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Smooth Tunes

Posted on Aug 29, 2019 in Central Square Records , Jazz , September–October 2019

Chill out with some fall jazz recommendations by Edward Jack

As we leave the heat of summer behind, and slow down a bit here at the beach, those of us at Central Square Records thought we’d take time to share some quintessential jazz artists and their finest recordings. These sessions are easily accessible to the novice jazz listener, and can also serve as a starting point in discovering other artists within the genre. In no particular order, here are some of our favorite selections:

Julian “Cannonball” Adderley “Somethin Else” (Blue Note Records)

Alto saxophonist “Cannonball” Adderley assembles a stellar group of musicians for this 1958 recording date, featuring a young Miles Davis on trumpet, heavyweight drummer Art Blakey, bassist Sam Jones, and Hank Jones on piano. Kicking off with a very bluesy version of the jazz standard, “Autumn Leaves” and “Love For Sale,” the quintet offers up some remarkable originals, from Davis’ composition of the title track, to the cool blues of “One For Daddy-O” written by Adderley’s younger brother, Nat. This particular outing demonstrates the lyrical inventiveness of Adderley, within a stellar group of focused and talented players, who maintain the laid back groove throughout the session.

Lee Morgan “The Sidewinder” (Blue Note Records)

The rapid-fire delivery of trumpeter Lee Morgan on this 1963 session will have your toes tappin’ from the first note. Right out of the gate, Morgan exhibits his energy and rhythmic prowess, backed by one of the best rhythm sections at the time, consisting of Barry Harris on piano, Bob Cranshaw on bass, and Billy Higgins on drums. Joe Henderson contributes a great deal on tenor saxophone, constantly pursuing Morgan throughout the album, and catching him sometimes. Henderson flexes his musical muscle on “Totem Pole,” with an incredible solo that would make even Lee Morgan stand down. Among the high energy tunes are some more reflective numbers (“Gary’s Notebook,” “Boy, What A Night”), all composed by Morgan, that round out the album nicely.

Wayne Shorter “Speak No Evil”

As many trumpeters were overshadowed by Miles Davis in the 1960s, so too were saxophonists often unfairly compared to sax giant John Coltrane, as “derivative” of his style. Shorter dealt with this problem quickly and effectively. After his first two dates on Blue Note with Coltrane’s rhythm section (McCoy Tyner on piano, and Elvin Jones on drums), Shorter, switched up his band and composed “Speak No Evil,” one of the most critically-acclaimed albums of the era. Culling the talents of a young Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Herbie Hancock on piano, Ron Carter on bass, and keeping Elvin Jones on drums, Shorter found a group that not only creates ample space for his creative and expansive solos, but also ventures out on its collective own. Taking the hard bop style into new territory, this session challenges the listener with its seemingly endless lyrical landscapes, without losing its direction.

Herbie Hancock “Takin’ Off” (Blue Note Records)

This 1962 date would be Hancock’s debut as a leader, and he certainly rises to the occasion, with the help of legendary saxophonist Dexter Gordon, the brash, young Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Butch Warren on bass, and Billy Higgins on drums. Hancock definitely brings a funkier style to the scene, while maintaining a very cerebral approach to his tunes, both originals and standards. Hancock starts it off with “Watermelon Man,” (based on the calls of watermelon sellers in his Chicago neighborhood) a soon-to-be standard that would put Hancock on the musical map. “Three Bags Full” follows, exhibiting the wide open tone of Hubbard on trumpet, with an airtight rhythm section underneath. The album mellows out a bit, with the cool blues of “Driftin’,” where Dexter Gordon really excels. This date exemplifies the energy and groove Hancock will later be known for, though the intellectual aspects of these compositions cannot be overlooked.

Smooth Tunes

John Coltrane “Blue Train” (Blue Note Records)

As Coltrane’s only Blue Note Records date as a leader, it is also one of his coolest, stylistically speaking. The sublime blues of “Blue Train” right off the bat sets the tone of the rest of the album. Coltrane taps some heavy hitters for this session, including Lee Morgan on trumpet, Kenny Drew on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, the legendary be-bop drummer Philly Joe Jones, and the unique stylings of trombonist Curtis Fuller. “Locomotion” picks up the pace considerably, showing off the fiery trumpet of Morgan, and the strategically place Fuller on trombone. The album mellows nicely toward the end of the album, primed by the laid back approach to the Johnny Mercer tune “I’m Old Fashioned,” and finishing nicely with “Lazy Bird,” a Coltrane original.

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