Tag Archives: Blue Note

Classic albums reissued on high-quality vinyl

Regular readers will be aware that I write about modern jazz, much on CD, that has found its way into my music collection. Delivering a point of view on the music is my goal and I don’t worry too much that I am not normally writing about an early pressing on vinyl.

That’s not to suggest that I don’t appreciate a great vinyl copy of a set and there are some classics that I know I will love and thus will seek to obtain. Via the excellent London Jazz Collector site I learned of high quality modern pressings of classic albums and what follows is a reply from me on that site as part of a huge body of correspondence about modern reissues and obtaining sonically satisfying copies of hard to obtain originals without paying high prices.

My first order from Music Matters arrived from California, mid-week. The service was excellent and I’m delighted with my new pristine 33 1/3 copies of Blue Train and Cool Struttin’. They sound superb on my upgraded system and I intend to buy more of their reissues. Having attended a shootout between an Analogue productions and white label pressing of Brilliant Corners last weekend, I can now appreciate that the treble on some original pressings of some discs may sound more ‘brittle’ and that some of the low end bass may be compressed or absent. I am perhaps fortunate to prefer the fuller sound of the modern re-masters over the authenticity of a shrill original, where that is the case (but I know I may be waving a red rag amongst some of the bulls here).

In relation to collecting music to play, rather than collecting objects of value, simply to own, the MM reissues offer me an ideal upgrade path. If a recording is not available other than in a less sonically pleasing version, I will obtain that copy and hope, perhaps, to upgrade in the future unless something else uses up my disposable money. Back in the olden days in the North of England, the only way to get hold of some great Northern Soul singles was to buy ‘pressings’ (essentially greatly inferior bootleg copies of originals). I’ve still got quite a few and although I know they are not quite the real thing, I still treasure them but have no desire to upgrade. In the case of some Jazz reissues we get the dual benefit of great sound, packaged with great care at a fraction of the probable cost of a scratchy dog-earred copy of early pressing obtained via the collectors market.

But each to their own path, provided it actually involves listening to and engaging with the music.

I’m aware that some settle for nothing less than original first pressings, often preferably in mono. However, their pockets are likely to be far better lined than my own. For the time being it will be MM and similar pressings for me when I’m looking for a vinyl edition.

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Got A Good Thing Goin’: Big John Patton

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After the disappointment of the last recording I reviewed, I turned a sure-fire winner with this 1966 sixth set as leader from Big John Patton. With five of these first six already in my collection, surprisingly, it has taken me some time to write about one of them.

With support from Grant Green’s guitar Hugh Walker’s drums and Richard Landrum’s congas, Got A Good Thing Goin’ is a soul jazz outing, based firmly on the blues.

The Yodel gets matters underway. I could see this track working very well as part of that DJ set in my mind. The cool dancer wearing sun shades on the cover shows us just what to do, the very image of a Soul Woman (London, Ready, Steady, Go! division).

I love Motown and Ain’t That Peculiar is one of countless tunes that gets my heart beating just that bit faster. Grant Green’s playing is particularly good on this track. I’m not sure who is on the tambourine but in the right place, like here, it really cuts through the other instruments to add extra zest- and it is an essential ingredient of the Motown sound.

Shake, penned by Sam Cooke but popularised by Otis Redding simmers. Let’s take a look courtesy of YouTube:

Duke Pearson’s Amanda from Wahoo (a set that I am currently chasing) brings this strong and fresh sounding session to a close. Some records need repeated plays to get into but this has an immediacy which made writing this review a pleasure. I suppose it could be described as a concept album- the plan is you put it on your system, play it through, get happy and possibly even dance. After yesterday’s woeful diversion into semi-ELP territory, even the hi-fi seems cleansed and happy. Every home should have a copy!

The band etc: John Patton (organ); Grant Green (guitar); Hugh Walker (drums); Richard Landrum (conga). Recorded: 29 April 1966. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Produced: Alfred Lion. Recorded: Rudy Van Gelder. Sleeve Notes: Alan Grant. Cover photos and design: Reid Miles. Issued as Blue Note 80731.

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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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Green Street: Grant Green

Green Street features Blue Note guitarist Green with just bass and drums in support and nowhere to hide. He doesn’t need to. It is a great performance, stripped down to basics, without anything that is remotely superfluous.

