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Jazz Primer

Great, but obscure albums to purchase

By Published: December 9, 2004
Gil Melle—"The Complete Blue Note Fifties Sessions": Melle's music on this 2 CD set is decidedly unusual given most of it is from the 10" LP era: abstract enough to be interesting without becoming offputtingly diffuse. Serious demerits, though, for Melle's own largely irrelevant and self-inflating liner notes, which indicate among other things that he practically invented electronic music (which, in any event, this is not) as we know it today!

Blue Mitchell—"Blue Soul," "Step Lightly": Excellent, tuneful. If you like Blue's work with Horace Silver, these are for you.

Lee Morgan—"Sonic Boom": Lee Morgan recorded so much great music that some of it just had to fall through the cracks. This Blue Note LP combines Morgan's magical trumpet with David "Fathead" Newman's chugging sax; it's great fun if you can find it.

Herbie Nichols—anything. Like Thelonious Monk and Andrew Hill, an original. Grab his complete Blue Note recordings if you can.

Horace Parlan—"Happy Frame of Mind": An excellent Blue Note with a title that tells you what his music will probably put you in. I love his song "Wailin,'" available in trio format on "Us Three" and with the Turrentine brothers on trumpet and tenor sax on "Headin' South."

Oscar Pettiford—"The New Oscar Pettiford Sextet": If you can find this, originally recorded for Charles Mingus' Debut label and reissued 5 or 10 years ago on Original Jazz Classics (LP only), grab it. Pettiford plays cello with Mingus on bass on some cuts.

Ike Quebec—"Heavy Soul": Ike Quebec's warm tenor sax was just made for late night city barroom jukeboxes. This CD has a great version of "The Man I Love" that changes tempo from sleepy-slow to finger-snapping, and later back again, without missing a beat.

Dizzy Reece—anything: a sadly neglected trumpet player who last recorded, to my knowledge, with Clifford Jordan's big band on the late '80's "Down Through the Years." His Blue Notes ("Blues in Trinity," "Star Bright," "Soundin' Off") are all good straight-ahead jazz; the U.S. CD reissue of "Blues in Trinity" adds several unreleased tracks. His sole OJC, "Asia Minor," while not completely of a piece with his earlier work, is also very good.

Woody Shaw—"Setting Standards": Glad to see Woody Shaw, another sorely underrated trumpeter, has already been mentioned several times on this site. This is a lovely '80's session for Muse, which, while mostly (naturally) standards, includes a fun version of the theme from TV's "Spiderman"!! Shaw's "Imagination," recently reissued by 32 Jazz, is another excellent set similar to this one.

Gabor Szabo—"Bacchanal": A guilty pleasure. Szabo is a very "sixties" guitarist in my opinion (his "The Sorcerer" on Impulse almost makes me feel like I was a college student smoking dope in Haight-Ashbury at the time instead of an elementary school kid in Indiana), but dated doesn't have to mean boring: I think the way he constantly speeds up the tempo in the last minute of the title track is amazing.

Henry Threadgill—"Too Much Sugar for a Dime": Not for the faint-hearted perhaps, and I have no idea what most of his song titles mean, but Threadgill's is exhilirating, adventurous music.

The Three Sounds—"Babe's Blues" "Introducing the Three Sounds" "Standards": Or, probably, anything else by this consistently entertaining group. It seems the Three Sounds took some critical bashing when (and probably, because) they were popular, back in the early '60's. A piano trio that swings? What's wrong with that?

McCoy Tyner—"Sahara": Tyner has released many excellent albums over the years. This one features everything from a solo piano song for his family to cuts featuring the Japanese koto—which I believe is what he's holding in the striking cover photograph (which, like so many good old album covers, is greatly diminished by its condensation for CD).

Randy Weston—"Little Niles": This Blue Note double LP, a 1979 reissue of most of three late '50's sessions, is excellent. Look also for Weston's recent Verve release of Ellington numbers, "Caravan"; I love to play the opening drum sequence on the title track really loud as I drive home from work on Fridays. Weston's integrations of African musics and jazz are always great.

Gerald Wilson—"Theme for Monterey": Among many highlights, Wilson's big band does a great reworking of "Summertime" with lots of crisp guitar.

Jack Wilson—"Ramblin,'" "Something Personal": A cool California pianist with bass, drums and Roy Ayers on vibes tackles Ornette Coleman, Lee Morgan's "The Sidewinder," Oliver Nelson's "Stolen Moments" and other interesting choices. These make great late night music.


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