BLUE MITCHELL QUARTET & SEXTET
Blue Mitchell (tp) Curtis Fuller (tb) Jimmy Heath (ts) Wynton Kelly (p)
Sam Jones (b) Philly Joe Jones (drs)
Reeves Sound Studios, NYC; September 28, 1959
Blue Soul (1) (4:06) RLP12-309 S-5
The Way You Look Tonight (1) (3:18) - RLP-3516
Park Avenue Petite (1) (3:53) -
Minor Vamp (3:38) - M-47055 RLP(S9)-3505
Nica’s Dream (6:29) - - RLP-3509
The Head (6:23) -
Top Shelf (4:02) -
Waverly Street (4:54) - -
Polka Dots and Moonbeams (5:44) - -
Minor Vamp (take 1) (1) (3:42) UCCO-9497CD
Park Avenue Petite (take 1) (1) (3:58) -
Blue Soul (take 2) (1) (6:29) -
To writers of advertising blurbs, life must seem remarkably clear-cut and simple. The product at hand not only is (and always has been) far and away the best of its kind, but often some newly added mystery ingredient has just managed to make it wondrously better still. Writing about jazz and jazz records, unfortunately, is – or at least should be – much more complex. In a creative musical form, although there certainly are standards of judgement, there can really be no such thing as a rigid, ironclad “best.” And there most assuredly are no mystery ingredients. Jazz musicians change; often they mature and develop, thereby becoming “better” artists. But there is usually nothing sudden about such musical growth, and its only mystery is that mystery which always surrounds art and talent – which has nothing at all to do with any secret formula.
However, since periods of time do separate a musician’s various recordings, his development from one to the next can sometimes seem startlingly sudden. That would appear to be the case with RICHARD “BLUE” MITHCELL. This is Blue’s third album as a leader. The first two, we felt, were very good and well worth the attention of the jazz-listening public. But this present LP is something else. It represents so definite and striking a forward step that we cannot avoid the language of the advertising writer. This is, without doubt, a new and improved Blue Mitchell. OR, to put it in more accurate jazz terminology, with this recording Blue would seem to have stepped over the invisible line: he is no longer merely “promising”; he has arrived!
The most significant ‘new’ factor in the sound and content of Mitchell’s playing is something best described as confidence, or authority. I first heard Blue in the Spring of 1958, jamming in a late-night spot in his native Miami with his friend Cannonball Adderley (at whose urging I had come to listen to Mitchell). At that time, and consistently thereafter, he impressed me strongly, as a particularly warm, lyrical and individual musician. But I also came to know him as a sensitive and highly self-critical artist, one of a rather substantial number of jazz-men who are given to belittling their own work and to sincerely putting themselves down. So, to me, it was a most important substantiation of my highly favorable feelings about this album when Blue himself went so far as to admit that he pretty much liked the way it had turned out.
Actually, the feeling of confidence and of things turning out well was in the air from the very start of the planning of this LP. Blue began by turning to the highly talented Benny Golson for a soulful sextet arrangement of Benny’s Minor Vamp; a rich ballad treatment of the standard Polka Dots and Moonbeams; and a fresh scoring of the intricate Nica’s Dream (composed by Horace Silver, with whose quintet Mitchell drew considerable attention during 1959). Jimmy Heath provided two numbers that also fitted the projected “soul” mood of the album: Top Shelf, and the notably earthy Waverley Street. Balanced against these five firmly knit selections are four that are deliberately more free-blowing: one for the full group (Mitchell’s own The Head) and three that spotlight Blue’s horn alone with the rhythm section, including the down-home blues that gives the LP its title.
In the recording studio, that confidence (or command of the situation, or inspiration, or whatever you choose to call that added spark) was fully in evidence. It is present in the full, firm lead-trumpet tones as well as in the leader’s inventive and sparkling solo work. And it was obviously also felt by the top-level group of fully compatible associates Mitchell ahs surrounded himself with here. WYNTON KELLY, a key sideman with Miles Davis, ahs appeared frequently on Riverside albums for the simple reason that so many fellow musicians appreciate his unique values as both accompanist and soloist and demand his presence (he was on both of Blue’s precious LPs). PHILLY JOE JONES, one of the most remarkable of all modern-jazz drummers, is an equally familiar Riverside name for precisely the same reason. CURTIS FULLER is top-rated among the East’s younger trombonists. Bassist SAM JONES, who first worked with Blue when both were in their ‘teens in Florida, has contributed importantly to the bands of such major figures as Thelonious Monk, Cannonball Adderley and Dizzy Gillespie. For JIMMY HEATH, a brother of the Modern Jazz Quartet’s Percy Heath, this album marks his return to the jazz scene and his first appearance on Riverside; his work here (including stand-out solos on his own tunes and on Minor Vamp) demonstrates that this is a new tenor-sax voice to be reckoned with.
RLP12-309 S-5 RLP-3505 RLP-3509
NOTE: JLP(S9)-90 reissue of RLP12-309
Produced, and notes written by ORRIN KEEPNEWS
Cover produced and designed by PAUL BACON – KEN BRAREN – HARRIS LEWINE
Back-liner photographs by LAWRENCE N. SHUSTAK
Engineers: JACK HIGGINS and ROU FRIEDMAN (Reeves Sound Studios)
Mastered by JACK MATTHEWS (Components corp.) on a HYDROFEED lathe.
ORPHEUM RECORDS, INC.
235 West 46th Street, NYC