This early album, from 1961, was Grant Green’s second release on Blue Note, recorded just two months after Grant’s First Stand. The opener, entitled, naturally, Number 1 Green Street swings out with Green’s strong bluesy lines, which confirms that lead lines played with crisp precision by horn players were a major influence.

Monk’s Round Midnight was a track that everybody wanted to hear in 1961 and this version does not disappoint. I’m well aware that there are many collectors who have a strong preference for mono recordings. However, for my money, the stereo version of this track on a good stereo system is wonderful. My version is a high quality WAV file ripped to a Naim UnitiServe from the 2002 24 bit Blue Note RVG series remaster. I’ll be delighted and surprised if I ever hear the original vinyl first pressing over a system that sounds better.

Grant’s Dimensions is next up. Although based on a blues form, GG plays around with the structure and produces his own distinctive composition, with a perfectly crafted contribution from Tucker on bass. Take a listen now, courtesy of YouTube.

To play click on or touch the arrow

Green With Envy has a short sequence where Green plays the same note repeatedly, to the point where the listener begins to think that the track is stuck.

It isn’t.

Alone Together, is jazz standard, composed by silent film accompanists, turned lawyer, turned marketing exec, finally turned mega-successful composer, Arthur Schwarz. It has a teasing, slinky vibe to it and in the hands of many becomes dark and sombre, although these qualities don’t spring to mind on hearing GG’s treatment.

The RVG Edition CD has two bonus alternate takes of the two last two tracks.

The original sleeve notes were written by no lesser commentator than Leonard Feather.
It’s fair to say that Len was a fan of the early GG as he wrote:-
“Superlative piled on superlative can build a dangerously precipitous mountain. After you have hailed the most brilliant new this and the most remarkable new that, what words do you have left when a Grant Green comes along.”
Well called, Leonard!.

So pour a large glass of something you like, dim the lights, take some ‘me time’ and enjoy. Green Street is a great album from a guitarist with a fine discography. If you see it, grab yourself a copy.

The band etc.: Grant Green (guitar); ben Taylor (bass); Dave Bailey (drums). Recorded: 1 April 1961. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Produced: Alfred Lion. Recording: Rudy Van Gelder. Cover photos: Francis Wolff. Cover Design: Reid Miles. Sleeve notes: Leonard Feather. Originally issued as Blue Note BST 84071.

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Ready For Freddie: Freddie Hubbard

Freddie Hubbard Ready For Freddie cover

I haven’t yet taken a look at a Freddie Hubbard recording here, so its time to put that right, as I’m the proud owner of a number of his sets. Although Miles Davis casts a massive shadow over modern jazz trumpet, it is really refreshing to hear others who have also made the instrument their own. By the time he recorded his fourth Blue Note set as leader, dues had been paid and Freddie Hubbard had the freedom to be creative. That certainly shows on this set. There’s a definite sound of excitement and a willingness to strive for something new. Even over 50 years since Ready For Freddie was recorded, Hubbard’s quest to deliver something that excites rings through.

At the time of recording Ready For Freddie, Hubbard had just been in the studio with John Coltrane, playing on Ole which I wrote about here. He cites his aspiration to follow in the exemplary saxophonist’s footsteps and Elvin Jones, and McCoy Tyner at the heart of the rhythm section, joined by Art Davis, who had also played a second double bass on the Ole session.

Arietis is a lively uptempo number, still hard bop but a tune that’s striving towards something else. The euphonium adds a bit of variety with an unexpected quality to its voicing. The YouTube clip is courtesy of Roger rogerjazzfan:-

To play click on or touch the arrow.

Victor Young and Jack Elliot’s Weaver Of Dreams is a sensitive ballad. Surprisingly, Young the composer was on a Bolshevik death list in revolutionary Russia but escaped (see bottom of this piece) to write ‘When I Fall In Love’, work as Bing Crosby’s musical director, win 22 Academy Awards and an Oscar for his work on movie scores (sounds like a story I should be writing a screenplay of- but, sadly, I don’t suppose I will).

Marie Antoinette is a Wayne Shorter composition, apparently so titled because the tune made him think of the carefree life of the Queen before the revolution, when the axe fell. Let ’em eat cake! Its a mid-tempo piece and a pleasant listen.

