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Ray Draper: The Ray Draper Quintet Featuring John Coltrane

Douglas Payne By

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What makes this fairly typical bop outing unique is that the leader plays tuba. Ray Draper (1940-82) was only 17 when he recorded this quintet date in 1957, his third of three for Prestige, and, as much as possible, he makes the clunky instrument swing. As Ira Gitler's interesting notes point out, the tuba was a pretty common rhythm instrument in the early days of jazz. Then the string bass came along and took its place. Draper, who was featured with Jackie McLean, Max Roach and later, Jack McDuff and Archie Shepp, was determined to see the tuba become a featured jazz instrument. Somewhat predictably, it never happened.

Even though Draper's career fizzled after only a few more records, this one is probably the best thing he did on his own. He's aided in no small measure by John Coltrane, whose keen, sensitive partnership on five of these six tunes make for worthwhile, perhaps essential, listening. Coltrane is simply magnificent – in a much more restrained role here than in his explorations elsewhere at this time.

Unfortunately, the two soloists are considerably hindered by what has to be the most unswinging jazz trio ever assembled. Pianist Gil Coggins, bassist Spanky De Brest and drummer Larry Ritchie are in lounge gig mode, seemingly unaware of the fireworks the two horn players are capable of. It's a shame. Draper's originals and cover choices are interesting, and Coltrane is certainly worth hearing – even here.

Tracks:Clifford's Kappa; Filidia; Two Sons; Paul's Pal; Under Paris Skies; I Hadn't Anyone Till You.

Personnel: Ray Draper: tuba; John Coltrane: tenor sax; Gil Coggins: piano; Spanky De Brest: bass; Larry Ritchie: drums.

Title: The Ray Draper Quintet Featuring John Coltrane | Year Released: 1998 | Record Label: Prestige Records

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