Ill health and "personal problems" prevented Ike Quebec (1918-63) from becoming the star he could otherwise have been. The tenor saxophonist straddled 1940s swing-to-bop with as much style as his near contemporary, Dexter Gordon. His warm, weighty, approximately out-of-Coleman Hawkins playing was tailor-made for the hard bop era which followedbut he spent most of the 1950s silent, with a gorilla on his back, and his 1959 re-emergence on Blue Note, for whom he'd first recorded in the mid 1940s, was followed less than four years later by his death.
Most of the pre-Blue & Sentimental sessions Quebec led on his return to Blue Note were intended for 45rpm release, primarily for the jukebox market, and are available on The Complete Blue Note 45 Sessions (Blue Note, 2005).
Blue & Sentimental, recorded in late 1961, here in a resonant 2007 Rudy Van Gelder remastered edition, is probably Quebec's most perfectly realized album. It features an outstanding line-up and was recorded before the lung cancer that would lead to his death began to make itself felt. The line-up is unusual, neither acoustic hard bop nor full-on soul jazz. There is barely any pianoQuebec comps behind guitarist Grant Green on a couple of tracks, and pianist Sonny Clark plays, but doesn't solo, on anotherand there is no organ holdover from the 45rpm sessions.
In place of a keyboard, Grant, quietly comping or soloing in fluid single note style, creates acres of space in which Quebec's rapturous playing can shine. Miles Davis Quintet-alumni bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Philly Joe Jones are graceful and imaginative supporting players.
The album's defining tracks are the slow-paced standards "Blue And Sentimental" and "Don't Take Your Love From Me," on which Quebec's expressive style is at its most heart-on-sleevea glorious, bittersweet, yearning sound. "Minor Impulse," one of two Quebec originals, is a mid-tempo swinger which would have fit perfectly in the Benny Goodman Sextet's book. Green's serpentine solo makes overt references to the Sextet's guitarist, Charlie Christian, borrowing motifs and voicings to good effect, although he sounds much less Christianesque on his own "Blues For Charlie."
The original LP release closed with track six, the lovely "Count Every Star," recorded on a Sonny Clark session a week after the rest the album. The two CD-only tracks which follow, "That Old Black Magic" and "It's Alright With Me," are as good as what went before, but are taken at a lick probably judged too fast for inclusion on the original disc.
Beautiful and enduring music, all of it, from a near-forgotten minor master.
Personnel: Ike Quebec: tenor saxophone; Grant Green: guitar; Paul Chambers: bass (1-5, 7, 8); Philly Joe Jones: drums (1-5, 7, 8); Sonny Clark: piano (6); Sam Jones: bass (6); Louis Hayes: drums (6).