Birdlike opens the second side of the original LP version of this recording and it is a tribute to Charlie Parker. Crisis is informed by the global Cold War tensions that were current, coming, in the words of sleeve note writer Hentoff: “…from Freddie’s desire to express in music some of the spiralling tension of all our lives under the growing shadow of the bomb.” This is accomplished through the contrast between the first 12 bars of each 16 bar section with the music ‘exploding’ in the last four bars- or that’s the theory as the explosions are still relatively polite.

The CD version contains the bonus of alternative takes on Arietis and Marie Antoinette.

The band etc:- Freddie Hubbard (trumpet); Bernard McKinney (euphonium); Wayne Shorter (tenor sax); McCoy Tyner (piano); Art Davis (bass); Elvin Jones (drums).  Produced: Alfred Lion. Recorded 21 August 1961. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.  Sleeve Notes: Nat Hentoff. Cover photos: Francis Wolff.  Originally issued as Blue Note BLP 4085 & BST 84085

Although born in the United States in 1900, Victor Young was a musical prodigy and went to stay in Warsaw with his grandfather when aged 10. His wikipedia entry takes things up:- Playing before Russian generals and nobles, while in Warsaw, he was later introduced to Czar Nicholas in St. Petersburg, and his playing so impressed the Czar that he presented him with many gifts but the revolution cut short his success in Russia. Having been connected with the court of the Czar, the Bolsheviks deemed it advisable to get rid of him, and it is only by a miracle that he escaped death, for he was already sentenced to die. After a long and tiresome escapade, he succeeded in reaching Warsaw, then Paris, and from there to the United States.

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All That’s Good: Frederick Roach

Freddie Roach All That's Good cover
Freddie Roach’s Wikipedia entry has has finally been updated with news of his untimely death in the early 1970’s. So the former statement that: ‘He moved to California and was never heard of again’ is no more. That’s a good thing because Freddie deserved much better. Although downwithit.info can claim some credit for this, it was really Pete Fallico’s excellent interview with Conrad Lester (friend of Roach and tenor on this set) reproduced here, that enabled the record to be set straight.

All That’s Good is the last of Roach’s five Blue Note outings and it is so different to any other recording that I’ve ever heard on that label that it is easy to surmise why his talents ended up elsewhere.

Roach penned the sleeve notes for many of his albums and they make it clear that he wanted his work to tell stories and capture images. With All That’s Good he is trying to paint a picture of a somewhat idealised Black inner city community, looking at the positives of everyday life.

Journeyman has a delightful born-again Baptist feel to it. Over at London Jazz Collector a recent post had fellow jazzers voting on instruments that they disliked. Although there is no vibraphone or bowed double bass here you should have a listen to this track which features two of the usual suspects and more in the form of: Hammond organ, a choir, tambourine and soul clapping. I imagine Rudy Van Gelder dancing at the controls as this one was recorded. Not one for the purist or the narrow minded, who will be sure to fulminate, but I think it is amazing and you can take a listen too thanks to YouTube:-

To listen touch or click on the arrow

The title track, All That’s Good, follows with the small choir going for a celestial effect with attendant ‘Oh Yeahs! before some delicate blues saxophone from Conrad Lester and an equally strong guitar solo from Calvin Newborn redeems matters. On Blues For 007 the feel created by Roach is that of a now archaic swinging sixties tune that is sub Aqua Marina (please excuse the weak Stingray reference and pun). The organ setting is a bit too rinky dink and trebley for me here.

Over on Side Two where Busted is played in waltz time and, once again a bit of muscular R n B saxophone saves the day. Club 788 is probably not the strongest blues that Freddie Roach ever wrote or played on. Finally, Loie the strongest track on this side, a Kenny Burrell number from his Guitar Forms album closes things in Bossa nova style.

This LP gets one of the worst reviews I’ve yet to read on the generally very helpful Allmusic website. Enroute to a poor 2 star rating, Stephen Thomas Erlewine opines:- “Roach never hits upon a groove, choosing to create a series of bizarre, hazy textures. That atmosphere is catapulted into the realms of the surreal by vocalists Phyllis Smith, Willie Tate, and Marvin Robinson, whose wordless, floating singing sounds spectral; the intent may have been to mimic a gospel choir, but the effect is that of a pack of banshees wailing in the background.”

