George Russell Sextet – Ezz-Thetics

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George Russell is listed in the Encyclopedia of Jazz as “composer, piano, educator” and all of these are accurate descriptions of this dynamic musical revolutionary. But in the early Sixties he also spent some exciting years as a bandleader, presenting his Lydian and pan-tonal concepts in action and helping vitally in the rise to prominence of two significant innovators of the period: Eric Dolphy and Don Ellis. Both men play major roles in this 1961 album by probably the best of Russell’s small groups, which includes one of Dolphy’s most lasting celebrated recorded efforts–his astonishing bass clarinet solo on the Thelonious Monk classic, “‘Round Midnight.”

Personnel: George Russell (piano); Eric Dolphy (alto saxophone, bass clarinet); Stephen Swallow (bass); Joe Hunt (drums); Dave Baker (trombone); Don Ellis (trumpet).

Tracklist

01. Ezz-Thetics
02. Nardis
03. Lydiot
04. Thoughts
05. Honesty
06. ‘Round Midnight
07. Kige’s Tune (take 2)
08. Kige’s Tune (take 5)

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Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers – Art Blakey!!!!! Jazz Messengers!!!!!

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An absolutely wonderful 1961 set from Blakey and company, who demonstrate here how to be note-perfect without leeching away the emotion of a performance. Aside from Blakey’s divine drum work, the standouts include Jaymie Merritt’s trippy bass fingerwork and Wayne Shorter blowing his heart out on tenor sax. (allmusic)

Personnel: Art Blakey (drums); Wayne Shorter (tenor saxophone); Robert H. Timmons (piano); Curtis Fuller (trombone); Jymie Merrit (bass); Lee Morgan (trumpet).

Tracklist

01. Alamode
02. Invitation
03. Circus
04. You Don’t Know What Love Is
05. I Hear A Rhapsody
06. Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You

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J.J. Johnson & Kai Winding – The Great Kai And J.J.

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This Impulse set (which was given the catalog number of A-1 when it first came out) was the first recorded reunion of trombonists J.J. Johnson and Kai Winding. Given a straight reissue on CD the music still sounds fresh and lively. With pianist Bill Evans, either Paul Chambers or Tommy Williams on bass and Roy Haynes or Art Taylor on drums, the two trombonists are in melodic and witty form on such tunes as “This Could Be the Start of Something Big,” “Blue Monk,” “Side by Side” and the “Theme from Picnic.” Recommended.

Personnel: J.J. Johnson (trombone); Kai Winding (trombone); Bill Evans (piano); Roy Hayes, Roy Haynes, Art Taylor (drums).

Tracklist

01. This Could Be The Start Of Something
02. Georgia On My Mind
03. Blue Monk
04. Judy
05. Alone Together
06. Side By Side
07. I Concentrate On You
08. Theme From Picnic
09. Trixie
10. Going, Going, Going!
11. Just For A Thrill

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Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers – Roots & Herbs

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During the early ’60s, Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers were the leading practitioners of hard bop and set a new standard for hard-swinging blues-inflected jazz. This rare Blue Note disc from 1961 showcases the composing talents of Wayne Shorter, who was the Messengers’ music director throughout his tenure with the group. This is certainly the prime era of the Messengers with Lee Morgan and Curtis Fuller filling out the front line with Shorter and Bobby Timmons or Walter Davis Jr. on piano alongside Blakey and Jymie Merritt in the rhythm section.

Although ROOTS AND HERBS was not actually released until 1970, it is every bit as powerful a statement as THE BIG BEAT or MOANIN’. Shorter’s uncanny sense of melodic invention plays out in stellar cuts like “Ping Pong” and the exciting “Look at the Birdie.” In contrast, the bluesy swinger “The Back Sliders” features a very traditional form and plenty of room for the horn line to stretch out. Blakey takes a dramatic solo turn on the rhythmic “United” with percussion support from the other Messengers. As a bonus, the included alternate takes only increase this disc’s value as a must-have for serious Blakey fans. (cduniverse)

Personnel: Art Blakey (drums, snare drum); Wayne Shorter (tenor saxophone); Lee Morgan (trumpet); Walter Davis, Jr., Bobby Timmons (piano).

