Dizzy Reece - Soundin' Off

Dizzy Reece Soundin’ Off (Blue Note 1960)

The pieces of the puzzle fell into place for trumpeter Dizzy Reece on his third Blue Note album Soundin’ Off from 1960.

Dizzy Reece - Soundin' Off

Personnel

Dizzy Reece (trumpet), Walter Bishop Jr. (piano), Doug Watkins (bass), Art Taylor (drums)

Recorded

on May 12, 1960 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as BLP 4033 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
Ghost Of A Chance
Once In A While
Eb Pob
Side B:
Yesterdays
Our Love Is Here To Stay
Blue Streak


Mr. Reece is still active these days at the ripe old age of 88. What’s more, performances of Dizzy Reece’s music, Routes In Jazz, have been held last January under the leadership of Trevor Watkins in the United Kingdom to much acclaim. 2019, Cool Britannia caught in the stereotypical web of contemporary polarization, a world away from 1948, when the young Kingston, Jamaica-born Reece set foot first in liberated Paris then the rebuilding war victor, the U.K., where fish and chips was everyone’s requested Last Meal and Stoke-On-Trent a place that played hide and seek with Sheffield under clouds of factory smoke. The talented Reece somehow caught the attention of Blue Note and recorded his debut as a leader, Blues In Trinity, with Donald Byrd, Art Taylor and a British crew including powerhouse tenorist Tubby “Tubbs” Hayes.

Reece moved to New York City in 1959 and, winning fans like Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins, soon found himself in the studio of Rudy van Gelder at Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Initially, Reece recorded with a quintet including Hank Mobley, a session that spawned Star Bright. Then Blakey was behind the kit, Stanley Turrentine on tenor saxophone, Bobby Timmons on piano and Jimmy Merritt on bass. The result: Comin’ On, recorded in 1960 but not released until 1999. Great album. Great line-up. In fact – in case you haven’t figured it out yet – Reece and Turrentine fronted a bonafide Jazz Messengers rhythm section. The explosive Blakey regularly pushes the guys to the brink, Reece holding his own pretty darn well.

However, I have warmer feelings for Soundin’ Off. The relaxed but probing rhythmic flow of drummer Art Taylor, bassist Doug Watkins and pianist Walter Bishop Jr. and the fact that Reece is the sole horn gives the trumpeter ample opportunity to let his true voice ring. A voice gay here, mournful there, tender, witty, sexy. Sexy enough to seduce audiences in the Big Apple, yet because of lack of opportunities Reece re-settled in jazz-minded Europe eventually. In a 2004 Jazz Times interview Reece said that he also got negative feedback on his integrated marriage.

Reece favors expressive statements over speed trials, wrapping his loving arms around ballads like Ghost Of A Chance, ridin’ on the blue notes of Once In A While with sleazy slurs, swinging smoothly on medium-tempo tunes like the Monk-ish Reece original Eb PobEcaroh, Airegin, Eb Pob… Those modern jazz guys knew their way with wordplay. The nimble and occasionally locked-hands-lines of Bishop Jr. and the jubilant Reece make Yesterdays absolutely irresistible.

Sweet but with a lot of spunk. The way we like our hard bop artists from the Blue Note roster.

The album is part of a compilation package on Spotify, starts with track 13, up to 18. Listen below.

Clarence Wheeler & The Enforcers - Doin' What We Wanna

Clarence Wheeler & The Enforcers Doin’ What We Wanna (Atlantic 1970)

Clarence Wheeler & The Enforcers’s Doin’ What We Wanna is a bonafide funk jazz classic.

Clarence Wheeler & The Enforcers - Doin' What We Wanna

Personnel

Clarence Wheeler (tenor saxophone), Sonny Covington (trumpet), Sonny Burke (organ), George Hughes (drums), Cissy Houston, Judy Clay & Jackie Verdell (vocals B1)

Recorded

on November 18, 1969 at Universal Studios, Chicago

Released

as Atlantic 1551 in 1970

Track listing

Side A:
Hey Jude
Sham Time
Theme From Electric Surfboard
Side B:
Right On
Dream Bossa Nova
Doin’ What I Wanna
C.W.