Not the sort of endorsement to set the pulse racing and the hand reaching for the wallet then. That combined with the tatty sellotaped cover that you can see at the top of this page kept putting me off purchasing this album at my local second hand record store. Luckily for me the price reduced by 50% after several months due to the shop’s Dutch auction approach until my tipping point was finally reached yesterday. I expected the condition of the disc to match the cover and I was in for a great surprise when I was handed a shiny very strong VG+ first stereo pressing complete with Plastylite ‘ear’.

As you’ve read above, it is an enjoyable recording that I’m pleased to welcome as an addition to the Freddie Roach section of my collection (even if he does style himself as Frederick on the cover).

The band etc: Frederick Roach (organ); Conrad Lester (tenor saxophone); Calvin Newborn (guitar); Clarence Johnston (drums); Marvin Robinson (baritone vocals); Phyllis Smith (soprano vocals); Willie Tate (alto vocals)  Produced: Alfred Lion. Recorded October 16, 1964.  Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.  Sleeve Notes: Frederick Roach.  Cover design: Reid Miles. Cover photos: Ronnie Braithwaite. Models: Grandassa Models.  Originally issued as Blue Note ST84190.

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Harold Vick: Steppin’ Out

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In the jazz universe, some stars appear brighter than others, while others are not even visible to the naked eye. In pondering this, I began to read about cosmology, Hipparchus, Norman Pogson and perceived brightness. Then the hard maths formulas started to appear and I decided it was time to get back to the music here at downwithit.

Harold Vick barely registers as a footnote these days and, doesn’t even make the index in Cookin’, Kenny Mathieson’s superb book about hard bop.

I first became aware of HV through his tenor playing on Big John Patton’s Along Came John and then became determined to get hold of his sole Blue Note set as a leader. The CD is not difficult to track down, though it can attract a premium price.

Steppin’ Out is well worth the search since it features performances from John Patton and drum partner Ben Dixon as well as the great Blue Mitchell and Grant Green. All are on fine form.

Featuring five self-penned numbers and only one standard (Laura), Steppin’ Out represented a great opportunity for Vick. Our Miss Brooks is a blues with something of a burlesque quality that a gifted fan dancer could flutter her feathers to (I gather burlesque is almost respectable these days and taught through the medium of evening classes in some places). HV, the dexterous Grant Green and John Patton on Hammond, really contribute to the ambience.

Our Miss Brooks from YouTube follows:-

To play, press or click on the arrow.

Trimmed in Blue is a hard bop tune with a saxophone line that confirms that Harold Vick played alto before he played tenor and that he was well-versed in Charlie Parker’s styling. Blue Mitchell’s trumpet is bright and clear, indeed, the very epitome of clarion clarity.

Laura, a Raskin / Mercer composition follows. It is one of those melancholy sax and organ outings that could provide a soundtrack to a slow autumnal midnight walk along The Albert Embankment, while contemplating something sweet, yet lost. Then it goes into double time and new hope rises like the sun- or at least that’s one way you may imagine this piece perhaps? (The Editor says: “Shut up, immediately!”).

Dotty’s Dream is an organ-fuelled hard bop strolling tune with a fine finger-picking solo from Grant Green. The ending, when the horns return is nicely arranged. Next up, Vicksville is a bluesy soul-jazz lope with Blue Mitchell showing his skills and Harold Vick discretely exploring the full range of his tenor. Finally, Steppin’ Out, the title track, is a blues which sounds like it was a joy to play on. There are some tunes that bring a smile to the face and I feel sure the musicians were having a great time playing on this one.

Harold Vick went on to work, largely in a hard bop and soul-jazz context. He recorded seven other albums away from Blue Note as a leader, which I have yet to hear. Amongst them, his Caribbean Suite seems, perhaps, the most promising from the reviews I’ve read.

He also had another axe in his sack, having studied to degree level in Psychology, with a view to further training as a Clinical Psychologist. However, as far as I am aware, his musical career meant that he never realised that ambition. He also appeared in a couple of films, including Spike Lee’s School Days (and playing on the sound track of She’s Got To Have It). Sadly, he died of a heart attack, aged only 51, in 1987.