Tracklist

01. Ping Pong
02. Roots And Herbs
03. The Back Sliders
04. United
05. Look At The Birdie
06. Master Mind
07. The Back Sliders (Alternate Take)
08. Ping Pong (Alternate Version)
09. United (Alternate Version)

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Dexter Gordon – Dexter Calling

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This superb 1961 date matches Dexter Gordon’s booming tenor sax with a dynamite rhythm section of Kenny Drew on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and Philly Joe Jones on drums. Like all his early ’60s Blue Note recordings, this is Gordon at his absolute best. It’s a nice mix of originals and standards, including an up-tempo take on Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile.” There are no surprises here, just straight-ahead bluesy bebop by some of the masters of the genre. (cduniverse)

Personnel: Dexter Gordon (tenor saxophone); Kenny Drew (piano); Paul Chambers (bass instrument); Philly Joe Jones (drums).

Tracklist

01. Soul Sister
02. Modal Mood
03. I Want More
04. End of a Love Affair
05. Clear the Dex
06. Ernie’s Tune
07. Smile
08. Landslide

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Abbey Lincoln – Straight Ahead

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Straight Ahead was recorded in 1961 and was Abbey Lincoln’s fifth album in as many years. Though she was only 31 when this set was recorded, Lincoln already possessed great confidence and a powerfully emotive voice. She’s surrounded by a superlative cast of players, including Max Roach, Eric Dolphy, Coleman Hawkins, Booker Little, Mal Waldron, and Julian Priester. As Lincoln shifts from playfulness to melancholy, and anger to romance, the band is right with her. The rhythmic support is supple and the soloing is full of emotional resonance and invention, free of needless filigree. One highlight takes place in “When Malindy Sings” (a song based on a poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar), as Dolphy’s flute flies in after the conclusion of Little’s trumpet solo. Though Abbey Lincoln’s entire catalog is particularly strong, this album deserves special attention. (cduniverse)

Personnel: Abbey Lincoln (vocals); Coleman Hawkins, Walter Benton (tenor saxophone); Booker Little (trumpet); Julian Priester (trombone); Eric Dolphy (reeds); Mal Waldron (piano); Art Davis (bass); Max Roach (drums); Roger Sanders, Robert Whitley (congas).

Tracklist

01. Straight Ahead
02. When Malindy Sings
03. In the Red
04. Blue Monk
05. Left Alone
06. African Lady
07. Retribution

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Cannonball Adderley with Bill Evans – Know What I Mean?

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Alto saxist Cannonball Adderly and pianist Bill Evans, bandmates on Miles Davis’s epochal Kind of Blue, were band leaders by the time they teamed up in 1961 for this moody, yet lyrical, date. Though remastered with state-of-the-art digital technology, Riverside has kept the original artwork and liner notes, maintaining the flavor of this classic jazz LP. Adderly’s robust, bluesy tone and buoyant phrasing make for an interesting contrast to Evans’s rainy-day introspection. Coupled with the light touch of drummer Connie Kay and the gentle probing of bassist Percy Heath, the music projects a sophisticated and relaxed mood. On the sensitive ballads, such as “Goodbye” and “Elsa,” Adderly reveals his after-hours side, reveling in the fullness of his rich sound. –Wally Shoup

Tracklist

01. Waltz for Debby
02. Goodbye
03. Who Cares? (Take 5)
04. Who Cares? (Take 4)
05. Venice
06. Toy
07. Elsa
08. Nancy (With the Laughing Face)
09. Know What I Mean? (Re-Take 7)
10. Know What I Mean? (Take 12)

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The Gil Evans Orchestra – Out of the Cool

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A much admired and loved man, of all the many brilliant orchestration projects this was his finest in his own right. He teases us with the opening of ‘La Nevada’ until the gorgeous repeated four-bar riff finally bursts on our ears with orgasmic delight. There are wonderful brass solos from John Coles, Tony Studd and Budd Johnson and a bass showcase for Ron Carter. As the opening track peters out after 15 minutes the listener enjoys the smug realization that there are a further four outstanding pieces to come.

Gil Evans Orchestra: Gil Evans (arranger, conductor, piano); Budd Johnson (soprano & tenor saxophones); Eddie Caine, Ray Beckenstein (alto saxophone, flute, piccolo); Johnny Coles, Phil Sunkel (trumpet); Keg Johnson, Jimmy Knepper (trombone); Tony Studd (bass trombone); Bill Barber (tuba); Bob Tricarico (flute, piccolo, bassoon); Ray Crawford (guitar); Ron Carter (bass); Charlie Persip, Elvin Jones (drums, percussion).

