N’ Shine
04. By The Numbers

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Hank Mobley – Peckin’ Time

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Hank Mobley’s Peckin’ Time is a classic bop date featuring heavyweight talent. Besides the obvious abilities of the leader, most notable here is a still very young Lee Morgan on trumpet. The jubilant Morgan, at this time a rising star yet to hit his stride, makes an exquisite partner for the bluesy Mobley, one of the most underrated tenor men in jazz. Rounding out the quintet is the rhythm section of pianist Wynton Kelly, bassist Paul Chambers, and the often-overlooked drummer Charlie Persip.

As the title suggests, Peckin’ has the spirit of a blowing session with a hefty amount of up-tempo rousers. The bopping opener “High and Flighty” gets things kicking with frenzied ensemble work and hard-blowing solos. The only standard of the set is the classic “Speak Low,” here presented as a bouncing rhumba with exceptionally lyrical contributions by Morgan. The swinging title track and the aptly titled burner “Stretchin’ Out” both offer more opportunities for all to display their wares with plenty of hard bop gusto. Finally, “Git-Go Blues” closes the session with a long, rolling groove that swings hard and deep. Also included are three alternate takes that offer even more blowing and swinging.

Personnel: Hank Mobley (tenor saxophone); Lee Morgan (trumpet); Wynton Kelly (piano); Paul Chambers (bass instrument); Charlie Persip (drums, drum).

Tracklist

01. High and Flighty
02. Speak Low
03. Peckin’ Time
04. Stretchin’ Out
05. Git-Go Blues
06. High and Flighty (Alternate Take)
07. Speak Low (Alternate Take)
08. Stretchin’ Out (Alternate Take)

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Roy Haynes, Phineas Newborn, Paul Chambers – We Three

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We Three, recorded in a single session on November 14, 1958, was the first American studio date as a bandleader for the diminutive and legendary jazz drummer Roy Haynes, although with pianist Phineas Newborn on board (along with bassist Paul Chambers), it really is a set dominated by Newborn, whose busy, two-handed technique here works in tandem balance with Haynes’ cool refinement. Newborn was all about amazing and dazzling piano runs that on some dates created simply too much flash and clutter to allow pieces to flow and breathe properly, but Haynes has always been about grace and flow throughout his career (if a drummer’s style can said to be elegant, Haynes fits the bill), and here he rubs off on Newborn, who exercises just enough restraint to keep him in the proper orbit, resulting in a fine album. Highlights include the easy, pure swing of the opener, a version of Ray Bryant’s “Reflection,” a wonderful and bluesy rendition of Avery Parrish’s “After Hours” (which finds Newborn in perfect balance between explosive ornamentation and smooth functionality), and a jaunty, fun spin through Newborn’s own “Sugar Ray,” a tribute to boxer Sugar Ray Robinson. This trio had a brief recording career together, but as this solid set shows, they made the best of it.

Tracklist

01. Reflection
02. Sugar Ray
03. Solitaire
04. After Hours
05. Sneakin’ Around
06. Our Delight

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Ray Charles & Milt Jackson – Soul Brothers/Soul Meeting

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These records are “cool” in the classic sense of the word: they swing, groove, whisper and discuss with the sophisticated yet down-home relaxation of a late-night session. While Milt Jackson’s work with the Modern Jazz Quartet represents a kind of bebop perfection, the truism about the MJQ has always been that it’s Jackson the irrepressible soloist and blues spirit that provides the ballast to John Lewis’ more cerebral explorations of form and composition.

At the same time, Ray Charles’ reputation as the definitive gospel-inspired R&B shouter and bandleader overshadows the facts of his jazz background and impressive musicianship. This is a guy, after all, who early in his career wanted to sound as much like Nat Cole as possible–and did, for a time, as both a singer and a pianist. So while these giants meet on the common turf of the blues on these two records, they bring a sharp jazz sensibility to the numerous and varied twelve-bar grooves here. Charles’ stompin’ bebop lines on the bonus track “Charlesville” are only one of the many revelations of this session.

Tracklist

DISC  1
01. How Long Blues
02. Cosmic Ray
03. The Genius After Hours
04. Charlesville
05. Bags Of Blues
06. Deed I Do
07. Blue Funk

DISC 2
01. Soul Brothers
02. Bag’s Guitar Blues
03. Soul Meeting
04. Hallelujah I Love Her So
05. Blue Genius
06. X-Ray Blues
07. Love On My Mind

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Kenny Burrell – Blue Lights Vol.1&2

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Guitarist Kenny Burrell leads a very coherent jam session in the studio with a particularly strong cast that also includes trumpeter Louis Smith, both Junior Cook and Tina Brooks on tenors, either Duke Jordan or Bobby Timmons on piano, bassist Sam Jones, and drummer Art Blakey. The material consists of basic originals and standards and has excellent playing all around; six of the nine tunes are over nine minutes long. At that point in time, Cook and Brooks had similar sounds, but, fortunately, the soloists are identified in the liner notes for each song. The solo star is often trumpeter Louis Smith, who fell into obscurity after a few notable appearances on Blue Note during the period (including his own brilliant date, Here Comes Louis Smith). He was one of the finest of the Clifford Brown-influenced players of the period and deserves much greater recognition. This is a recommended reissue for hard bop collectors who do not already have the two individual CDs.

