Category Archives: Trumpet

Bring It Home To Me: Blue Mitchell

Four years have passed since my first post was published here at downwithit.info on 19 September 2013.

The first recording that we listened to was Blue Mitchell’s ‘Down With It!’, for reasons that were self-explanatory.

In the meantime, 166 individual items have been posted. Long-cherished albums have been aired alongside sessions that were new to my ears and occasional new releases. A sprinkling of sites and blogs are concerned with similar modern jazz territory, though most centre on vinyl treasures that I have recently acquired or chosen to write about. Here at downwithit, there is rather more freedom available to me, since recordings on CD are devoured and commented on. Without CD issues my collection would be relatively small and the vinyl equivalents would have cost a sizeable fortune.

Although Bring It Home To Me was recorded a mere six months after Down With It! it seems to represent a step forward for Mitchell’s band who seem to be facing the future rather than delving into the past. That is not to suggest that a contemporary free sound is to be found here and the album remains firmly within the soul jazz spectrum. There were significant personnel changes and Harold Mabern replaced Chick Corea on piano with Billy Higgins in place of Al Foster on drums.

The title track is a pleasing blues that seems to suggest signs of a transition to a funk sound. Junior Cook takes the first solo. Mabern’s piano accompaniment is simple yet effective and he gives us a stylish soul jazz solo. Although some may be inclined to dismiss this as a ‘Sidewinder’ inspired piece, Mitchell charms with an engaging solo and it is perfect opener as you can hear via the following Youtube link:-

To play, click on or touch the arrow

Blues 3 for 1 is, as its title suggests, a jazz waltz and a jaunty, enjoyable one too, with Mabern delivering a memorable solo.

Time for the Latin mélange of Port Rico Rock, which fits in well here.

By January 1966 Mitchell’s friend and collaborator, Jimmy Heath’s, Ginger Bread Boy was an emerging standard. Mitchell’s version is more conventional than the sparse, edgier and far looser though better known recording that Miles Davis released a year later on Miles Smiles. There’s definitely a place for both and Mitchell’s soul-tinged trumpet tone heard here is more expressive and richer than the driving mumbled rumble originality that Miles was later to present.

Blue changes the pace with a gentle and sophisticated ballad Portrait of Jennie, a late 1940’s Hollywood theme which had previously been popularised by Nat King Cole and Clifford Brown.

The set closes with Blue’s Theme, which is an uplifting hard bop workout based on the I Got Rhythm chord changes. The sleeve notes recount that this was the band’s closing number when they played club performances.

The cover illustration is by George Wright. It has a superficial resemblance to Johnny Griffin and Kenny Burrell covers painted by Andy Warhol. Wright was a regular designer for Blue Note during this period and is credited with cover art direction for Freddie Roach’s Good Move and Stanley Turrentine’s Rough ‘N’ Tumble. I’ve not uncovered anything further so if you can add information please don’t hesitate.

Bring It Home to Me is the fourth of Blue Mitchell’s recordings as a leader at Blue Notes and it is a thoroughly enjoyable outing. My CD is a Japanese Blue Note 75th anniversary edition released in 2014.

The band etc:-  Blue Mitchell (trumpet); Junior Cook (tenor sax); Harold Mabern Jr (piano); Gene Taylor (bass); Billy Higgins (drums).  Recorded 6 January 1966.  Recorded by: Rudy Van Gelder, Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.  Sleeve Notes: Ira Gitler.  Cover Drawing: George Wright.  Issued as Blue Note BST 84228.

If you like what you have read, please touch or click on the ‘like’ box. Comments are also very welcome. downwithit.info contains over 160 individual posts about Modern Jazz, which can be found by using the search box at the top of this page or by making a selection of your choice from the list at the bottom of this page, where you will also find links to other blogs and websites.

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The Cat Walk: Donald Byrd


Shame on me. I’m surprised to discover that I’ve not written about a session led by the great Donald Byrd here yet. Time to put that right with this set from 1961.

I searched for this recording for several years after I first heard the title track on Gilles Peterson’s shows sometime in the 1990’s. I can remember hunting through the CD racks every time I visited a shop with a sufficiently strong Jazz presence, in the hope that it would be released, before finally obtaining an expensive Japanese import when it came out there in 2000. I suppose I could have sought out a copy on vinyl but that was in pre-EBay days. Never mind, it came my way eventually.

