Sometimes, Blue Note surprises you.
Often, the Blue Note catalogue is predictable, especially in the '50s and '60s. Some say it is too predictable. But if you dive deep, there are hidden gems slightly off the beaten hard-bop path.
Case in point: Gil Melle
's Patterns in Jazz
West Coast jazz was never at home at Blue Note. Stan Getz
and Dave Brubeck
did not record here. But Gil Melle did, briefly, before he went on to composing movie soundtracks. The name may be unfamiliar, but this 1956 album is definitely worth hearing.
Melle played the baritone sax, sometimes sounding like a Dixieland clarinetist, sometimes like Stan Getz
, sometimes like Paul Desmond
. The sound was pure cool jazz. Allmusic calls it "cerebral music that swings." That's just about spot-on.
The instrumentation is odd. There's no piano, but a Wes Montgomery
-ish guitarist named, curiously, Joe Cinderella. There's no trumpet, but a cool trombone. And, of course, the Melle baritone (and sometimes tenor).
The CD has only six songs, but they total 40 minutes. It's mostly relaxing, head-bopping stuff. One track, "The Arab Barber Blues," could easily be a Brubeck tune, complete with the dry-martini Desmond sound. Another track, "Weird Valley," has no apparent connection to Ellington's Warm Valley, but still a lazy, pleasant tune.
All in all, Patterns in Jazz
is an intriguing album that grows on you with each re-hearing. And definitely not the same-old Blue Note thing.
A note on pricing: Anything by Gil Melle is pretty rare, on LP or CD, so you'll pay $45 or more for this CD, used. I grabbed the $5 MP3 Amazon download instead. Maybe someday I'll spring for the whole shebang, to get the liner nuts and whatnot. Or maybe even buy Melle's Complete Blue Note '50s Sessions for $34. For now, the MP3 is nice enough.
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Availability: Rare on CDor at least expensive
Cost: $45 for used CD, $5 for Amazon download, $35 for the CD Completed Blue Note '50s Sessions