Tracklist

DISC 1
01. Phinupi
02. Yes Baby
03. Scotch Blues
04. The Man I Love
05. I Never Knew
DISC 2
01. Caravan
02. Chuckin’
03. Rock Salt
04. Autumn In New York

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Thelonious Monk Quartet – Misterioso

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After he was denied club work in New York for years because a marijuana conviction kept him from holding a “cabaret card,” Thelonious Monk’s late-’50s stays at the Five Spot provided him with a forum through which he could reach an audience and also acted as an intense musical laboratory. Misterioso and its companion disc, Thelonious in Action, were Monk’s first professionally recorded live dates, and they feature the excellent 1958 quartet with tenorist Johnny Griffin stretching out on Monk tunes like “In Walked Bud” and “Evidence.” Monk could not only find new dissonances, but he could also find new meanings for dissonance, imbuing his sometimes elliptical, even minimalist, compositions with a joyous playfulness. Griffin adds a strong blues flavor and some unlikely quotations that leaven his intense focus.

Tracklist

01. Nutty
02. Blues Five Spot
03. Let’s Cool One
04. In Walked Bud
05. Just A Gigolo
06. Misterioso
07. ‘Round Midnight
08. Evidence

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Ornette Coleman – Something Else!!!!

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These are tunes that Coleman wrote in his early 20s, that he finally got a chance to record in his late 20s, in 1958. He had, meanwhile, been leading the life of a musical maverick, often-fired by leaders perturbed by his idiosyncratic approach. He was, after all, intent on digging up and replanting jazz. Hearing the startling exuberance in Coleman’s compositions, and in his own whinnying playing, one senses that–truly–an annunciation is being made: Here is Something Else. With sublime assurance, Coleman was breaking free from the dictates of chordal playing, in search of increased melodic and harmonic opportunities. Pianist Walter Norris obliges by generally staying out of the way, after session producers put him in it–it is clear that the piano was not the instrument that would assist Coleman’s mission.

Tracklist

01. Invisible
02. The Blessing
03. Jayne
04. Chippie
05. The Disguise
06. Angel Voice
07. Alpha
08. When Will The Blues Leave
09. The Sphinx

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Dorothy Ashby – In a Minor Groove

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On In A Minor Groove, Ashby she swings with an other-wordly quality that’s simply amazing, quite exotic, and very much in the camp of players like Yusef Lateef or Les Jazz Modes, who were trying similar experiments in jazz. This session features Dorothy in a quartet with the flute of Frank Wess, the bass of Herman Wright, and the drums of Roy Haynes, whose warm lyrical touches provide the perfect melodicism for the group.

Tracklist

01. Pawky
02. Moonlight in Vermont
03. Back Talk
04. Dancing in the Dark
05. Charmain
06. Jollity
07. There’s a Small Hotel
08. Rascallity
09. You’d Be So Nice to Come
10. It’s a Mintor Thing
11. Yesterdays
12. Bohemia After Dark
13. Taboo
14. Autumn in Rome
15. Alone Together

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Lou Donaldson – Blues Walk

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Lou Donaldson’s undisputed masterpiece, Blues Walk, marks the point where the altoist began to decisively modify his heavy Charlie Parker influence and add a smoky, bluesy flavor of his own. The material is still firmly in the bebop style, and the mellower moments aren’t as sleepy as some of Donaldson’s subsequent work, so the album sounds vital and distinctive even as it slows down and loosens things up. What elevates Blues Walk to classic status is its inviting warmth. Donaldson’s sweetly singing horn is melodic throughout the six selections, making even his most advanced ideas sound utterly good-natured and accessible. The easy-swinging title cut is arguably Donaldson’s signature tune even above his late-’60s soul-jazz hits, and his other two originals – “Play Ray” and “Callin’ All Cats” – are in largely the same vein. Elsewhere, Donaldson displays opposite extremes of his sound; the up-tempo bebop classic “Move” provokes his fieriest playing on the record, and his romantic version of “Autumn Nocturne” is simply lovely, a precursor to Lush Life. The addition of Ray Barretto on conga is a subtle masterstroke, adding just a bit more rhythmic heft to the relaxed swing. There are numerous likable records in Donaldson’s extensive catalog, but Blues Walk is the best of them all.

Tracklist

01. Blues Walk
02. Move
03. The Masquerade Is Over
04. Play Ray
05. Autumn Nocturne
06. Callin All Cats

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Sun Ra – Jazz In Silhouette

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A fascinating recording of Sun Ra and his Arkestra in an early incarnation, 1958′s JAZZ IN SILHOUETTE features Ra’s complex, adventurous compositions in traditional bop and swing contexts. The opening “Enlightenment” has edgy piano accompaniment from Ra, and a Cuban rhythm outro, but its breezy melody is reminiscent of Duke Ellington circa his Okeh period. “Blues at Midnight” is an up-tempo bop number with outstanding solos from all members of the Arkestra. Complex themes (“Saturn”) and fractured blues (“Horoscope”) show qualities integral to the style Ra would develop in the following years. In particular, the drawn-out ensemble explorations of “Ancient Aiethopia”–which are infused with tribal percussion, flute, and chant-like themes–serve as a blueprint for the artist’s signature sound. This album is an excellent, accessible introduction to the music of Sun Ra, ideal for those who may be intimidated by Ra’s more challenging later work.

Tracklist

01. Enlightenment
02. Saturn
03. Velvet
04. Ancient Aiethopia
05. Hours After
06. Horoscope
07. Images
08. Blues At Midnight

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