The Cat Walk is an audible treat which melds Donald Byrd’s trumpet, the baritone of regular band mate Art Pepper and the piano, compositional and arranging skills of Duke Pearson.

Byrd’s musical output spanned a lengthy period from the early 1950’s through hard bop and then perhaps most notably, onto jazz funk. Although, most of my listening to Byrd as a leader has centred on his wonderful Best of Donald Byrd which features tracks from his later jazz funk Blue Note albums, it is this classic 1961 outing that we will take a look at here. We will start, without further ado. with the title track playing in the background.

To play, click on or touch the arrow

Say You’re Mine is one of four tunes on this set that Duke Pearson wrote or collaborated on. Donald Byrd opens with the theme and plays a lengthy solo on his muted trumpet before giving way to the rasping woody tones of Adams’ baritone saxophone. Pearson’s short solo is both delicate and delicious.

Duke’s Mixture is infused with the blues and strikes me as a tightly arranged tune rather than being a soloists vehicle. Although Byrd, Adams and Pearson get a chorus each, this is essentially a big band number played by a quintet.

The joint Duke Pearson and Donald Byrd composition Each Time I Think Of You sounds like an old school swing tune, with some great playing including a fluent, unmuted solo from Byrd.

Byrd’s own tune, The Cat Walk was inspired by the slinky, insouciant lope of a Tomcat. It is the very sort of tune that could have formed the soundtrack for a 1960’s modern dance piece and one wonders if it ever came to the attention of Donald Byrd’s namesake, an eminent choreographer. It is perhaps an earlier, second-cousin example of a jazz dance piece pre dating Lee Morgan’s The Sidewinder, which will probably make some explore further, while others recoil. I like it!

Cute was written by Neal Hefti, himself a trumpeter (although this was overshadowed by his contribution as an arranger for Count Basie). Philly Joe Jones is to the fore on this pacy rendition with Byrd laying down a deft solo before Adams comes in, playing lines on his baritone of a type and fluency we are more accustomed to hearing on the much smaller alto saxophone.

The set closes with Hello Bright Sunflower a final Byrd composition. It is a light and joyful breeze of a tune that, to my ears, is vaguely reminiscent of ‘It’s Only a Paper Moon.’

During the 1970’s and 1980’s a cohort of Jazz purists of a certain type were highly critical of Donald Byrd’s later work and this left his reputation somewhat tarnished in mainstream quarters. A re-read of the late Richard Cook’s Blue Note Records, The Biography suggests that Cook viewed Byrd as one of the lesser talents on the label and his playing is given little praise. He states: ‘Byrd’s problem was that he was nearly always going to come off second-best on a label that had trumpeters of the calibre of Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard and Kenny Dorham.’ I’m not going to dwell on this curiously imprecise verdict, since, surely we should appreciate each of these great artists on their own merits without attempting to impose a hierarchy. For the record, I’m confident that I’ll be returning to the later works on these pages in due course.

Mention should also be made of Donald Byrd’s great contribution as a jazz educator. He continued his academic studies throughout his career before submitting his PhD and gaining his Doctorate. Dr Byrd was the first director of a new Jazz Studies course at Howard University (where, in the 1960’s, students were forbidden to play Jazz in the Music Department and were expelled for practising on campus) before teaching in other universities. In addition to his eminence as an academic he also qualified as a pilot and as a lawyer. I’m not sure if Dr Byrd is posing next to his own Jaguar on the sleeve? If I had taken the photo I think I would shot from an angle that placed a little more emphasis on Jaguar’s symbolic ‘leaper’ on the bonnet.

Finally, the original sleeve notes were written by Nat Hentoff who passed away last week. He was responsible for numerous cover commentaries and always seemed to me to have been positive, informative and fair-minded. His Wikipedia entry offers a synopsis of the full life of a remarkable man. RIP Nat.

The band etc.:- Donald Byrd (trumpet); Pepper Adams (baritone sax); Duke Pearson (piano); Laymon Jackson (bass); Philly Joe Jones (drums). Recorded 2 May 1961. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, New Jersey. Produced by: Alfred Lion. Sleeve Notes: Nat Hentoff. Cover photo: Francis Wolff. Cover Design: Reid Miles. Issued as Blue Note 84075.