Tracklist

01. La Nevada
02. Where Flamingos Fly
03. Bilbao Song
04. Stratusphink
05. Sunken Treasure
06. Sister Sadie

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Bill Evans Trio – Sunday At The Village Vanguard

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This live recording by the Bill Evans Trio at the Village Vanguard on June 25, 1961, marked the end of one of the most sublime instrumental combinations in jazz history when bassist Scott LaFaro died in a car accident 10 days later. This unit is underdocumented because Evans, a notorious perfectionist, was reluctant to record. The interchange between Evans on piano, LaFaro on bass and Paul Motian on drums is balletic in its balance of emotional beauty and technical precision. Multiple takes of “Gloria’s Step,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “All of You,” and “Jade Visions” show how the invention these players brought to each performance makes repeated material sound like movements in a suite. –John Swenson

Tracklist

01. Gloria’s Step (Take 2)
02. My Man’s Gone Now
03. Solar
04. Alice in Wonderland (Take 2)
05. All of You (Take 2)
06. Jade Visions (Take 2)
07. Gloria’s Step (Take 3)
08. Alice in Wonderland (Take 1)
09. All of You (Take 3)
10. Jade Visions (Take 1)

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John Coltrane – The Complete Africa/Brass Sessions

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In 1961 John Coltrane’s explorations of different modes and rhythms led to several powerful works that invoked other cultures, like “Olé,” “India,” and “Brazilia.” While those pieces were all recorded with expanded versions of his quartet, “Africa” was a unique opportunity, with Eric Dolphy’s arrangements for up to 13 brass and reed instruments providing a setting of volcanic energy for Coltrane’s majestic, declamatory tenor and the surging drumming of Elvin Jones. The orchestrations, as well as the solos, vary on the two sessions heard here, and there are also thoughtful adaptations of traditional material like “Greensleeves,” a lilting feature for Coltrane’s soprano saxophone that recalls the earlier treatment of “My Favorite Things,” and “Song of the Underground Railroad.” The two-CD complete collection expands on the original release with alternate takes of “Africa” and “Greensleeves” as well as a previously unissued recording of “The Damned Don’t Cry.”

Tracklist

CD1
01. Greensleeves
02. Song Of The Underground
03. Greensleeves (Alternate Take)
04. The Damned Don’t Cry
05. Africa (First Version)

CD2
01. Blues Minor
02. Africa (Alternate Take)
03. Africa

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Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers – Buhaina’s Delight

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When Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers expanded to a sextet with the addition of Curtis Fuller on trombone, the group took on the character of a small big band propelled by Blakey’s forceful drumming. Buhaina’s Delight, another session in the long line of great Blue Note dates from this period, displays that classic line-up in pristine form. With Freddie Hubbard replacing Lee Morgan, Cedar Walton replacing Bobby Timmons and musical director Wayne Shorter, the Messengers were full of fresh sounds and vibrant with energy.

Uncharacteristically for a Messengers session, the relaxed shuffle “Backstage Sally” opens the disc in a laid back groove. Shorter’s brilliant playing is featured prominently on this session on the delicate ballad “Contemplation” and many stunning solo spots. The title track (dubbed for Blakey’s Islamic name, Buhaina) and a dynamic arrangement of the standard “Moon River” are excellent examples of the classic Messengers sound: challenging horn arrangements, expressive soloing and assertive drumming by the leader. Also included on this set are bonus takes of all but two of the original tunes. For any Messengers fan, this is a delightful package, indeed.

Personnel: Art Blakey (drums); Jymie Merritt (bass instrument); Wayne Shorter (tenor saxophone); Freddie Hubbard (trumpet); Curtis Fuller (trombone); Cedar Walton (piano).

Tracklist

01. Backstage Sally
02. Contemplation
03. Bu’s Delight
04. Reincarnation Blues
05. Shaky Jake
06. Moon River
07. Backstage Sally (Alternate Version)
08. Bu’s Delight (Alternate Version)
09. Reincarnation Blues (Alternate Version)
10. Moon River (Alternate Take)

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Jackie McLean – Bluesnik

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Many regard this as the greatest album of Jackie McLean’s career, and while there is a lot of competition for that honor, this is one of his most intriguing and satisfying works. McLean, Freddie Hubbard, and Kenny Drew all contribute tunes, and each is a unique and fascinating take of the blues. This album is a testament to infinite variety that this resilient music form has in the hands of true masters. This Rudy Van Gelder remaster has two alternate takes added to the original album.

Personnel: Jackie McLean (alto saxophone); Freddie Hubbard (trumpet); Kenny Drew (piano); Doug Watkins (bass instrument, bass guitar); Pete La Roca (drums).

