Sonny Criss – This Is Criss! (1966)

It was Charlie Parker who first unlocked the alto-saxophone, enabling it to mimic a musical ribbon that freely rippled and twirled in the thermal updraft created by the rapid-fire chord changes of late-40s bebop. Many imitators were swept along in his wake, but only those who successfully developed their own sound despite that irresistible influence … Continue reading Sonny Criss – This Is Criss! (1966)


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)

Rusty Bryant – Fire Eater (1971)

A gold-plated classic from the soul-jazz vaults, tenor sax-man Rusty Bryant was clearly in a funky-as-hell mood when he cut this album at the Van Gelder studio for Prestige Records. It succeeds because there is nothing lightweight to be found here of the sort you might encounter on a Lou Donaldson LP, for example. Three … Continue reading Rusty Bryant – Fire Eater (1971)

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)

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)

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)

Lee Morgan – Lee-Way (1960)

Follow my blog with Bloglovin This album was recorded in 1960, well before Lee Morgan, among others, became straight-jacketed into providing 'Sidewinder'-style boogaloo fluff that Alfred Lion front-loaded onto releases to try and sell a few thousand more units through the mid-60's. Thankfully there is none of that here, just solid tunes and classy performances … Continue reading Lee Morgan – Lee-Way (1960)

Leon Spencer – Where I’m Coming From (1972)

Leon Spencer's final recording is an understated but very groovy document that features keyboard solos with a restrained horn section and funky rhythm guitar providing tight and tasty support. Covers of contemporary tunes by Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, Steve Wonder and The Four Tops simmer without coming to the boil, but it is the Spencer … Continue reading Leon Spencer – Where I’m Coming From (1972)

Grachan Moncur III – Evolution (1963)

Recorded in the hours before the assassination of President Kennedy, this document foretells the haywire mood of the times with a sound that floats between waking and dreaming. The final of a suite of three 1963 albums featuring Moncur with Jackie McLean and Bobby Hutcherson preceded by McLean's twin LPs One Step Beyond and Destination... … Continue reading Grachan Moncur III – Evolution (1963)

Tina Brooks – True Blue (1960)

If you have never heard the albums of Tina Brooks then you have hidden gems awaiting you whose secrets will reveal themselves gradually and alluringly. Each of his four sessions as leader are full of spirited playing and his compositions are wonderful melodic frameworks crammed with inventive harmony, internal nuance and drive. Prepare to be … Continue reading Tina Brooks – True Blue (1960)