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Candy: Lee Morgan

candy-lee-morgan

Imagine. You are 19 years old and already a highly respected musician playing live and on recordings with the brightest and the best. You have already led six sessions which will be issued in your name and you are about to record your seventh. You are a trumpet player of prodigious ability and your name is Lee Morgan.

In November 1957 and February 1958 Morgan visited Rudy Van Gelder’s Hackensack studio to record Candy. This was the sole quartet date in his lengthy discography and the only time he was recorded without another horn in the line up.

This was Morgan’s final Blue Note recording as a leader (of a first series of six, with one outing ‘Introducing Lee Morgan’ on Savoy) before a period away from the label during which he served as a member of the Jazz Messengers before returning to Philadelphia to struggle with addiction.

The tunes chosen for the session were a range of popular crowd pleasers from the charts, Hollywood and then-current musicals. They would have been well-known at the time and would probably have tempted the wallet of the casual record store browser but nearly sixty years later most can only be regarded as lesser known entries in the list of standard tunes. That said, it was interesting to check the origins of most of the songs that make up this set.

A jaunty version of Candy opens the set. The style of trumpet playing here is somewhat reminiscent of Clifford Brown, from whom Morgan took a number of lessons while Brown was living in Philadelphia. Originally a hit in the 40’s, Big Maybelle had also belted this one out in 1956. This track has an audible flaw which has been attributed to a squeaky hi-hat pedal. I initially thought it was signalling the beginnings of a problem with my system but the well-documented fault lies on the original master recording. Many choose to try to ignore it, as I did when this review was originally published, thinking that it would be analysed to death by more extensively visited writers. On reflection, it is a comment that needs to be made about a sub-standard take that should have been scrapped and re-recorded.

Since I Fell For You is a slow and melancholy blues ballad and I have included a link below. It was later recorded by Stanley Turrentine and the Three Sounds on Blue Hour and that is the Blue Note version that I prefer. There is also a cover by Nina Simone, while a Van Morrison version from the 1974 Montreux Jazz Festival is also worth seeking out, partly for his impassioned response to a heckler when the song is introduced.

To watch, click on or touch the arrow.

C.T.A. ups the tempo and takes us into bebop territory.

All The Way is a Sammy Cahn, Jimmy Van Heusen number which was a current hit at the time of the recording, having been popularised by Frank Sinatra before being covered by a spectrum of artists extending from Billie Holliday via James Brown to Bob Dylan and beyond. In 1957 it received an Accademy Award for: ‘Best Original Song’, which meant that its inclusion on this album would have caught the eye and helped to boost sales. Whilst it is a pleasant enough ballad, for me, it will never rank in the pantheon of Blue Note’s finest covers.

Who Do You Love. I Hope is an Irving Berlin show tune from Annie Get Your Gun. I’m not fond of the rather trite chorus, but once Lee Morgan gets going into his solo it becomes well-worth a listen.

Personality featured in Bing Crosby and Bob Hope’s ‘Road to Utopia’, a perennial TV film during my childhood and one of my favourites. Although it was filmed in colour, we had a black and white telly in those days and I can’t imagine it any other way. Dorothy Lamour performs the song in the movie

All At Once You Love Her is a bonus track on the CD release. It is the Rodgers and Hammerstein number from the musical ‘Pipe Dream’, which later became a hit for Perry Como.

The LP cover represents a sole Blue Note outing for Emerick Bronson. I assume that label stalwart, Francis Wolff was responsible for the overall image, which places a portrait of Lee Morgan, shot by Bronson, amongst an arrangement of sweet jars. It is not one of the better Blue Note sleeves and Bronson’s talents were deployed to greater effect through his career as a photographer with Vogue and Cosmopolitan. His pictures have featured in themed exhibitions in New York’s Museum of Modern Art and since he died at a fair old age in the bijoux Long Island hamlet of Sag Harbor, which was also a home from home for John Steinbeck I assume his career was a relatively lucrative one.

Candy is a snapshot of a confident young leader flexing his talents with just a rhythm section to support him and, in the additional sleeve notes which were added to the RVG series CD release, Bob Blumenthal rightly commends Lee Morgan for daring to be bold. Whilst it is interesting to hear him in this context, it seems a shame that the choice of material here draws so heavily on a mainstream popular songbook and it is an album that I listen to from time to time rather than a staple on my playlist.