Clarence Wheeler & The Enforcers was a Chicago-based outfit that consisted of tenor saxophonist Clarence Wheeler, trumpeter Sonny Covington, organist Sonny Burke and drummer George Hughes. Wheeler was formerly associated with organists Jack McDuff and Don Patterson, Covington with organist Eddie Buster, Burke with Odell Brown & The Organizers and Mahalia Jackson, Hughes with Sonny Criss and Sonny Stitt. The story of the group’s heavy-hitting and uplifting debut album from 1970, Doin’ What We Wanna, as collected from DJ Merri Lee’s liner notes (about the only information available on the obscure group), is, paradoxically, rather tragic. Wheeler called in on Dee to ask him to announce the funeral of his young wife on the radio station. On a subsequent visit to the studio, Wheeler discussed his current project, The Enforcers, information that Dee passed to Atlantic’s A&R man, Joel Dorn. Dorn visited a performance by the band and, duly impressed, signed The Enforcers. It wasn’t long before they recorded Doin’ What We Wanna on November 18, 1969.

Subsequently, the group recorded two albums for Atlantic, The Love I’ve Been Looking For in 1971 and New Chicago Blues in 1973. Good albums but Doin’ What We Wanna is the one, bingo, touchdown, or in terms of darts, one-hundred-and-eeeiiighttyyyyy! There’s no end to the joyful surprise of discovering their thunderous uptempo version of Eddie Harris’s Sham Time, vigorous take on Brother Jack McDuff’s Theme From Electric Surfboard, bashful groove of Doin’ What I Wanna and joyful funk of Lee Roland’s Right On, which has, helped along by singers Cissy Houston, Judy Clay and Jackie Verdell, a Mardi Gras-ish feel to it. The fusion of New Orleans Funk and the South Side is a fact!

Recording engineer Jerry DeClerque perfectly encapsulated the meaty sound that The Enforcers presumably entertained club crowds with in the Midwest. Furthermore, the spicy solo’s of Wheeler, Covington and Burke should be pointed out, funk and modern jazz functioning as indelible parts of the meaty sum. And Wheeler is a clever arranger, allowing himself funky poetic license, adding a groovy interlude and heavy breaks to their soaring interpretation of The Beatles/McCartney’s Hey Jude. The bass pedal sound and playing of organist Sonny Burke is the rabbit in the hat. Relatively simple lines with plenty of resonance and warmth serve as the indispensable undercurrent of the band’s muscular style throughout the album but especially during Hey Jude. The bass even constitutes the concise start of the album, an ear-catching commencement of Clarence Wheeler & The Enforcers’s splendid soul jazz fest.

Dizzy Gillespie - The Greatest Trumpeter Of Them All

The Dizzy Gillespie Octet The Greatest Trumpet Of Them All (Verve 1957)

The Greatest Trumpet Of Them All finds Dizzy Gillespie in hard bop mode, assisted by two great talents of the period, Benny Golson and Gigi Gryce.

Dizzy Gillespie - The Greatest Trumpeter Of Them All

Personnel

Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet), Benny Golson (tenor saxophone, arrangements), Gigi Gryce (alto saxophone (arrangements), Pee Wee More (baritone saxophone), Henry Coker (trombone), Ray Bryant (piano), Tommy Bryant (bass), Charlie Persip (drums)

Recorded

on December 17, 1957 in New York City

Released

as Verve 8352 in 1959

Track listing

Side A:
Blues After Dark
Sea Breeze
Out Of The Past
Shabozz
Side B:
Reminiscing
A Night At Tony’s
Smoke Signals
Just By Myself


Perhaps we should not take the title – Verve’s uninspired effort to attract customers – too badly. To be sure, Dizzy Gillespie once remarked that Clark Terry was the greatest trumpet player he ever heard. By 1957, Gillespie had developed into one of the great ambassadors of jazz, still playing at a level most trumpeters could only dream of, yet behind him were the feats that had such a pervasive influence on America’s most original art form: Gillespie developed the modern jazz language with Charlie Parker, successfully introduced it to a wider audience, demonstrated unprecedented virtuosity on the trumpet (as direct heir to Louis Armstrong) and made a number of stunning, influential recordings with his Afro-Cuban big bands. A feat lesser-known, but not to be ignored, is his effort to sustain a black-owned record company, DeeGee Records, which was into business from 1951 to 1953.

Inevitably, Gillespie brings a smile to your face. His are happy sounds, vivid, playful, phrases that bubble with life, stories that are varnished with gladness, the promise of progress, an outlook that’s striking in a society prone to suppress the potential of his people, intent on sustaining the status quo. Sure he’s got the blues, his bends and slurs and piercing cadenzas evidently spell it out for you. Still, Dizzy Gillespie seems content. Likely, his life-long marriage to Lorraine has contributed to his well-being. But Gillespie may have been satisfied, he wasn’t complacent. His poignant, playful take on politics and discrimination speaks volumes. In 1964, Gillespie ran as an independent candidate for the Presidential Office, planning to rename The White House as The Blues House and appoint, among others, Duke Ellington as Secretary of State, Miles Davis as Director of the C.I.A. and Thelonious Monk as Traveling Ambassador!

