Larry Young – Unity (1965)

Reid Miles’ cover designs for Blue Note were very often innovative and many are now regarded as iconic, but few are as striking and timeless as his artwork for Larry Young’s Unity, the organist’s second release for the label. Stacked bold black capitals in sans-serif type on a plain white background. Blood-orange circles bouncing inside … Continue reading Larry Young – Unity (1965)

Sam Rivers – Contours (1965)

Sam Rivers, a veteran jazz multi-instrumentalist, was forty-two years old when he assembled this Blue Note LP, only his second as leader. Unlike his debut Fuchsia Swing Song (1964) which, while adventurous, was unmistakably hard-bop, his approach on Contours is resolutely avant garde and informed by new ideas in jazz and influences absorbed during his … Continue reading Sam Rivers – Contours (1965)

Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall (1957)

Imagine rummaging through your junk drawer and finding high-def video footage of the actual Sermon on the Mount from back in the day complete with fluffed lines and coughing from within the congregation; it would be quite a thing. Well folks, this is even better than that! Discovered hiding in the vaults of the Library … Continue reading Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall (1957)

Ronnie Foster – The Two-Headed Freap (1972)

I have no idea what a freap is, and a two-headed specimen is something I can't begin to imagine. Regardless, this sparkling slice of funked out soul jazz is a pure document of the times from which it emerged. Many jazz purists were dismayed that Blue Note would dare release anything so unashamedly contemporary, but … Continue reading Ronnie Foster – The Two-Headed Freap (1972)

Sonny Clark – Leapin’ And Lopin’ (1961)

In his excellent biography on Bill Evans titled How My Heart Sings, pianist/writer Peter Pettinger makes the following insightful observation about Sonny Clark: He was one of those pianists who feel, and show, respect for the instrument; one who collaborates with it rather than acts the aggressor upon it. Such a player is immediately in … Continue reading Sonny Clark – Leapin’ And Lopin’ (1961)

I Want To Hold Your Hand – Grant Green (1965)

Never known to be a particularly ardent fan of jazz or latin music, one wonders what John Lennon would have thought of the many lightweight jazzbo smooch covers of his tunes by piano lounge acts or TV variety show orchestras. If they are cringe-inducing for us, imagine the pains suffered by the leading Fab himself. … Continue reading I Want To Hold Your Hand – Grant Green (1965)

Reuben Wilson – Blue Breakbeats

A jazz-heavy diet rich with high-end finesse can sometimes leave you feeling malnourished and light-headed, and you may find yourself craving some deeply satisfying street-food served on a wonky plastic plate or, even better, in a paper bag. This 1998 compilation of the funkiest tracks from organist Reuben Wilson's first three albums is the equivalent … Continue reading Reuben Wilson – Blue Breakbeats

Eric Dolphy – Out To Lunch! (1964)

In the days before I listened to lots of jazz, I listened to lots of Frank Zappa. Like everyone else I had a copy of Kind Of Blue but had no real idea of what I was listening to. Apart from Miles Davis, the musicians names listed on the cover were anonymous to me although … Continue reading Eric Dolphy – Out To Lunch! (1964)

Stanley Turrentine – Hustlin’ (1964)

Having hustled his way onto over two dozen Blue Note recording sessions in just five years as a leader or sideman prior to this release, tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine's presence was increasingly getting on the nerves of Blue Note boss Alfred Lion, who was known to lock himself in his office to avoid the perpetually … Continue reading Stanley Turrentine – Hustlin’ (1964)

Jackie McLean – Right Now! (1965)

Stark, vital and insistent, Jackie McLean's corrosive tone and strong bop roots fed into his questing musical character which authored some of the most inventive jazz records of the 60's such as the essential Destination Out and One Step Beyond. Even his more straight-ahead albums of the era are consistently excellent, and he found himself much … Continue reading Jackie McLean – Right Now! (1965)