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Leo Parker: Let Me Tell You 'Bout It

Chris May By

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An uncomplicated, booting, bass-register driven melange of first generation bop and early R&B, Let Me Tell You 'Bout It is baritone saxophonist Leo Parker's finest surviving work, and it's measurably enhanced in this edition by Rudy Van Gelder's 2004 remastering.

Parker came up through the swing/jump band nexus—his most regular employer during the '40s was Illinois Jacquet—but frequently crossed over into more or less pure bop during the latter part of the decade, working with Tadd Dameron, J.J. Johnson, Fats Navarro, and Dexter Gordon, amongst other heavy hitters. He also picked up some of these musicians' heroin habits and spent most of the '50s off the scene. In '61, apparently clean, he was introduced to Alfred Lion by mutual friend Ike Quebec, and Let Me Tell You 'Bout It was his comeback album and Blue Note debut.

It's a glorious, funked-up romp through bop, swing, and R&B which, were it not for the excellent sound quality, could well have been recorded in the late '40s. It's almost as if the stylistic developments of the '50s never happened—which, given where Parker was at during most of the decade, was indeed pretty much the case for him. There are two, then-vogueish, gospel infused, soul jazz tunes—the title track and "Low Brown"—but the first of these, with the horns arranged in a manner reminiscent of "Abide With Me" on Thelonious Monk's Monk's Music, was written by Robert Lewis, and the second, with pronounced similarities to Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man," was written by pianist Yusef Salim. (Interestingly, Hancock recorded "Watermelon Man" six months after the session for Let Me Tell You 'Bout It, raising the question of who, if anyone, influenced whom.)

Parker, of course, takes to the soul jazz groove like a duck to water, and he also shines on his own down-the-line bop tunes "Glad Lad" and "TCTB," the swing-reminiscent "Parker's Pals," and the sprightly, mid-tempo blues "Blue Leo" (co-written with Quebec). The band members, all coming from the same bop/R&B crossroads as Parker, provide rock-solid, hard-swinging accompaniment, and when offered solo space—Parker takes most of the solos—rise to the occasion.

Parker died a few months after making this album (having recorded one more for Blue Note, the almost as excellent Rollin' With Leo), and he remains an unjustly neglected figure. Anyone discovering Leo Parker now for the first time is in for a big treat.

Track Listing: Glad Lad; Blue Leo; Let Me Tell You 'Bout It; Vi; Parker's Pals; Low Brown; TCTB; The Lion's Roar; Low Brown (Long Version).

Personnel: Leo Parker: baritone saxophone; John Burks: trumpet; Bill Swindell: tenor saxophone; Yusef Salim: piano; Stan Conover: bass; Purnell Rice: drums.

Title: Let Me Tell You 'Bout It | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Blue Note Records

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