Neither did Gillespie let anyone eat his lunch, white or black. In 1941, Gillespie sat in the trumpet chair of Cab Calloway’s band. The two didn’t get along very well, mostly on account of Calloway blaming Gillespie for his mischievous behavior and complex playing style, infamously dubbed ‘Chinese music’ by the famed singer and bandleader. During rehearsal, someone threw a spitball. Calloway blamed the innocent Gillespie, whereupon the trumpeter pulled a knife, a few minor cuts in Calloway’s leg the result. You can call it what you want, I call it messin’ with the kid

The Greatest Trumpet Of Them All was recorded on December 17, 1957. On December 11 and 19, Gillespie recorded with Sonny Stitt and Sonny Rollins, two sessions of powerful bebop that would be released as Duets in 1958 and Sonny Side Up in 1959, the opposite of the more mellow and restrained The Greatest. That album bears the mark of Golson and Gryce, who contribute Blues After Dark, Out Of The Past and Just By Myself (Golson) and Shabozz, A Night At Tony’s and Smoke Signals (Gryce). It is completed with Sea Breeze, a Latin-ish mood piece reminding us of ‘commercial’ Cal Tjader. Golson and Gryce were upcoming jazz men, swingin’, smokin’, but more soft-hued than Stitt and Rollins, Golson’s tenor velvet-y, the glow of warm marshmellows adding to a vibrant, comforting style, Gryce’s alto not without bite but suave, favoring fluent lines.

Fire and brimstone is not this album’s core business, instead a mellow vibe set by a responsive rhythm section soothes the soul, with Ray Bryant chiming in with rootsy, eloquent piano playing and the arrangements of Golson and Gryce adding tart harmony and precise, soulful stimulation of the soloists. Gillespie sets the pace, alternating between muted and open horn, sometimes even during the course of one tune – the truly unique composition of Benny Golson, Out Of The Past, practically impossible to fuck up, so beautiful and full of innate lyricism… Golson would record it magnificently, by the way, as a leader two days later, on December 19. So while Golson delivered it on the excellent The Modern Touch album, Gillespie was blowing hard with Sonny & Sonny… Gillespie’s playing moves so effortlessly, a marvel still, even if there is nothing to write up as ‘epic’. To be sure, for Gillespie, a driver at Le Mans, intervals are cinches like hairpins for Steve McQueen – check Smoke Signals. He dives into the abyss courageously, like an eagle in a tornado. The slurred exclamation point puts an end to meandering, meaningfully simple sentences…

Not essential, but fine Gillespie, no doubt.

Oliver Nelson, King Curtis & Jimmy Forrest - Soul Battle

Oliver Nelson, King Curtis & Jimmy Forrest Soul Battle (Prestige 1960)

Oliver Nelson had a knack for interesting parings of horns and Soul Battle is a seriously entertaining combination of the differing tenor styles of Nelson, Jimmy Forrest and King Curtis.

Oliver Nelson, King Curtis & Jimmy Forrest - Soul Battle

Personnel

Oliver Nelson (tenor saxophone), Jimmy Forrest (tenor saxophone), King Curtis (tenor saxophone), Gene Casey (piano), George Duvivier (bass), Roy Haynes (drums)

Recorded

on September 8, 1960 at Rudy van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as PRLP 7223 in 1960

Track listing

Side A:
Blues At The Five Spot
Blues For M.F. (Mort Fega)
Anacruses
Side B:
Perdido
In Passing


It is easy to overlook the beauty of a saxophonist’s voice and hi-level playing style when the player in question is also known, perhaps better-known, through his exceptional work as a writer and arranger. Benny Golson is a case in point. Oliver Nelson certainly qualifies. Evidently, he was a renowned arranger of his own work but mostly of other artists like Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, Cannonball Adderley, Wes Montgomery and Jimmy Smith. His body of work as a writer is comprehensive and filled with gems, the achingly beautiful Stolen Moments serving as his undisputed masterpiece.

