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From the Inside Out

Blue Note and Recording Master Re-Present RVGs Heritage

By Published: June 14, 2005

If Blumenthal misspeaks, it's not by much. It certainly boasts one of the greatest OPENINGS to "Tunisia ever recorded: From the primordial swirl of Blakey's drums - intense and primal - emerge piano chords that slowly bring the horizon into view. Then the familiar concert of horns trumpets the emergence of civilization on the horizon, majestically becoming more visible through the mist.

Van Gelder remasters a great RECORDING too, so transparent and bright that you can hear Blakey's gruff vocal encouragement to Morgan in the trumpeter's unaccompanied closing blasts.

Normally more associated with muscle, it's the power AND precision of Blakey's drum rolls that animate "Koko's Waltz and "Sincerely Diana, a rollicking Morgan turn underwired with a walking bass line. The leader "gives the drummer some in the midst of "Sincerely and when he thumps that beat, brother, it stays thumped!

Timmons' solo in his composition "So Tired is anything but that: Free-flowing with touches of Latin dancehalls, blues joints, country churches and cool spacious funk a la Ahmad Jamal or Ramsey Lewis.

Sonny Clark
Dial "S for Sonny
(Blue Note 1958 - RVG Edition)

Sonny Clark, piano; Art Farmer, trumpet; Curtis Fuller, trombone; Hank Mobley, tenor sax; Wilbur Ware, bass; Louis Hayes, drums.

Before making this first album as a leader, pianist Clark served among the leading proponents of "West Coast Jazz, the Lighthouse All-Stars, and supported groups led by Dinah Washington and Charles Mingus.

Farmer, Fuller and Mobley are soulful soloists who keep dishing out bucketsful of funk. This trio sounds intent on cutting each other, especially Farmer and Morgan, in the friendly yet furious jam "Bootin' It. Like Dr. J. in his 1970s prime levitating for a swoop dunk, the ensemble glides elegant and funky through "Sonny's Mood. Here Farmer plays as well as just about any other trumpet player recording in '58 - cool and blue like you know who, yet shiny and brassy too.

"Shoutin' on a Riff proves expertly titled as the horn ensemble, then each rotating soloist in the quicksilver melodic breaks, all jump out of the beat as if blasted from a cannon. Clark spins out his solo like fine yarn, weaving an impressive mosaic of ideas that's not quite Erroll Garner or Art Tatum but certainly worthy of their lineage.

Leading Ware and Hayes through a sophisticated trio reading of the Gershwin's "Love Walked In reveals the leader's own style: A light touch, with the playful but not frivolous sense of Vince Guaraldi and just a hint of Horace Silver's "Latin tinge in the rhythm and harmony.

"S was one of Blue Note's first stereo recording sessions.

Grant Green
Feelin' the Spirit
(Blue Note 1963 - RVG Edition)

Grant Green, guitar; Herbie Hancock, piano; Butch Warren, bass; Billy Higgins, drums; Garvin Masseaux, tambourine.

The original liner notes describe this set as "the only instance (I know) of a group of modern jazzmen performing a program made up exclusively of spirituals...the result is a fascinating combination: the techniques of modern jazz, blues, and gospel, all applied to the spiritual. Benefiting from decades of hindsight, Blumenthal notes that Green had previously released albums dedicated to Latin and country-western themes.

Pianist Hancock steals this show with some of the most down-home gutbucket funky accompaniment he ever played: With joyously blue and soulful exclamations to counterpoint the leader's elegant guitar runs in the stately "Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho, with beat-stomping boogie in "Just a Closer Walk With Thee, and, with Warren, rocking "Go Down Moses with a Latin beat.

Green glides through each tune as if he was half angel and half Wes Montgomery - changing just the right note in just the right way with a flat here or a sharp there, mixing colors as if finger painting - turning spirituals into jazz. He rolls in his hands the chords in "Jericho like a jeweler examining rubies and emeralds, their sound dark and sparkling, and unravels crisp flurries of bright notes in "Closer Walk like unpacking strings of holiday lights.

As a band, they rock "Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen as half-gospel, half-blues, Green and Hancock testifying softly at first then more strident as the drummer and bassist walk and whisper with the beat.

Herbie Hancock
Speak Like a Child
(Blue Note 1968 - RVG Edition)

Herbie Hancock, piano; Thad Jones, flugelhorn; Peter Phillips, bass trombone; Jerry Dodgion, alto flute; Ron Carter, bass; Mickey Roker, drums.

Hancock's unusual horn instrumentation gives Speak a unique voice among his work. For the original liner notes, he relates this album to his previous Blue Note release (the classic Maiden Voyage) for annotator Nat Hentoff: "There is a type of music in between jazz and rock. It has elements of both but retains and builds on its own identity. Its jazz elements include improvisation and it's like rock in that it emphasizes particular rhythmic patterns to work off of.

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