So there we are. Harold Vick was a gifted tenor saxophonist who has been overlooked but who still deserves to be listened to- especially in such stellar company as on Steppin’ Out.

The band etc: Harold Vick (tenor saxophone); Blue Mitchell (trumpet); Grant Green (guitar); John Patton (organ); Ben Dixon (drums). Recorded: 27 May 1963. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Produced: Alfred Lion. Recorded: Rudy Van Gelder. Sleeve Notes: Joe Goldberg. Cover photos and design: Reid Miles. Issued as Blue Note 84138.

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Sonny Clark Trio: Sonny Clark

Time for another piano centred set, a fine trio recording from 1957 featuring the great Sonny Clark.

Sonny Clark Trio is his second session as a leader at Blue Note and it was recorded on 13 September 1957. It is a subtle album that I return to listen to regularly.

It irritates me when critics damn musicians with faint praise and unfavourable comparisons with their peers and Sonny Clark has been subjected to more than his share of that sort of lazy scrutiny. However, in his excellent book, ‘Cookin’. Hard Bop and Soul Jazz 1954-65′, Kenny Mathieson offers a more balanced appraisal. He offers the following comment on the Sonny Clark Trio set:-

“…The essentials of that style lie in his massive rhythmic exuberance, tied to sparely applied chordal punctuations and a fluid single line melodic conception in the right hand (with occasional passing recourse to chording for extra emphasis) which suggests the linear influence of horn playing as much as any of his alleged piano mentors. His touch is always sure, and he likes to throw in an unexpected accentuation or shift in dynamic here and there.”

Well said! It is illuminating to hear from a writer who has a musician’s understanding of what is happening.

Dizzy Gillespie’s Be-Bop gets matters off the a slightly frenetic start before it’s time for cocktails with the Rodgers, and Hart I Didn’t Know What Time It Was

Two Bass Hit bops along with great drum fills from Philly Joe Jones before Tadd’s Delight, as the name suggests, a Tadd Dameron composition offers an opportunity for a workout from deft maestro Paul Chambers on bass.

The standard, Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise, a track which has grown on my via covers from a multitude of artists, is one for you to listen to via YouTube courtesy of 60otaku4.

Click on or touch the arrow to listen

Another standard, in the form of I’ll Remember April by Gene DePaul, Patricia Johnston and Don Raye closes the album.

Three alternate tales feature as Bonus tracks on the CD release.

The lives of too many modern jazz musicians were cut short by the occupational hazards, pressures, temptations and demands that were in attendance to a hard working life. Sonny Clark’s light burned brightly before it was extinguished following his death from a heart attack, aged 32 in January 1963. His legacy was a series of albums as leader, which will be explored in due course.

You may spot the anagram in the title of Bill Evans’ elegy: NYCs No Lark, which follows, again courtesy of YouTube:-

The band etc: Sonny Clark (piano); Philly Joe Jones (drums); Paul Chambers (bass). Recorded: 13 September 1957. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, New Jersey. Produced: Al Lion; Engineer: Rudy Van Gelder. Cover photos: Francis Wolff. Cover Design: Murray Stein. Issued as Blue Note 1579.

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Record Store Day 2014

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Record Store Day 2014 took place on Saturday 19 April 2014. It didn’t take too much prompting for me to make a quick trip to an excellent second-hand record store close to where I was staying for the holiday weekend.

I was after a first UK pressing of a John Coltrane LP, first released about 50 years ago, which they had advertised. It had gone, but after a bit of crate digging, I was happy to settle for an inexpensive first pressing of one of Jimmy Smith’s less popular Blue Note LPs that I didn’t have (though four of the six tracks feature both Kenny Burrell and Philly Joe Jones). I’ve yet to play it but the record looks in extremely good shape (at least VG+) though the cover is a bit tatty. That Easter Bunny was good to me this year!

Update (27/04/14): I played Jimmy after cleaning and the sound quality did turn out to be VG+ Softly As A Summer Breeze is a relatively lightweight recording which remained unreleased for seven years by Blue Note. Best regarded as one for the fan, rather than as an essential purchase or listen. Whilst it is gentle on the ear, you may prefer a stronger Kenny Burrell set that you can read about here.

