audiophilevinyl

Jackie McLean ‘One Step Beyond’

Mysterious. Innovative. Spellbinding. Jackie McLean’s ‘One Step Beyond’ is the first in a loose “trio” of albums that includes McLean’s ‘Destination…Out!’ and trombonist Grachan Moncur’s ‘Evolution’ as they all share quite a bit of musical DNA and personnel. I hesitate to call it them a trilogy as I’m not certain that was anyone’s artistic intent, though hearing them together in any sequence feels like a holistic listening experience. This album is extremely well-titled: McLean had heard the clarion call of Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane pushing the boundaries of modal jazz, and this session reflects McLean’s approach to coloring outside the lines. Yet it’s strongly rooted in hard-bop, and it swings like mad in many places, making it an inside/outside record that’s perhaps a bit more approachable. McLean built a unique melodic frontline (vibes, trombone, and alto) who create an atmosphere that’s otherworldly…it does feel rather “beyond,” yet somehow incredibly pleasing to the ear. Trombonist Grachan Moncur’s two compositions have an eerie, foreboding tone (“Ghost Town” particularly) that veer into occasionally dissonant territory—the band isn’t totally out to lunch here, but definitely waiting for a table. McLean’s two songs go down a bit smoother, but just a bit. McLean’s alto still retains its acidic bite, and while the structures and playing are rooted in blues/hard bop, it swings with claws unsheathed. Bobby Hutcherson is the undisputed master of the 37th Chamber of Vibraphone, wielding mallets with both astonishing fluidity and lethal consequences. Bassist Eddie Khan holds the rhythmic ebb and flow accountable. Still, he and the rest of the group are perpetually challenged by—and, more importantly, inspired by—17 year old drummer Tony Williams. Williams performance throughout is simply incredible. In particular, the dialogue between Williams and Hutcherson is MESMERIZING and sounds especially clear on this Music Matters 45RPM 2XLP edition. Recorded this day, 30 April, 1963

Grant Green ‘Sunday Morning’

I love the way Grant Green’s 4th album floats atop the room. Mixing standard and originals, this aptly titled and FANTASTIC record tends to get lost amongst Green’s better-known albums. That’s a drag because Green’s quartet, which features the Bens (Tucker on bass and Dixon on drums) along with the underrated Kenny Drew on piano, knock this 1961 session out of the freakin’ park. Green and Drew are incredibly well-matched…just amazing playing across the board. Drew is the hero of the session with line after line of melodic, graceful, fleet-fingered magic that goes toe-to-toe with Green’s propensity for single-line playing. I must call attention to the presence of the bass in the mix here which cuts through in a way that’s prominent and pleasing—if you’re one of those folks who strains a bit to hear the detail in acoustic bass when it isn’t occupying enough of the soundstage, this record will blow your stack. Great day at the mixing console by the Notorious RVG. Put down your phone/tablet/laptop, go to your record store of choice and pick up this brand new reissue from Slow Down Sounds RIGHT NOW. A late contender for my top 10 vinyl reissues of 2019, this all-analog, Kevin Gray cut, gorgeous tip-on (and heavy) jacket replica is VERY reasonably priced and sounds incredible. This is up there with Music Matters and Tone Poet in terms of sonics and overall quality @slowdownsounds

Clark Terry

Continued excellence from SAM records! Clark Terry (trumpet) leads several of his fellow Duke Ellington Orchestra colleagues through three originals (“Serenade to a Bus Seat” is especially terrific) and a few standards. This session was recorded in Paris circa October 1959 and released in 1960 as Decca 153.924. Paul Gonsalves (tenor sax) is a well-matched sparring partner for Terry, and they’ve got a fantastic rhythm section that includes Raymond Fol (piano), Jimmy Woode (bass), and G. T. Hogan (drums). The opening, ten-plus minute track is a laid back masterclass in building narrative—it’s clear that everybody arrived with their “A” game—and whether romping through Monk’s “Pannonica Ou Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960 No 2” or Ellington’s “Satin Doll”, this quintet is eager to showcase their skills beyond their work with the Ellington Orchestra. So the music is great, but that’s only half of it… @samrecordsfr has a well-earned reputation for EXTREMELY high quality vinyl reissues and this one is no exception. Remastered from the original tapes on 180gram vinyl with a glossy, flipback album jacket, this is a near-perfect reproduction of the original, and includes a double insert with a great shot by original photographer JP Leloir. They also inspect each record by hand to check for defects—this one as well as any other Sam Records reissue I’ve gotten has been perfect…centered, flat and quiet. Sonics are top shelf. Highly recommended but act quickly as this edition is limited to 2000 copies worldwide, and previous Sam Records editions have sold out and secondary market prices have gone WAY up