Obviously, Blues And The Abstract Truth, his album on Impulse from 1960 which included Stolen Moments and featured Eric Dolphy, Freddie Hubbard and Roy Haynes, is a stone-cold classic and a perennial favorite among teachers at conservatories around the world. Standard subject matter. Straight Ahead isn’t such an indelible part of the curriculum, undeservedly. It’s an essential date on par with Abstract. Strikingly, Nelson’s Prestige albums of this period, which began in 1959 with Meet Oliver Nelson, consist of a thoroughly convincing effort to interpret the blues. Oh boy, his gelling with Dolphy – Dolphy playing Charlie Parker backwards, flying out there, Nelson more modern in the conventional sense, plaintive yet forceful – is truly something else.

Soul Battle precedes Blues And The Abstract Truth and Straight Ahead, which were recorded in the winter of 1961. If the latter albums are blues-based recording sessions that are simultaneously spontaneous and proof of careful preparation, Soul Battle is best described as a relaxed but driving, good-old blowing session. Count your blessings, this is a tenor battle royale! We have Nelson, employing a tone that often touches the alto register, on the hunt for ideas all the time, finding them too, carefully placing them in orderly fashion yet eager to move on, light-footed like a deer in the wild…

Then there’s Jimmy Forrest. Forrest goes way back, played on the riverboats of Mississippi with Fate Marable, with Duke Ellington, became an overnight r&b one-day-fly with Night Train in 1952 (a tune that was based on Duke Ellington’s Happy-Go-Lucky-Local), played with St. Louis pals Miles Davis and Grant Green and spent a big part of the seventies in the band of Count Basie. He’s putting some serious jazz history in a session like this. Take a listen to Blues For M.F., an excellent jump blues that has Nelson taking first solo, expertly so. Then Forrest hits four B.I.G. archetypal notes straight from Coleman Hawkins and suddenly Roy Haynes falls into a pocket… and an even deeper groove that was already developed is a fact… We have King Curtis, the r&b-star. However, lest we forget, King Curtis was a solid jazz player. His hard-edged tone, sleazy phrasing and fervent wails present a nice contrast with Nelson and Forrest’s subsequent modern and rootsy concepts.

Nelson’s story of Anacuses, one of four Nelson originals on Soul Battle – Juan Tizol’s Perdido the exception – has the passion and intensity of Coltrane, the hard-boiled flexibility of Joe Henderson and the direct emotional impact of Booker Ervin. Take that! A thorough dive into Oliver Nelson’s discography will find many exceptional moments, he’s truly one of the greatest saxophonists of his generation.

Lou Bennett - Enfin!

Lou Bennett Enfin! (RCA Victor 1963)

Get into the bopgospel groove with organist Lou Bennett’s Enfin!.

Lou Bennett - Enfin!

Personnel

Lou Bennett (organ), René Thomas (guitar), Gilbert Rovere (bass), Charles Bellonzi (drums)

Recorded

in 1963 in Paris, France

Released

RCA Victor 430.115 in 1963

Track listing

Side A:
Moment’s Notice
I Remember Sonny
Loin Du Brésil
Indicatif
Side B:
Jayne
Enfin
J.J.
Indicatif


An American In Paris, Lou Bennett never really gained recognition in the United States. Born in 1926 in Philadelphia (city of organ greats that also spawned, among others, Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff and Joey DeFrancesco) Bennett was a modern jazz pianist who took up the organ under the influence of Jimmy Smith in 1956. In 1960 he left the USA for France and, intermittingly, Spain. Bennett was quite popular in Europe and developed a solid body of work up until his death in 1997 in Le Chesnay, just outside of Paris. The recording start of his career in 1960, Amen, a cooperation with fellow expat, legendary drummer and bop innovator Kenny Clarke, set him off to a good start.

Ever heard of The Bennett Machine? No, it’s not one of Philip K. Dick’s long lost SF novels. On the contrary, The Bennett Machine was an invention by Lou Bennett that strived to make life easier and more interesting for the Hammond organist. In 1978, Bennett was tired of carrying around the heavy organ and did away with the lower keyboard, fixing electronic orchestral devices in the higher keyboard instead. Notably, Bennett, one of the greatest bass pedal players of organ jazz, coupled synths to the pedals and created a distinct double bass sound. Unfortunately, the Bennett Machine occasionally broke down due to faulty wiring.

By 1963, the Machine was perhaps already brewing in the back of Bennett’s mind, but the bass patterns that the organist played – the root notes of the feet pedals accompanying left hand bass playing – still sounded like any other first-rate modernist of the day. On Enfin!, Bennett’s group consists of guitarist René Thomas, bassist Gilbert Rovere and drummer Charles Bellonzi. Rovere and Bellonzi are Frenchmen, Thomas was born in Liege, Belgium, a guitar player of note, not that well-known but a musician’s musician who receives douze points from modern jazz freaks all over the world. His 1960 Jazzland album Guitar Groove is particularly admired.