Candy is currently available as 45 and 33rpm high-quality vinyl pressings from MusicMatters Jazz, but, as the above review suggests, this is not a title that I’ll be rushing to purchase.

The band etc:- Lee Morgan (Trumpet); Sonny Clark (piano); Doug Watkins (bass); Art Taylor (drums). Recorded: 18 November 1957 and 2 February 1958. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey. Produced: Rudy Van Gelder. Sleeve Notes: Robert Levin. Cover Image of Lee Morgan: Francis Wolff. Cover photo: Emerick Bronson. Cover Design: Reid Miles. Originally issued as Blue Note 1590.

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Ingrid Jensen live at Smoke NYC. 13 June 2015

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A short trip to New York has provided the opportunity to follow up on a tip from the esteemed Jazz Collector (the American one, not our own LJC).

Smoke is a small and intimate jazz venue located on the Upper West Side. Boasting its own in-house label with CDs bursting with information that suggests that this is a labour of love (my review of Orrin Evans Liberation Blues set is here), it is becoming a must-visit for discerning jazz aficiandos.

While writing about the Evans album I was looking for a YouTube clip and used one featuring Ingrid Jensen performing as a guest with his band at Smoke. It was uncanny to discover that Jensen would be headlining during my short visit to New York this year.

Berkelee alumni, Jensen was accompanied by her sister Christine on alto and soprano sax (who apparently scores big band charts for fun) together with piano from Gary Versace, Mark Clohesy on drums and John Wikan on bass. They were joined by special guest, Joel Miller, on tenor sax.

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(Image hopefully non-copyright- if so I’ll remove immediately on notification)

I was there for the end of the second and the whole of the third set. I’m always alarmed when somebody produces a melodica. Although Augustus Pablo and Bernard Sumner of New Order have convinced me of its merits, I just can’t get beyond infant memories of a cruel nun at my primary school who played one to me and my fellow mixed infants when she was not slapping my ears with both hands. It’s fair to say I always squirm when I see that strange confection of an instrument!

In any event Jensen played a brief intro before unveiling a trumpet-led set that steered well clear of the stock standards that we often hear too much of in London. The band combined originals with a couple of covers including a Kenny Wheeler tune and the late Clark Terry’s Serenade to a Bus Seat.

Ingrid Jensen’s playing was wonderful. In a masterclass that you can seek out on YouTube she describes how she has worked to develop an approach to playing that is relaxed and upright (almost like Alexander Technique for the instrumentalist). Whatever she is doing, it works. I wasn’t surprised when she spoke with great admiration of great musicians including Art Farmer and Freddie Hubbard who had welcomed her to join them on the bandstand when she was starting out. Her tasteful improvisation refreshes and really hits the spot. A self-penned tune entitled Margaretta was a highlight.

If you are in NYC, Smoke is well-worth a visit (I’ll be back again one day), although the three short sets a night from the headliner format is not one that I like. It’s also a little disappointing to watch a band of this calibre playing to an audience, many of whom are concentrating on food and the company they are with. All the same, the world-class Ingrid Jensen and her band merit an 8/10 on my patented performance rating scale, with the venue rating 7/10.

A good evening out was had.

The band: Ingrid Jensen [trumpet]; Christine Jensen [alto and soprano saxophones]; Gary Versace [piano] Matt Clohesy [bass]; Jon Wikan [drums]; Joel Miller (tenor sax), guest.

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The Gigolo: Lee Morgan

Gigolo Lee Morgan

It’s a warm spring evening and the new ‘downwithit Lounge’ in Hoxditch Hill is about to open for business. You know the sort of place and area. No children or old people (over 25s) for miles, hard won full beards will have to be shaved off by mid-April 2015 because they’ve been spotted in the provinces (Highgate and Deptford), the only pets allowed are pugs- specially dressed for the occasion and the door password is ‘Beyond Ice Cool’.
A conversation takes place which goes something like this:-
“Hey DJ, I’m opening the doors. Let’s have something to pack our clientele in!”
“OK boss. What’s it to be?”
“Hit ’em hard with the first track on this set, ‘Yes I Can. No You Can’t’ and guests and good times will surely follow.”

Have a listen to the original on YouTube.

