The reissue of these two sessions from the mid-seventies affirms the vitality of hard bop more than a decade after its heyday. Something In Common features some of the genre’s principal practitioners, most of whom played in definitive ensembles led by Horace Silver, Art Blakey, or Cannonball Adderley. The material is generated largely from within the band, including three choice items from the songbook of pianist Cedar Walton. Particularly noteworthy is his latin-tinged, minor classic “Bolivia.”
With the exception of bassist and leader Sam Jones’ alternately brooding and ebullient “Seven Minds,” and a lovely version of the standard “For All We Know,” the sextet numbers effectively utilize the rhythmic and harmonic complexities of bebop while retaining the accessibility of its blues and gospel roots. The themes are catchy and well-arranged; there are short, cogent solos by Walton, trombonist Slide Hampton, the trumpet of Blue Mitchell, and tenor saxophonist Bob Berg; and everything swings assertively at medium to fast tempos. An essential element of the music is the drumming of Billy Higgins. His restrained touch on a small set frequently sounds something like a tap dancer; yet, along with Jones’ incessant walking, he subtly drives the music forward.
In a much more direct, forceful manner, drummer Louis Hayes powers the disc’s last three tracks, as part of a less-structured trio setting with Walton and Jones. The pianist’s composition “Shoulders” finds Hayes punctuating Walton’s every phrase with snapping snare drum accents, well-placed cymbal crashes, and the muffled thud of his bass drum. Most of the nearly seven minutes of Jones’ “One For Amos” consists of 12 bar exchanges between the pianist and drummer, who uses brushes instead of sticks. With the bassist holding things together, the two of them sound positively inspired by each other, as Walton plays a series of rapid, angular lines, and Hayes fluttering and pounding out a seemingly endless supply of rhythmic gambits.
Personnel: Sam Jones--bass; Cedar Walton--piano; Slide Hampton--trombone; Blue Mitchell--trumpet; Bob Berg--tenor saxophone; Billy Higgins--drums; Louis Hayes--drums.