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L.A. Underground: Black Note

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No stars How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Bop Bifurcation. Hard Bop, Post Bop, Free Bop, Bebop: what does this all mean?. In a fluid evolution, Hard Bop flowed from the ‘50s into the ‘60s and once filtered through Miles Davis’ second great quintet emerged as Post bop. This new species of jazz differed from its ancestor by a freedom of rhythm and harmony, particularly in percussion (Tony Williams is almost solely responsible for this). But Hard Bop never went away. It became more polished, both in performance and engineering. Black Note is a superb example of this more polished Hard Bop. Like Robert Stewart’s Judgement (RED 123268, reviewed last month), Black Note is a smoothly polished collection of mostly original compositions that while firmly grounded in chordal harmonies, is rubbed carefully into a high shine.

L.A. Underground is a seamless sextet that is reed heavy. James Mahone’s alto and Phil Vieux’s tenor are very much front and center in these pieces. Bassist Mark Shelby (bassist on Judgement ) composed the lion’s share of the originals. They include blues (“Elizabeth Brown”) and ballads (“Modern Rome”). O and H’s “All The Things You Are” is given and jaunty treatment, using Dizzy’s famous opening in a very angular way. The engineering has a smooth, clear complexion, and all instruments clearly audible. This is a very fun and approachable jazz recording that should please most mainstream heads.

Track Listing: Elizabeth Brown; Song Of The Nile; 5th Street; The Warrior; Modern Rome; Blue J; The Final Call; WEJIII, All The Things You Are; The Ancient Rome Suite. (Total Time: 59:58)

Personnel: James Mahone: Alto Saxophone; Gilbert Castellanos: Trumpet; Richard Grant Trumpet; Phil Vieux: Tenor Saxophone; Ark Sano: Piano; Mark Shelby: Bass; Willie Jones III: Drums.

Record Label: Red Records

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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