Tracklist

01. Bluesnik
02. Goin’ Way Blues
03. Drew’s Blues
04. Cool Green
05. Blues Function
06. Torchin
07. Goin’ Way Blues (Alternate Take)
08. Torchin’ (Alternate Take)

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Dexter Gordon – Doin’ Allright

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After spending most of the ’50s away from the scene, saxophonist Dexter Gordon entered the recording studio in 1961 to create what became the first in a series of seven incredible albums for Blue Note. On Doin’ Allright he proved why the world needed him back. Gordon assuredly embraced the inventive melodicism of Lester Young with the striking harmonies of Charlie Parker. He also mastered the art of quoting other musical passages within a cogent solo. As the reissue proves, the results are timeless, especially on such achingly beautiful ballads as “You’ve Changed.” Although Gordon used a group of studio musicians—rather than his own band—on this date everybody sounds remarkably cohesive. This session also featured then 23-year-old whiz-kid trumpeter Freddie Hubbard.

Personnel: Dexter Gordon (tenor saxophone); Dexter Gordon; George Tucker (bass instrument); Freddie Hubbard (trumpet); Horace Parlan (piano); Al Harewood (drums).

Tracklist

01. I Was Doing All Right
02. You’ve Changed
03. For Regulars Only
04. Society Red
05. It’s You Or No One
06. I Want More
07. For Regulars Only (Alternate Take)

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Hank Mobley – Workout

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Workout teams tenorman Hank Mobley with guitarist Grant Green for a rousing session that befits the title. Also in attendance are rhythm section aces Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones, who provide swinging support. Muscular tunes like the title track and the aptly titled “Smokin’” are the focus here as the two expertly blow and wail through the changes like frenzied boxers in a title bout. Also included are Mobley’s catchy blues number “Uh Huh” and masterful takes on the standards “The Best Things in Life Are Free” and “Three Coins in the Fountain.” In all, it is easy to hear why Workout is one of Mobley’s quintessential recordings.

Personnel: Hank Mobley (tenor saxophone); Wynton Kelly (piano); Grant Green (guitar); Paul Chambers (bass); Philly Joe Jones (drums).

Tracklist

01. Workout
02. Uh Huh
03. Smokin’
04. The Best Things In Life Are Free
05. Greasin’ Easy
06. Three Coins In A Fountain

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Duke Pearson – Dedication!

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Recorded for a small label that proceeded to go broke, Dedication! would not be released until nine years after its initial recording. This seems odd considering the all-star cast of players. Pianist Duke Pearson is joined by trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, baritone player Pepper Adams, trombonist Willie Wilson, bassist Thomas Howard, and drummer Lex Humphries on seven selections. The set kicks off with Tommy Flanagan’s “Minor Mishap,” an upbeat piece that brings forth nice solos from everyone. This might be Pearson’s session, but everybody is given plenty of room to cut loose. Wilson, for instance, is featured for the length of “The Nearness of You” and for a great deal of “Time After Time.” This is fortunate in retrospect; he made few recordings and would pass away in 1963, two years after this record was made. Pearson also turns in a number of nice solos. Like Hank Jones, his light touch serves him well on instrumentals like “Blues for Alvina” and “Time After Time.” The performances by Hubbard and Adams are topnotch throughout; they turn in first-rate work on numbers like Donald Byrd’s “Lex” and the Pearson original “The Number Five.” An important factor in the success of this album is the unusual combination of trumpet, trombone, and baritone saxophone that creates a resonant, full sound. Pearson would make a number of other fine recordings for Blue Note during the ’60s, but none finer than this one. Dedication! serves as a fine introduction to a talented pianist.

Personnel: Duke Pearson (piano); Pepper Adams (baritone saxophone, brass); Freddie Hubbard (trumpet); Wilfred Wilson, Willie Wilson (trombone); Lex Humphries (drums).

Tracklist

01. Minor Mishap
02. Number Five (aka Miss Bertha D. Blues)
03. The Nearness Of You
04. Apothegm
05. Lex
06. Blues For Alvina
07. Time After Time

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Freddie Hubbard – Minor Mishap

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This 1961 session-first released on Fontana in the late ’60s, now reissued on Black Lion-offers a look at a young Hubbard before his reputation with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers took hold and he became known as the future of jazz trumpeting. Listening to Hubbard take control from trombonist Willie Wilson in the third cut, “Blues For Alvina,” and bend the ensemble’s mood and pacing around a masterfully built improvisation shows that the future bandleader and innovator had already made the scene.

