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Extended Analysis

Mosaic Select 8: Duke Pearson

By Published: July 26, 2004

During Pearson's final period of recording activity for Blue Note his creative muse was dipping heavily into Latin and Brazilian strains that brought a whole new level of lyricism to his composing.

Duke Pearson
Mosaic Select 8
Mosaic Records

In recent years artists such as Mike LeDonne and Jim Rotondi have brought to light the overwhelming lyrical gifts of composer Duke Pearson in their own recordings of some of his most memorable lines. Unfortunately, too much of Pearson's work lies just under the radar of your average jazz follower, a fact made all the more frustrating by circumstances that find very little of his catalog presently available on compact disc. While more bop-inflected albums like The Right Touch and Wahoo! get the nod by those in the know, a recent Mosaic Select set goes for an entirely different approach in mining Pearson's final period of recording activity for Blue Note when his creative muse was dipping heavily into Latin and Brazilian strains that brought a whole new level of lyricism to his composing.

One of his rarest sides, The Phantom kicks off this collection with a 1968 session that has yielded many popular hip hop samples. The title track actually serves as a teaser, with its boogaloo groove and Bobby Hutcherson's expansive solo. But then the more delicate side of Pearson's personality makes its mark with such breezy numbers as "Bunda Amerela" and "Los Ojos Alegres." Jerry Dodgion's flute work is a strong contribution to the proceedings and the entire album boasts a sunny disposition, not to mention another Pearson ballad gem in the guise of "Say You're Mine."

Things get tricky from a discographical standpoint over the course of the second disc and the remainder of the first. With tracks that were originally spread over the albums I Don't Care Who Knows It , It Could Only Happen With You , and How Insensitive , Pearson dips heavily into the Brazilian bag while bringing in such authentic supporting players as Airto, Flora Purim, Dorio Ferrreira, Hermeto Pascoal, and Bebeto. The material includes some of the pianist's own numbers but also staples of the genre such as "Upa Neguinho," "Canto Assanha," and "Gira, Girou." Purim sounds great and even brings home the unlikely choice of the Classics IV's "Stormy" with zeal and conviction. A personal favorite is Andy Bey's preaching on the obscure blues line "I Don't Care Who Knows."

Somewhat of a mixed bag in its own right, Pearson's 1969 set How Insensitive includes several cuts in the Brazilian vein cut in the company of Airto and Flora Purim, but the other half of the album is something altogether quite different. With just a standard rhythm section, Pearson swings through some short numbers in the vocal style he popularized on albums such as Donald Byrd's A New Perspective. Andy Bey and The New York Group Singers' Big Band vocalize to the strains of "Stella By Starlight" and a return of "Cristo Redentor" among several other ditties. While many of these numbers have not dated well, it's still interesting to hear Pearson stretch himself with this ensemble format.

This set concludes with one of the best and previously hardest to find jazz Christmas albums, Pearson's Merry Ole Soul. On this 1969 collection of standard yuletide fare Duke and his piano trio takes a few choice liberties and stirs up a good deal of fun along the way. Their "Sleigh Ride" actually goes 'south of the border' with Airto adding sunny splashes of percussive color to boot. It's a fitting conclusion to a neglected chapter of Pearson's Blue Note legacy and one that holds infinite rewards.

Track listing:

1. The Phantom (A) 10:18 2. Blues For Alvina (A) 3:08 3. Bunda Amerela (Little Yellow Streetcar (A) 5:44 4. Los Ojos Alegres (A) 6:15 5. Say You're Mine (A) 5:36 6. The Moana Surf (A) 7:24 7. Theme From Rosemany's Baby (A) 3:16 8. I Don't Know (B) 7:00 9. Captain Bicardi (B) 5:40 10. Dialogo (B) 3:34 11. Xibaba (C) 6:32 12. Once I Loved (O Amor En Paz) (C) 5:22

1. Gira, Girou (Round And Round) (D) 7:19 2. Hermeto (D) 5:40 3. Lost In The Stars (D) 3:28 4. It Could Only Happen With You (D) 3:26 5. Stormy (D) 3:26 6. Book's Bossa (D) 6:37 7. Emily (E) 3:59 8. Bloos (E) 7:38 9. I Don't Care Who Knows It (E) 3:10 10. A Beautiful Friendship (E) 6:37 11. Horn In (E) 5:51 12. Canto Ossanha (E) 6:36 13. Sandalia Dela (F) 3:25 14. Tears (F) 3:25 15. Lamento (F) 2:50 16. Upa Neguinho (F) 1:57

1. Stella By Starlight (G) 4:39 2. Clara (G) 2:43 3. Give Me Some Love (G) 3:24 4. Christo Redentor (G) 3:53 5. Little Song (G) 2:53 6. My Love Waits (O Meu Amor Espera) (G) 4:34 7. How Insensitive (Insensalez) (G) 2:13 8. Sleigh Ride (H) 6:30 9. Little Drummer Boy (H) 5:40 10. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (H) 2:00 11. Jingle Bells (H) 5:09 12. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town (H) 4:05 13. Go Tell It To The Mountain (H) 3:42 14. Wassail Song (H) 3:00 15. Silent Night (H) 4:13 16. O Little Town Of Bethlehem (H) 1:15 17. Old Fashioned Christmas (H) 2:26

Personnel: Duke Pearson (composer & piano) with Jerry Dodgion ,Bobby Hutcherson, Airto, Flora Purim, Ralph Towner, Hermeto Pascoal, Andy Bey, Bob Cranshaw, Mickey Roker, and many others.

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