The band etc: Jimmy Smith (Hammond Organ); Kenney Burrell (guitar); Philly Joe Jones (drums) tracks 1-4. Burrell and Jones replaced by Donald Bailey (dr) & Eddie McFadden (gtr) on tracks 5&6. Recorded at Rudy Van Gelder Studio in Hackensack, New Jersey on 26 February 1958.

Support your local record store, if you are fortunate enough to have one!

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Happenings: Bobby Hutcherson

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Bobby Hutcherson made a major contribution to one of my favourite tracks, Joe Henderson’s wonderful Mode For Joe. His vibes solo boosts a strong piece of music into the hyperspace of the outstanding.

This has encouraged me to buy a string of the vibraphonist’s recordings as leader in the hope that they might contain music that captivates me to the same extent. Unfortunately, I haven’t heard anything that hits the spot in the same way- but every so often I revisit Bobby’s albums to see if I’m missing something.

The root of my difficulty is partly that Hutcherson is probably a bit too complex and avant-garde in his repertoire for my taste. Then, there’s the timbre of the vibraphone, which can introduce a somewhat cool metallic quality to a piece- perhaps because playing the vibes involves banging a piece of metal. Still, I’ll persevere and a long solo Good Friday car journey offered another opportunity.

So another Good Friday without my favourite football team still offered up a contest- could Happenings compete with and defeat the sights of Birmingham, as seen from the M6? The Blue Note gang would be represented by the Crips and Bloods, Birmingham by the Peaky Blinders!

First up, Aquarian Moon, starting as a distant Birmingham skyline comes into sight on my approach from the south. The track has an air of expectancy and excitement and fits with my delight at reaching a significant landmark on a long slow journey. OK, so the Birmingham skyline palls by comparison to New York or even locally to Liverpool’s Three Graces but the tune holds its own. It’s still an early draw in the battle for my attention.

Bouquet is quiet and reflective but it is up against the architectural brutalism of Fort Dunlop. Midway through the first half and Birmingham strikes. One nil to the City of Birmingham!

Rojo has a bit of Latin life stirring and manages to see off Spaghetti Junction and Villa Park (despite a few good visits there to semi-finals back in the pre- New Wembley FA Cup days). Bobby, as fine a striker as you would expect a man with multiple mallets to be, has equalised and it is one all- with everything to play for. A YouTube clip follows:

Click or touch the arrow to play.

Maiden Voyage is up against the climb to the Perry Bar interchange. Both bore me and one is seriously over-rated in my opinion. At one all, we are stuck, veering towards a tedious stalemate.

Head Start plays as I drive down the hill. It is up against mid-table opposition from a distant IKEA and the life and optimism of the music wins through by a narrow margin to find the net. The deadlock is broken. Two-one to the boy from Blue Note!

Well into the second half and Hutcherson’s underwhelming ballad When You Are Near just does enough in defence against a distant Brownhills and motorway signs informing me of long delays through Staffordshire.

Into the last seven minutes of the match with Hutcherson holding a narrow advantage. However, the crash bang percussive avant-gardism of The Omen annoys the referee (me). Metropolitan Birmingham get a late penalty. Hilton Park Services steps up to wrong foot Hutcherson who clearly has his mind on other things.

So there you have it. The game for my attention between Bobby Hutcherson and the Bank Holiday drag along the M6 ends up in an uninspiring score draw (two all).

I will have one more go with Bobby Hutcherson when I can get hold of a fairly priced copy of The Kicker, which can be a little hard to find. In the meantime, I can’t speak too highly of Hutcherson’s contribution to Mode For Joe and he is excellent on Grant Green’s Idle Moments too. However, if you are unfamiliar with his work, he may be a better squad player than an automatic selection for your collection. He is still going strong as a performer, currently working with David Sanborn and Joey DeFrancesco and, if I’m not mistaken, may be joining them for a late summer gig at Ronnie Scott’s. If I go, it had better be incognito for fear of my flippancy being rewarded with a sharp rap on the napper with a vibes mallet. The Reid Miles cover photo and design is great, by the way.

The band etc: Bobby Hutcherson (vibraphone and marimbas); Herbie Hancock (piano); Bob Cranshaw (bass); Joe Chambers (drums). Recorded: 8 February 1966. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Produced: Rudy Van Gelder. Sleeve Notes: Leonard Feather. Cover photos and design: Reid Miles. Issued as Blue Note 84231.

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