Pianist Dick Pearson’s trio comprises the steady, always-swining rhythm section heard here. Tracks six and seven, two versions of Pearson’s “Number Five,” present an interesting opportunity to hear the variations that occur among great players from take to take. Hubbard’s efforts in the second are edgier, driving the sextet toward a hotter sound more alive with nuance. Both Hubbard and baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams work Donald Byrd’s “Lex,” and the differences are subtle but significant. This is the early work of a great young trumpet player about to explode.

Personnel: Freddie Hubbard (trumpet, horns); Pepper Adams (baritone saxophone); W. Wilson, Willie Wilson (trombone); Duke Pearson (piano); Lex Humphries (drums).

Tracklist

01. Minor Mishap (Take 3)
02. Minor Mishap (Take 4)
03. Blues For Alvina (Take 3)
04. Blues For Alvina (Take 5)
05. The Nearness Of You (Take 3)
06. Number Five (Take 3)
07. Number Five (Take 5)
08. Lex (Take 2)
09. Lex (Take 4)
10. Time After Time (Take 2)
11. Apothegm (Take 6)
12. Apothegm (Take 14)

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Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers – The Freedom Ride

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This is one of the best albums by Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, performed by one of his most star studded lineups. Performing infront of Blakey’s explosive drumming is Wayne Shorter on tenor, Lee Morgan on trumpet, Bobby Timmons on piano, and Jymie Merritt on bass. Most of the tracks were penned by Wayne Shorter or Lee Morgan and all feature high energy performances, especially by Wayne Shorter. His tenor is on fire as he delivers one knock out solo after another. His solo and his exchange with Lee Morgan on “El Toro” as well as his solo on the bonus track “Uptight” are stand outs. The entire group shows it’s soft touch on the one slow number, the bonus track “Pisces”. Blakey’s extended drum piece, “The Freedom Rider” gives the master plenty of room to stretch out and flex his considerable skill as one of Jazz’s all time great drummers. This is an exciting, hard swinging set of classic hard bop, and is easliy recommended.

Tracklist

01. Tell It Like It Is
02. Freedom Rider
03. El Toro
04. Petty Larceny
05. Blue Lace
06. Uptight
07. Pisces
08. Blue Ching

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Bill Evans Trio – Waltz For Debby

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Recorded live at the Village Vanguard, this set rounded out what became known as an early “full” portrait of Bill Evans by following Sunday at the Village Vanguard with most of the rest of the music he played on June 25, 1961. Very little in the annals of piano-trio jazz ever reached the clarity of execution that Evans made his own with the recordings from this single date. With bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian, Evans reached a rapport that sounded whisper-intimate, rolling into gentle cascades and then rhythmically pouncing juts. On the keys, Evans sounds at once completely walled-off and nakedly open as he takes on “My Foolish Heart” and the title melody. The chords are voiced ever so oddly, as are the bass and drums. Coming as it did several months in the wake of the successful first episode in Evans’s Vanguard, Waltz for Debby just made it all the more obvious what a wonder the world had in this trio and its leader.

Tracklist

01. My Foolish Heart
02. Waltz For Debby (Take 2)
03. Detour Ahead (Take 2)
04. My Romance (Take 1)
05. Some Other Time
06. Milestones
07. Porgy (I Loves You, Porgy)
08. Discussing Repertoire)
09. Waltz For Debby (Take 1)
10. Detour Ahead (Take 1)
11. My Romance (Take 29

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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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Duke Jordan – Flight To Jordan

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Duke Jordan made his mark in jazz in the late 1940s as one of bebop innovator Charlie Parker’s regular pianists, but he didn’t blossom as a composer until the hard-bop era of the mid-’50s. Flight To Jordan, his 1960 Blue Note debut, captures Jordan at a creative peak. The album features a slightly unusual combination of musicians: Reggie Workman, who would soon thereafter make his own mark in jazz’s avant-garde sector; Stanley Turrentine, whose lusciously smooth, big-toned tenor would establish him as a leading light of the soul-jazz movement; and the fine, under-recorded Jamaican trumpeter Dizzy Reece. The latter’s tart approach contrasts wonderfully to Turrentine’s sweetly earthy sound. As a bonus, this remastered reissue includes two bonus tracks, one a trio take of the beloved standard “I Should Care.”

Tracklist

01. Flight To Jordan
02. Starbright
03. Squawkin’
04. Deacon Joe
05. Split Quick
06. Si Joya
07. Diamond Stud
08. I Should Care

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