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MAY 31

            JOHN COLTRANE
          Coltrane [Prestige]

                Recording Date:
                    May 31, 1957

                    Paul Chambers   B 
                    John Coltrane    TS 
                    Red Garland       P 
                    Albert Heath      D 
                    Sahib Shihab      BS 
                    Johnny Splawn   TP 
                    Mal Waldron       P  


Review by Lindsay Planer
On his first session as a bandleader, tenor saxophonist John Coltrane is joined by Johnny Splawn on trumpet, Sahib Shihab on baritone sax, and a rhythm section of bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Albert "Tootie" Heath with piano duties split between Mal Waldron and Red Garland. Right out of the gate, the propulsive syncopated beat that drives through the heart of Coltrane's fellow Philly denizen Calvin Massey's "Bakai" indicates that Coltrane and company are playing for keeps. Shihab's emphatic and repetitive drone provides a manic urgency that fuels the participants as they weave in and out of the trance-like chorus. Coltrane grabs hold with bright and aggressive lines, turning the minor-chord progressions around into a spirited and soulful outing. While the refined and elegant "Violets for Your Furs" as well as the slinky and surreptitious "While My Lady Sleeps" are undeniably ballads, they aren't redundant. Rather, each complements the other with somewhat alternate approaches. "Violets for Your Furs" develops the role of the more traditional pop standard, whereas the somnolence is disrupted by the tension and release coursing just below the surface of "While My Lady Sleeps." The Coltrane-supplied "Straight Street" is replete with the angular progressions that would become his stock-in-trade. In fact, the short clusters of notes that Coltrane unleashes are unmistakable beacons pointing toward his singular harmonics and impeccably timed phrasing on 1960's Giant Steps and beyond. The closer, "Chronic Blues," demonstrates Coltrane's increasing capacity for writing and arranging for an ensemble. The thick unified sound of Coltrane, Splawn, and Shihab presents a formidable presence as they blow the minor-chord blues chorus together before dissolving into respective solos. The trio's divergent styles prominently rise, pitting Shihab's down-and-dirty growl against Coltrane's comparatively sweet tones and Splawn's vacillating cool and fiery fingering. Regardless of the listener's expertise, Coltrane is as enjoyable as it is thoroughly accessible.

MAY 28

                 HERBIE HANCOCK
                 Takin' Off

                  Recording Date: 
                       May 28, 1962

                       Dexter Gordon    TS 
                       Herbie Hancock   P
                       Billy Higgins        D 
                       Freddie Hubbard TP,FG 
                       Butch Warren      B 


Review by Steve Huey
Herbie Hancock's debut as a leader, Takin' Off, revealed a composer and pianist able to balance sophistication and accessibility, somewhat in the vein of Blue Note's prototype hard bopper Horace Silver. Yet while Hancock could be just as funky and blues-rooted as Silver, their overall styles diverged in several ways: Hancock was lighter and more cerebral, a bit more adventurous in his harmonies, and more apt to break his solos out of a groove (instead of using them to create one). So even if, in retrospect, Takin' Off is among Hancock's most conventional albums, it shows a young stylist already strikingly mature for his age, and one who can interpret established forms with spirit and imagination. Case in point: the simple, catchy "Watermelon Man," which became a Hancock signature tune and a jazz standard in the wake of a hit cover by Latin jazz star Mongo Santamaria. Hancock's original version is classic Blue Note hard bop: spare, funky piano riffing and tight, focused solo statements. The other compositions are memorable and well-constructed too (if not quite hit material); all have their moments, but particular highlights include the ruminative ballad "Alone and I," the minor-key "The Maze" (which features a little bit of free improvisation in the rhythm section), and the bluesy "Empty Pockets." The backing group includes then up-and-coming trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon, bassist Butch Warren, and drummer Billy Higgins. All in all, Takin' Off is an exceptional first effort, laying the groundwork for Hancock to begin pushing the boundaries of hard bop on his next several records.

MAY 27

                 PAT MARTINO
                  Night Wings

                        Recording Date: 
                            May 27, 1994

                            Marc Johnson      B 
                            Robert Kenmotsu TS
                            Pat Martino         G
                            James Ridl          P 
                            Bill Stewart         D 


Review by Robert Taylor
Recorded for Muse only a couple of months after Interchange and a few months before The Maker, the similarities in the recordings are evident. His connection with James Ridl is obvious and continued Martino's penchant for creative relationships with pianists, namely Eddie Green and Gil Goldstein. For this session, Bob Kenmotsu was added on tenor saxophone, and his unison lines with Martino are one of the many highlights here. Once again, Ridl is allowed ample space to explore his thoughtful ideas, especially on the excellent "Villa Hermosa." Martino favors a more-is-more approach here, a welcome change for fans of his earlier recordings. His chops are on full display on "Draw Me Down" and "Night Wings," but his experience prevents his impressive technique from being gratuitous or overbearing. Martino and Ridl couldn't be in better hands than with bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Bill Stewart, who are also supplied with enough space to showcase their remarkable talents. This fine session has been reissued, along with Interchange, as part of the double CD Mission Accomplished, which is the better value and the recommended choice.