To play, click or touch the arrow

So here we go, back to 1965, a shade under 50 years ago. Lee’s flying high and there’s a young lad on piano, one Harold Mabern Jr. On this opener he’s playing soul Jazz at a very high level. If you like this vibe and don’t already possess this recording, kick yourself and get out and get it. By the way, right here and right now in April 2015, Harry is just releasing a new album (Afro Blue), live from Smoke in NYC and featuring some young vocalists including Gregory Porter and Norah Jones

Next up, and the mythical downwithit Lounge has got ’em in and they are Trapped by the music. This is a Wayne Shorter composition. Didn’t I tell that Wayne’s on tenor saxophone duties on this set. Well, he is!

Speedball, a tune that remained as a staple within Lee Morgan’s repertoire, makes its first appearance here. It’s a fine hard bop tune. The band is really tight and Lee is at his very best.

Title track, The Gigolo, is a fast heady Jazz waltz tune- although perhaps my understanding of the time signature is mistaken. It is exciting and enjoyable with a worthy contribution from Wayne Shorter.

The album closes with Santa Claus Is Coming To Town. Actually, that’s not true, it is You Go To My Head – but there is a link and your starter for 500 in any quiz. The link is that both songs were written by Coots and Gillespie. Morgan’s take here is wonderful, pure caberetsville and is probably recorded because Bill Evans and Freddie Hubbard cut a well-regarded version in 1962 (thanks to Ted Gioia‘s magisterial The Jazz Standards for this snippet).

Every so often a little research around a review reveals an interesting sidetrack to explore. Although Blue Note covers are generally strong and visually appealing, especially if Reid Miles and Francis Wolff were involved, this one isn’t particularly wonderful. The tight cropping of a picture of Morgan playing his trumpet provides us with an engaging image with a classic rule of thirds leading our eyes to Morgan’s embouchure- but I’m not at all keen on the use of full colour for the final print. Black and white or an overlay of a single colour over the image worked well on numerous classic Blue Note sleeves, especially when coupled with well-chosen typefaces. The later designs, using a colour picture of the artist or, of a model seem to me to be less powerful and following the retirement of Alfred Lion as a producer and the sale of Blue Note to Liberty, Reid Miles design work association with the label ended.

Incidentally, Wikipedia records that:- Miles wasn’t particularly interested in jazz, professing to have much more of an interest in classical music; he received several copies of each Blue Note album he designed but gave most of them to friends or sold them to used record shops. Miles used the descriptions of the sessions relayed to him by producer Alfred Lion to create the artwork.

This album cover was designed by Forlenza Venosa Associates, who went on to deliver over 50 covers. They are typified by full colour pictures featuring the artist or a model and are often rather boring head and shoulder shots, in my opinion. The late Robert Venosa went on to work as a successful member of the Fantastic Realism school of artists and apparently his pictures are represented in major museum collections and in the private collections of ‘…rock stars and European aristocracy.’ I don’t covet any of them. He also designed Santana’s Abraxas album cover, although he was not responsible for the cover painting.

The Gigolo is well worthy of your attention, despite the cover. If you see a copy, get it. You are unlikely to be disappointed. Lee Morgan and the band are in great form. Nat Hentoff summed it up in the original sleeve notes, writing: ‘It’s the kind of set you know- by the way you feel- will never be dated.’ The CD copy has a slightly longer alternate take of title track as a bonus.

S.Mos delivered a mash up version and mixed in Tupac Shakur. There’s a link here for your enjoyment. It’s a bit 2011 for downwithits Hoxditch Hill lounge, but you may enjoy it. The bass is more to the fore on this one.

To play, click or touch the arrow

The band etc:- Lee Morgan (Trumpet); Wayne Shorter (tenor sax); Harold Mabern (piano); Bob Cranshaw (bass); Billy Higgins (drums). Recorded: June 25 and July 1 1965. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Produced: Alfred Lion. Sleeve Notes: Nat Hentoff. Cover photos: Francis Wolff. Cover Design: Forlenza Venosa Associates. Issued as Blue Note 84212.

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An update: Down With It!: The Blue Mitchell Quintet.

No prizes for guessing that my first post here at downwithit.info in September 2013 took a look at the Blue Mitchell set entitled… …Down With It! You can read what I thought about this fine set here.

