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Harold Land: Westward Bound!

Pierre Giroux By

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Harold Land: Westward Bound!
Until 1954 Harold Land was a relatively unknown tenor saxophonist. He experienced a surge in his standing with the release of Clifford Brown & Max Roach (Emarcy 1954) when he was part of this high-profile, but short lived, bebop quintet (1954-56). A decade later, this hard-bop player was recognized for his engaging ideas and robust tone and is the center of Westward Bound! a Reel To Real Limited Edition 180 gram 2LP gatefold release produced by Cory Weeds and Zev Feldman.

This live recording from The Penthouse, Seattle, Washington covers a period from 1962 to 1965. In addition to Land, there are a number of other prominent musicians featured on this release such as trumpeter Carmell Jones, pianist Hampton Hawes and drummer Philly Joe Jones, as well as pianist Buddy Montgomery and bassist Monk Montgomery. With the exception of Philly Joe Jones, all the other names had played with Land in one musical configuration or another leading up to this session.

The jumping off point is a Land original, "Vendetta," which is a snappy bop line designed to give the horn players plenty of space to work their magic. And they do. Land's beefy tenor sets the frame, before Jones' spiky trumpet joins in. Pianist Buddy Montgomery who was a talented but unheralded bop player delivers a deft and blistering solo. A very auspicious opening. The follow-on is an original from Carmell Jones, "Beepdurple," which is an up tempo take on the chord changes to the pop tune "Deep Purple." After a unison opening with Jones and Land, the trumpeter begins an extended solo full of interesting ideas, which is seamlessly picked up by Land as he expands and contracts his own lines. Montgomery is again full measure covering the keyboard with clarity.

The musical relationship between Harold Land and Hampton Hawes stretches back to 1958 when they recorded a session that was not released until 1961 as For Real! ( Contemporary Records). They are reunited for two tracks in this release; "My Romance" by Rodgers & Hart and the Land original "Triplin' The Groove," and are joined by bassist Monk Montgomery and drummer Mel Lee. The compositions are different melodically, harmonically, and in tempo, however Land and Hawes elaborate on what the structure of the pieces have to say. Land's solos always have a great sense of logic and purpose regardless of circumstances. Hawes' piano style contains a blues tinge, driven by a remarkable right hand. His solos usually begin with a phrase that gradually builds over multiple choruses.

The remaining four tracks have Land teamed up with drummer Philly Joe Jones along with Monk Montgomery and undervalued pianist John Houston. These cuts have a very different vibe compared to the prior tracks and that's primarily due to Philly Joe Jones. With this band, he is a propulsive and percussive featured player, not just an in the background timekeeper as he was with the original Miles Davis Quintet. So apart from the wistful ballad "Who Can I Turn To?," where his brush and cymbal work is whispery soft, thus giving Land an opportunity to demonstrate his brooding delicacy, Philly Joe Jones is a force of nature. On the other three tracks "Autumn Leaves," "Beau-ty" and "Blue N' Boogie" both Land and the pianist John Houston were pushed along by Philly Joe Jones, not only to make themselves heard, but to ensure that their playing was aggressively committed coming out of the gate.

Finally, in addition to the dazzling music, there is a comprehensive booklet that contains details on the recording session, the artists, and commentary from contemporary artists with reflections and first hand knowledge of the musicians.

Track Listing

Vendetta; Beepdurple; Happily Dancing/ Deep Harmonies Falling; My Romance; Triplin' The Groove; Autumn Leaves; Who Can I Turn To?; Beau-TY; Blue N' Boogie.

Personnel

Harold Land: saxophone, tenor; Carmell Jones: trumpet; Hampton Hawes: piano; John Houston: piano; Buddy Montgomery: piano; Monk Montgomery: bass; Jimmy Lovelace: drums; Mel Lee: drums; Philly Joe Jones: drums.

Album information

Title: Westward Bound! | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Reel to Real

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