MAY 26

               DIZZY GILLESPIE
       Swing Low Sweet Cadillac

              Recording Date:
                   May 25-26, 1959

                   Dizzy Gillespie       TP,Vo
                   James Moody     TS,AS,FL,Vo
                   Mike Longo              P
                   Frank Schifano         B
                   Otis Candy Finch Jr. D


Review by Michael G. Nastos
A strangely popular album for Dizzy Gillespie, Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac represents a period in his career where he was adapting to the times, keeping his goof factor on board, and individually playing as well as he ever had. This club date, recorded over two days circa May of 1967 from The Memory Lane in Los Angeles, has Gillespie with soon to be longtime partners James Moody and Mike Longo, joking and jiving with their audience, presenting a relatively short program of modified pop tunes and one of the trumpeter's most revered compositions. Drummer Otis "Candy" Finch is more than up to the task, but electric bass guitarist Frank Schifano is the weak link, playing basic lines, or unfortunately out of tune. Longo moves from acoustic piano and Fender Rhodes, while Moody's tenor or alto sax and flute are as distinctive as ever. Gillespie's voice, inspired by Eddie Jefferson or perhaps Billy Eckstine, was never meant for singing, but is delightful in his attempt. "Kush" is the track that, over nearly 16 minutes, starts with Dizzy's preachings about Mother Africa and Moody's wavering flute, but Schifano's insistently off-key ostinato mars what is otherwise Gillespie's bright and fluid trumpet sparring with Moody's alto in louder, then softened dynamics and Longo's dainty piano chords. The band modifies Jorge Ben's "Mas Que Nada," made popular by Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66, into a boppish swinging and swaying tune with Latin inferences. The title track, Gillespie's singularly unique and famous adaptation of the gospel song "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" has he and Moody chatting back and forth in campy ghetto and Afro-Cuban vocal antics gleaned from Chano Pozo, degenerating into nothing, then a modest vocal line. While somewhat disingenuous, Gillespie's vocal attempt at being a romantic troubadour during "Something in Your Smile" cannot be taken seriously, but is somehow quaint and endearing. This is not an essential listing in the vast discography of such a great jazz artist, but remains a curiosity in his collection, especially considering the two-day time frame where much more music could have been considered to be issued. It is not to be completely ignored, but less worthy than many of his other seminal groundbreaking recordings.

MAY 25

                         CHET BAKER
                      Mr. B

                     Recording Date:
                           May 25, 1983

                          Chet Baker           TP
                          Michel Graillier      P
                          Philip Catherine    G
                          Ricardo Del Fra     B
                          Monster, Holland   D


Review by Steven Loewy
The quality of Chet Baker's product was so varied during the last decade or more of his life that recording sessions varied markedly. For this "remixed version" of Mr. B Baker sounds a tad tired, though his chops are in fine form. The studio recording captures the trumpeter with highly sympathetic and self-effacing pianist Michel Grallier and bassist Ricardo Del Fra, both of whom engage in the leader's brand of sensitivity. There are no vocals by the trumpeter, but plenty of improvising. The interesting tune selection features a few songs played often by Baker (such as Wayne Shorter's "Dolphin Dance" and Horace Silver's "Strollin'"), but several that are not associated with him at all (Grallier's "White Blues" and his gorgeous "Father X-mas," to name a couple). There is a sadness permeating the trumpeter's sound throughout, exacerbated by the lazy, sometimes sluggish, tempos. A deep and touching beauty can be felt, marking this as one of Chet's best from the period.

MAY 24

              RED GARLAND

                    Recording Date:
                        May 24, 1957

                        Red Garland     P
                        Kenny Burrell    G
                        Paul Chambers  B
                        Art Taylor         D


Review by Scott Yanow
Pianist Red Garland's fourth recording as a leader had often eluded reissue until this 1998 CD was released. Garland is teamed up with bassist Paul Chambers, drummer Art Taylor and (on "Four" and "Walkin'") guest guitarist Kenny Burrell. Garland plays in his distinctive style consistently throughout Red Garland Revisited!. Highlights include "Billy Boy" (which was adapted from Ahmad Jamal's rendition), "I'm Afraid the Masquerade Is Over," "It Could Happen to You," and two Burrell tracks. Predictably excellent music; Garland recorded more than 20 additional albums within the next five years.