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JLP 74

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Blue Mitchell (tp) (on Side 1 only) Sonny Red (as) Grant Green (g) (on Side 2, #1 and 2 only) Barry Harris (p) George Tucker (b) Lex Humphries (Side 1) or Jimmy Cobb (Side 2) (drs)

Recorded NYC; December 14, 1961


  1. Images (6:25) (Sonny Red)

  2. Blues for Donna (4:44) (Sonny Red)

  3. Dodge City (5:16) (Sonny Red)


  1. Blue Sonny (8:29) (Sonny Red)

  2. The Rhythm Thing (5:06) (Sonny Red)

  3. Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered (5:41) (Rodgers & Hart)

   The jazz world is full of images. For instance, the public has a certain image of the musician and the musician has an image of himself. Both are sometimes distorted. The public’s images often is overglamorized and sensationalized; the musician’s self-image is subject to inflation and over-romanticization. Some player, who have entered today’s scene largely because jazz is supposedly “making it,” fall into this latter category. They look into the mirror of their minds and see a big, bad, beautiful jazz musician. It’s true that jazz has been enjoying a relative boom. Were that boom to change into a bust tomorrow, they would be the first to run, and I doubt that they would do much extracurricular playing when they took other jobs to help them eat.

   Then there are the men who play because they must. They may never be big stars and they don’t have a gimmick to which to hitch their wagon. They just blow their horns as honestly as they know how – and honestly is the only way they know. Sonny Red clearly belongs in this last category.

   The young alto saxophonist has been a fixture on the New York scene since the Spring of 1959. He is from Detroit, where he played with Barry Harris and Curtis Fuller. After winning a bout with lung trouble, he came to New York in 1957. His father’s death took him back to Detroit the following year, and later he went on to the state of Washington and western Canada before returning to New York. Red is a resilient little cat, seemingly able to withstand the especially erosive aspects of big city life as they apply to a jazz man. While his playing does not make it appear as if he expects world peace and universal brotherhood to arrive tomorrow, there is a blithe, lilting quality to his sound and style, and no underlying feeling of pessimism. His ballads are always properly romantic, with an absence of cynicism.

   Sonny has always been his own hardest critic, but I’m sure that even he would admit to an obviously fuller command of his instrument with the passage of time and deepening of experience.

   Two sessions went into the making of this album. The first offers three selections that combine Sonny’s alto with the trumpet of Blue Mitchell, star of the Horace Silver group and leader in his own right on Riverside records. The rhythm section is made up of pianist Barry Harris (another Riverside leader), Sonny’s old buddy from Detroit; bassist George Tucker; and drummer Lex Humphries:

   mages, the title tune, is (like the four other originals heard here) a Sonny Red composition. It is a modal affair with the chord changes occurring less frequently than in the usual modern jazz piece. Images has also been recorded by Nat Adderley, whose version can be heard on “Naturally” (Jazzland 47; Stereo 947). Blue for Donna sounds like something that could have been played by a Charlie Parker quintet of the 1947-50 period, the rhythmic contours of the line being extremely Bird-like. Dodge City is a swinger that draws on the familiar “we want Cantor” motif for a jumping-off point.

   The selections on Side 2 were recorded six months later, at the December 1961 session which produced Moon River, Super-20 and The Mode, heard on Sonny’s previous album, “The Mode”. The facile, earthy-sophisticated guitar lines of Grant Green are the foil for Sonny’s alto on the first two numbers. Harris and Tucker are again on hand, with Miles Davis’ drummer, Jimmy Cobb, replacing Humphries:

   Blue Sonny, the longest track in the album, is a slow blues, with the mod established by Tucker, Cobb and Harris before Sonny plays a note. The Rhythm Thing is just that – the “I got rhythm” changes lined out in a swift, staccato riff. It must be mentioned that Harris is exceptional here and Rucker’s bass literally sings behind Barry’s solo. On Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered, Green lays out and Sonny delivers the plaintive, tender, unsaccharine ballad by himself.

   his album is another link in the constant improvement of a jazz artist. It is not that Sonny Red’s image has changed; it is just being brought into sharper focus. The form is more clearly defined and the colors are more vivid.


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   Other Jazzland albums featuring Red include –

Breezing: Sonny Red, with Yusef Lateef, Blue Mitchell (JLP 32; Stereo 932)

A Story Tale: Sonny Red and Clifford Jordan (JLP 40; Stereo 940)

The Mode: Sonny Red with Grant Green, Barry Harris (JLP 59; Stereo 959)


Recording Engineer: RAY FOWLER (Recorded and mastered at Plaza Sound Studios, New York City)

Album design: KEN DEARDOFF

Back-liner photos by STEVE SCHAPIRO

This recoding is available in both Stereophonic (JLP 974) and Monaural (JLP 74) form.


235 West 46th Street New York City 36, New York

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