bobcranshaw

Jackie McLean ‘Right Now!’

Altoist Jackie McLean made loads of great records for Blue Note in the 1960s, and this is one I come back to time and again. Three of the four long tracks are uptempo, adventurous yet melodic modal-leaning hard bop, all of which feature excellent arrangements and KILLER solos by a band that includes Larry Willis (piano), Bob Cranshaw (bass) and Clifford Jarvis (drums). But the highlight is the ballad “Poor Eric” (written for Eric Dolphy who had recently passed away), which has an atmosphere that takes over the room—reflective, melancholic, and achingly beautiful. Give “Poor Eric” a listen and I’m pretty confident it will find a place on whatever playlist holds your favorite ballads. While listening ‘Right Now!’ this morning over coffee, two enthusiastic thumbs up were delivered from my wife—the equivalent to a jazz Michelin Star. Jackie McLean has a reputation for a somewhat sharp tone and freer structures (see his incredible and essential ‘Destination Out!’ album, for example), but ‘Right Now!’ eschews those elements and the more straightforward approach with this quartet works marvelously. This is a GREAT jazz record that has a lot to offer—highly recommended. And dig that Reid Miles LP jacket! This is a 2015 Music Matters 33RPM reissue MMBST-84215, stereo. Originally recorded 29 Jan 1965 and issued in 1966

Hank Mobley ‘A Slice of the Top’

‘A Slice of the Top’ showcases Hank Mobley at the peak of his powers. It was the session that Mobley has said he was most proud of, and he pulled no punches in expressing his frustration that it sat unreleased—along with a half dozen of his other sessions—in Blue Note’s vaults for over a decade. With clever arrangements by the amazing Duke Pearson, the octet of Hank Mobley-tenor sax, Lee Morgan-trumpet, McCoy Tyner-Piano, James Spaulding-flute/alto sax, Kiane Zawadi-euphonium, Howard Johnson-tuba, Bob Cranshaw-bass & Billy Higgins-drums created one of Mobley’s GREATEST albums. It’s got a bigger sound due to the expanded lineup, the material is on the more adventurous side for Mobley, though he never strays from his trademark melodic excellence. Originally recorded 18 March 1966, it first saw the light of day as part of Blue Note’s LT Classics series in 1979 (cheap and plentiful in second-hand shops, with covers that look either like cheap packages of magnolia seeds, or the work of a first-day intern at Windham Hill), and then Blue Note’s Connoisseur series (this copy) in the mid-90s with a bit more sonic heft, mastered by Wally Trautgott. This session is collected along with the rest of Mobley’s 60s output (including all of his shelved sessions) as part of Mosaic’s ‘Complete Hank Mobley Blue Note Sessions 1963-70’ CD box, which from a sound quality perspective beats all the vinyl issues I’ve heard from these later 60s sessions. ‘A Slice of the Top’ is an often overlooked title in Mobley’s largely stellar catalog, which is a shame as it’s a superb record that I’d categorize as “must hear” material. Fortunately, it is available across the digital spectrum, and second-hand copies of the vinyl are fairly easy to come by h/t @gs_va12 for the suggestion!

Horace Silver ‘Serenade to a Soul Sister’

Silver’s flair for melody, funky style, and inspired choice of bandmates results in another classic. While ’The Jody Grind’ remains my favorite Horace Silver-led session, this one has raced up the charts quickly into second place. If the opening track doesn’t put a smile on your face, inspire you to get into the groove and boogie, you need a drink. Or therapy. Or both. Certainly one of the happier jazz records one can reach for, and overall a great listen. It features a who’s who of talent, including Charles Tolliver (trumpet), Bennie Maupin (sax), Stanley Turrentine (tenor sax), Bob Cranshaw (bass), Mickey Roker (drums) and Billy Cobham (drums). Terrific soundtrack to a beautiful NYC morning

Duke Pearson ‘Wahoo!’

Brilliant. It takes a special gift to select a group of simpatico players with the chops to turn musical ideas into an album that moves effortlessly between unadulterated joy, thoughtful introspection, great improv, and relentless swing. Welcome to the world of Duke Pearson, one of the most well-rounded talents to ever walk both the corporate hallways and studios of @bluenoterecords. Pearson’s talents as a pianist are obvious right off, and on this album he also serves as primary composer (other than the closing track by trumpeter Donald Byrd), arranger and bandleader. Pearson also had a “day job”—he was head of A&R for Blue Note so he knew the business from both sides of the desk. This album has an interesting history—it slipped into a bit of relative obscurity as the master tape was inadvertently filed in the wrong box so it was “missing” for nearly three decades, reappearing a few years ago during a vault crawl and—having not been used/handled/transported for so long—was in excellent shape and brought to new life in the marketplace by the Music Matters crew. It’s a stunner—easily my favorite Pearson record. Helluva band too: Joe Henderson (tenor sax), James Spauding (flute/alto sax), Bob Cranshaw (bass), Mikey Roker (drums) and the aforementioned Pearson (piano) and Byrd (trumpet). The music from this 21 Nov 1964 session is often described as “advanced hard bop” which I suppose is close enough though it’s more than that. I can’t quite find the words to do it justice but there’s a real magic afoot here that must be heard to be understood. I suggest you do so at once

Jack Wilson ‘Easterly Winds’

Joining the chorus of folks acknowledging Lee Morgan’s birthday today, I thought I’d call out this under-discussed session featuring Morgan in a sideman role. ‘Easterly Winds’ from pianist Jack Wilson is one of those “under the radar” Blue Note gems deserving a spot on your playlist, if not a space on your shelf. Wilson is a melodic, energetic pianist who fronts a killer sextet that includes Lee Morgan (trumpet), Jackie McLean (alto sax), Garnett Brown (trombone), Bob Cranshaw (bass) and Billy Higgins (drums). The record opens with the boogaloo dance floor romp “Do It”, a rug-cutter (though not of the cherubic hue @walteragross) to get the blood pumping and feet tapping. Good tune. An even more interesting Wilson original follows entitled “On Children” which has fine solos from Brown and Morgan, and then the “A” side closes with the Johnny Mandel standard “A Time for Love”. The “B” side features two more Wilson originals and then closes with Frank Strozier’s “Frank’s Tune” which features McLean’s best solo, Morgan’s most thoughtful solo, and is my favorite track on the LP. Good stuff. Recorded 22 Sept 1967, released March 1968 as BST 84270. Widely available digitally, and not too difficult to find on vinyl