Shortly after writing the post I bought what at the time I thought was an original first stereo pressing of the LP. It didn’t break the bank and I was a little dissatisfied with the sound quality. It was good but I was expecting a lot more. Then a little research confirmed that what I had was indeed an early issue- but not a first pressing. There was no Plastylite ‘ear’ for a start. I was disappointed but determined to obtain a good quality mono first pressing without paying silly money.

Over the last year or so I’ve bid for a number of copies on eBay, without success. I took another look on New Year’s Day, not particularly expecting to find what I wanted.

Oh me of little faith! I was wrong. An American dealer was auctioning a copy which he advertised as a conservatively graded VG+/Ex stereo copy, but which clearly had the mono serial number (BLP 4214, not the BST 84214 that a stereo copy would have on the label) in the accompanying photo. Everything else indicted that this was the first pressing that I was after.

The entry price was moderate and the cover was fully intact but a bit discoloured (I’d grade it as VG).

I was successful and paid well under the not over-large sum that I had set my snipe at. It arrived today and I’m delighted. It has all of the presence and clarity that I’d hoped for first time round and an independent listener confirmed in a blind test that it sounded better than my stereo copy. Indeed, things may get even better as it is off to the vinyl shop for a spin on their high-quality disc washing machine tomorrow.

So there’s much rejoicing tonight in the land of downwithit.info and as there’s currently a version of the excellent Hi-Heel Sneakers from the set on youtube (courtesy of Antonio Jiminez) you can have a listen (until it gets removed from youtube again):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAoLPw-Fh0c

To listen, touch or click on the arrow.

I really should add that March On Selma and Alone, Alone and Alone are superb tracks which you really should make time to listen to.

In 2014 I took a look at 26 classic Jazz albums. There’s a shortcut to a summary page here.

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Blue Spirits: Freddie Hubbard

Blue Spirits Freddie Hubbard

Recorded over two sessions in early 1965 and on CD supplemented by a further two tracks from early 1966, Blue Spirits was Freddie Hubbard’s last studio release on Blue Note and it wasn’t an album that I had come across very often in the shops. However, some good came out of a trip to a football match in Manchester, when I picked this up at Vinyl Exchange.

It then languished unplayed and neglected in my workbag until Christmas. This was a mistake as it is a very fine album. Without further ado, take a listen to the opening track, Soul Surge from YouTube, courtesy of Rogerjazzfan.

To play touch or click on the arrow

There’s a division in fans of Blue Note between those who enjoy Lee Morgan’s Sidewinder and those who speak dismissively of the number of similar tracks that opened subsequent albums by a host of other artists in the hope that they could replicate its success. Soul Surge is one of those tracks, but it is a wonderful piece of music in its own right. Indeed it is one of those pieces that should probably have gained standard’ status but never quite made it. Harold Mabern on piano and Joe Henderson make their mark and conga drummer, Big Black combines delightfully with bassist Larry Ridley.

The same lineup play on the fourth track, Cunga Black. This has a Latin feel and Hubbard stated that he was looking for a dark sound, although I wouldn’t characterise it with that quality.

The second session from late February 1965 yielded the title track, Blue Spirits, which seems to open like a subdued version of Silent Night, before lightening up with the introduction of James Spaulding on flute.

Outer Forces strikes on with a lively feel and pace, while Jodo (‘pure land’ in Japanese) also swings along in a funky way. All fit well with the two tracks from earlier in the month, despite a change of rhythm section and tenor saxophonist with Hank Mobley sitting in here.

The original vinyl release was made up of the five tracks above. However the CD offers a further two tracks from a session in early March 1966, where Joe Henderson returns on tenor, with pianist, Herbie Hancock and Elvin Jones, joined by Reggie Workman on bass and the lesser known Hosea Taylor (alto sax and bassoon). The Melting Pot is more of a modal piece than its predecessors from the previous year. True Colors has a freer, more experimental feel, especially in the solos, and interesting use is made of Hancock’s celeste and it is very different from the rest of the CD. However, both tracks retain a strong sense of cohesion and, in the playing is restrained and confined to the normal range of each instrument.

