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Wynton Kelly: Live at the Left Bank Jazz Society

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Pianist Wynton Kelly, one of the most respected musicians of his time (1950's - 60's), was better known as a complementary player than band leader. He fit in with countless musical situations (singers, big bands, Coltrane, you name it), and almost anything he played on is worth hearing if only for him. He never meant to upstage anyone, but his ensemble playing was so interesting and full of swing the listener is inevitably drawn to him. His soloing was equally as riveting with ideas pouring out continually. An open-door session like the LBJS with tunes 11 to 25 minutes long (This is a two-CD set.) was ideal for Kelly—the longer he played the better he sounded.

Most of the tunes and arrangements are recycled from the early 60's quartet Kelly co-led with Wes Montgomery ( Smokin' at the Half Note, Verve). Of course the Miles Davis lineage is also apparent although Coleman played in a later band than Kelly and Cobb.

Mr. P.C., a Coltrane blues, serves as the most interesting point of departure, Coleman strolling (without piano accompaniment) briefly in a couple of places and otherwise playing with a more advanced feel. Kelly's intro and opening choruses on the up-tempo On a Clear Day are overwhelmingly infectious in their swing feel.

This recording was not originally intended to be released commercially. The sound is decent considering the circumstances: recorded by a hobbyist on a portable machine, probably reel-to-reel. The balance is not bad, except McClure is barely audible on some cuts. The piano sounds maybe more in tune than the concerts I went to (1970's) at the LBJS. Whatever, the music is so good the sound problems are not noticeable.

Incidentally about five years ago Verve issued a couple of CD's ( Four and Straight No Chaser ) by Joe Henderson with the Kelly trio recorded contemporaneously at the LBJS that are at the same level as this set.

Track Listing: Unit 7; Surrey with the Fringe on Top; On the Trail; Mr. P.C.; On a Clear Day; Here's That Rainy Day; Theme.

Personnel: Wynton Kelly - piano; George Coleman - tenor; Ron McClure - bass; Jimmy Cobb - drums

Record Label: Blue Moon

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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