Sound and style-wise, the church roots of Bennett mix smoothly with his bop experience. Hollers, screams and the fatherly, alternating whispering and booming voice of the minister that sooths and arouses the flock function as the cherries on top of his tacit bop runs. Bennett’s organ bop discourse is mirrored almost exactly by René Thomas, whose single-line approach – he’s one of many sons of Charlie Christian in this respect – gives the session a sophisticated and occasionally fiery glow. Thomas contributes nifty bop melodies like I Remember Sonny and Indicatif, the latter merely a theme that ends both sides of the LP. Bennett wrote the blues line Enfin with a mid-tempo, attractive bounce. The group also performs J.J. Johnson’s J.J., John Coltrane’s Moment’s Notice and Ornette Coleman’s (misspelled as Arnet) Jayne. (misspelled as Jane!) A trio of songs one rarely if ever encounters on organ jazz records, interesting repertory that is tackled immaculately and with a good groove.

Misspelling is not so bad. Poor sound quality is. It is as if the tape was handled with sandpaper. Perhaps there was no tape, just sandpaper. Perhaps the French Machine had trouble with faulty wiring too. If only Rudy van Gelder could’ve come to the rescue. But Rudy was across the great pond, busy defining brilliant sounds for posterity from Jimmy Smith, John Patton, Baby Face Willette and the like. With or without RVG, the striking mix of soul jazz and bebop that Lou Bennett brought forth on the organ was an experience to behold.

Listen to the full album on YouTube here.

For more on Lou Bennett, take a look at his extensive bio written by French guitarist André Condouant, who played with Bennett in the 80s. See here.

Freddie McCoy - Lonely Avenue

Freddie McCoy Lonely Avenue (Prestige 1965)

Rousing cookers, balanced ballads and smoothly swinging popular songs: Freddie McCoy’s Lonely Avenue reflects the vibraphonist’s deep-rooted understanding of the blues and swing-based jazz tradition.

Freddie McCoy - Lonely Avenue

Personnel

Freddie McCoy (vibraphone), Gil Askey (trumpet, arranger), Tate Houston (baritone saxophone), Dickie Harris (trombone B1-4), James Thomas (organ), Napoleon Allen (guitar A1-4), Martin Rivera (bass), Ray Lucas (drums)

Recorded

on January 25 & February 16 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as PRLP 7395 in 1965

Track listing

Side A:
Lonely Avenue
Roëll
Collard Greens
When Sunny Gets Blue
Side B:
Harlem Nocturne
Willow Weep For Me
Belly Full Of Greens
Feeling Good


Freddie McCoy, born in New York City in 1932, assembled a big crew to create the soulful canvas of his debut album on Prestige in 1965, Lonely Avenue. The coupling of vibes with trumpet, baritone sax, trombone, organ and guitar proved to be a remarkably flexible unit, both mean/funky and contemplative, which also, perhaps not entirely coincidentally, is a description of Freddie McCoy’s musical personality. The vibraphonist generates a lot heat but at the same time his playing is marked by a relaxed flow. Easygoing fellow but he’s not going to let you eat his lunch. One of few vibraphone players that focused on groove and grease. Yes, there’s a blues-drenched bit of Milt Jackson, without the dazzling technique of the God Of Vibes. And yes, there’s a bit of entertainment value that was inherent to the personality of pioneer Lionel Hampton, but the circus has left town before the roar of the lion. Freddie McCoy was more concerned with the kind of soul time that worked as a magnet for workers from all over the hood. Punch the clock, hurry home, slip into some shiny slacks and let’s hear it for the real mccoy’… Once settled in some upper Harlem joint, they shake their hips, shake their asses, shake their heads in amazement at the sight of this slick dude sweating it out behind that weird steel frame. Mallet boogie.

Plenty of warhorse and pop song for that kind of customer: When Sunny Gets Blue, Willow Weep For Me, Harlem Nocturne, Feeling Good. McCoy’s Roëll is a lovely ballad, his take on the Doc Pomus tune Lonely Avenue, best-known through the classic r&b version of Ray Charles, is super-soulful and the album’s crackerjack cookers, Collard Greens and Belly Full Of Greens, would serve well as background tracks for the volatile Ike & Tina Turner. Want some mean greens? Yes please, why not? Beats crème bruleé.