Bob Blumenthal’s notes accompanying the RVG CD release state: ‘While often overlooked, Blue Spirits is one of the greatest albums in Freddie Hubbard’s voluminous discography.’
It is an album that I’m enjoying very much and one on which the talents of an array of great Blue Note artists are deployed in a wondrous way. All in all, yet another fantastic Blue Note set that is well worth tracking down.

The band etc:-
19 February 1965: Freddie Hubbard (trumpet); James Spaulding (alto sax & flute); Joe Henderson (tenor sax); Kiane Zawadi (euphonium); Harold Mabern (piano); Larry Ridley (bass); Clifford Jarvis (drums); Big Black (congas). On: Soul Surge & Cunga Black (tracks 1 & 4)
26 February 1965: Freddie Hubbard (trumpet); James Spaulding (alto sax & flute); Hank Mobley (tenor sax); Kiane Zawadi (euphonium); McCoy Tyner (piano); Bob Cranshaw (bass); Pete La Roca (drums). On: Blue Spirits, Outer Forces, Jodo (tracks 2-5)
5 March 1966: Freddie Hubbard (trumpet); Joe Henderson (tenor sax); Hosea Taylor (alto sax & bassoon); Herbie Hancock (piano, celeste); Reggie Workman (bass); Elvin Jones (drums). On: The Melting Pot, True Colors (tracks 6-7)
Produced: Alfred Lion. Recorded 19, 26 February and 5 March 1966. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Sleeve Notes: Nat Hentoff. Cover photos: Francis Wolff. Design Reid Miles. Tracks 1-5 Originally issued as Blue Note BST 84196

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Byron Wallen live at East Side Jazz Club. 1st July 2014

East Side Jazz Club hosted yet another attractive gig as part of the weekly series at Tommy Flynn’s on Leytonstone High Road. Byron Wallen was featured but before I saw him I had to take care of the inner man as I was hungry. Thankfully the pub serves food downstairs (I’m glad it’s not available in the music room) and I was tempted by their very good battered cod, served in a huge portion with a freshly dressed salad and some proper chips. The new landlord is carrying on with a good menu and I’ll be eating here again.

After that I caught the end of the first set from Byron Wallen (trumpet) Simon Purcell (piano), Gary Crosby (bass) and ever-present Clive Fenner (drums). Bye Bye Blackbird, brought to mind the version on Miles Davis’s In Person Live At The Blackhawk, which was followed by a good solid rendition of Blue Monk.

Several days after the gig and the initial posting of this piece I realised that Byron Wallen opened the Meltdown performance of A Love Supreme with a Tibetan Horn and a fine trumpet and bass duet which you can read about here.

During the interval, on the big screen in the downstairs bar, the Belgium v USA World Cup match was heating up, but when the musicians returned, the fare upstairs was even better. The second set opened with a second Thelonious Monk composition, I Mean You, with each of the performers given space to express themselves. Indeed it was a very open and welcoming bandstand with Alexandra (surname awaited) guesting on alto saxophone on Charlie Parker’s Donna Lee.

I am fond of On Green Dolphin Street, when it is played well, as was the case tonight. There was even more of a treat when Cuban, Yelfris Valdes was invited to join in on a second trumpet. Byron’s playing had been very good up to that point but the addition of another excellent horn player pushed him on even further. His remarkable willingness to share the spotlight with such a talented exponent of the same instrument spoke volumes about Wallen’s great self-confidence and it leads me to ask you, the readership…

A question!

…Can you recall and inform us of any instances of Miles Davis allowing another trumpeter to play alongside him in an equal role? I know the famous story about Wynton Marsalis being told where he could go to when he attempted to take to the stage that Miles was ruling. There’s lots of space for comments here at downwithit, so don’t be shy.

Afterword: There’s a picture of Miles and Dizzy Gillespie playing together here-although I assume that Miles was the guest on that session.

Caravan was a tour de force with both leads trading ideas and alto player, Alexandra, growing in confidence with every note. Sadly though the clock turned and it was time for the closing number, the Billie Holiday ballad, You Don’t Know What Love Is.

This was another memorable visit to East Side Jazz Club, which was rounded off with a final, non-musical treat as I watched the captivating extra-time conclusion to the Belgium v USA game.

A further 7/10 performance rating is merited and somehow I expect that we won’t see many months pass without having witnessed Yelfris Valdes as featured artist at ESJC. For those of you that can’t wait there’s a small taste on YouTube:

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