Freddie McCoy began to play the vibraphone in the Army in 1958 and subsequently played with Kenny Burrell, Johnny “Hammond” Smith, Philly Joe Jones and Doug Watkins. Following his debut, McCoy enjoyed a good stretch on Prestige, which released six albums between 1966 and 1968, focusing more and more on r&b and funk-ish ditties. Before he went off the radar, his last album Gimme Some was released by Cobblestone in 1971. Freddie McCoy was also a flight instructor who owned his own plane. No doubt he made some soulful maneuvers in that little booger.

Freddie McCoy passed away in 2009.

Ted Curson - Fire Down Below

Ted Curson Fire Down Below (Prestige 1963)

Ted Curson revealed himself as a breathtaking interpreter of rarely performed standards on his second album as a leader in 1963, Fire Down Below.

Ted Curson - Fire Down Below

Personnel

Ted Curson (trumpet), Ronnie Matthews (piano), George Tucker (bass), Roy Haynes (drums), Montego Joe (congas)

Recorded

on December 10, 1962 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as PRLP 7263 in 1963

Track listing

Side A:
Fire Down Below
The Very Young
Baby Has Gone Bye Bye
Side B:
Show Me
Falling In Love With Love
Only Forever


Interesting species, the type that switches smoothly from mainstream to avant surroundings. Perhaps because the type realizes that avant is a hollow shell without a link to the roots? Trumpeter Ted Curson felt comfortable in both spheres. Curson, who was born in Philadelphia in 1935, matured during the period when hard bop was developed from bop, blues and gospel. In 1955, Miles Davis stimulated Curson to move to New York City. Curson, a thoroughly schooled modern jazz player, played with avant-gardist Cecil Taylor around the turn of the decade, appearing on Taylor’s 1959 album Love For Sale.

In 1960, Curson joined the group of Charles Mingus. He appeared on four Mingus albums: Mingus, Mingus Revisited, Mingus At Antibes and Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus. A lot of Mingus. Well, Mingus could never be accused of austerity. The experience of Curson of playing with Mingus and sharing the frontline with Eric Dolphy left an indelible impression. After the passing of Dolphy – the reed and woodwind giant died of a diabetic seizure in Berlin on June 29, 1964 – Curson wrote Tears For Dolphy, a beautiful melody and Curson’s masterwork. A big part of Curson’s career was spent in Europe to much acclaim. He passed away in 2012.

The title of Curson’s Atlantic album from 1963, The New Thing & The Blue Thing, speaks volumes about his jazz personality. Preceding it, Curson debuted with Plenty Of Horn on the Old Town label in 1958. The follow-up, Fire Down Below, is the LP that begs to be added to the ever-growing mainstream jazz collector’s record cabinet. Curson is assisted by pianist Gildo Mahones, bassist George Tucker, drummer Roy Haynes and percussionist Montego Joe. It is testimony to the enormous wealth of standards that Curson could pick a whole set of rarely performed songs, excluding the well-known Hart/Rodgers composition Falling In Love With Love. Of the lesser-known tunes, Fire Down Below, The Very Young and My Baby Has Gone Bye Bye are gems of the first order.

The Carribean rhythm of Lee/Washington’s Fire Down Below is sustained throughout, eschewing a 4/4 release, which is hypnotizing, you feel the splendid exotic groove in your body, soul, toes. And your ass will be wiggling before you know it! Haynes draws on his Afro-Bop legacy from the late 40s, Gildo Mahones chimes in with a lively, percussive story that pretty much comes natural, considering his upbringing by parents of Puerto-Rican descent. Montego Joe had roots in Jamaica. Curson sounds pretty Carribean too.

Little/Sacker’s The Very Young is a beautiful blues ballad. Curson plays it like a song, holding notes like he’s telling it like it is, the feeling is overwhelming and his tart sound elevates it to a bittersweet symphony. Perfect pitch, the duality of bended notes that refer to both the moan of the country blues performer and the yowl of the country singer, plus the striking clear lines Curson sustains, complete the architecture of this brilliant performance. Clearness of line and orderly placing of phrases also mark the mid-tempo Allen/Roberts tune Baby Has Gone Bye Bye. Trumpet as good as it gets, like someone breathing, without effort, no strain. Curson’s heart is big and soft and beckoning for everyone to come and dance, rejoice, and praying for his people to overcome, overcome. Cherish the album that runs a mere 31 minutes with three such performances. Length of time is not the essence!