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)

The Greyboy Allstars – West Coast Boogaloo (1995)

Plenty of funky jam-bands exist with the necessary skills to establish a deep groove and fill a dance floor, but many lack the virtuosity required to flood a tune with adventurous, confident solos that skim atop tricky but harmonically sophisticated arrangements. A mind can quickly wander when confronted with weak guitar noodling, metronomic drumming and … Continue reading The Greyboy Allstars – West Coast Boogaloo (1995)

Roland Kirk – Now Please Don’t You Cry, Beautiful Edith (1967)

Tragically immersed in a blind man's world of infinite darkness, Roland Kirk’s universe was forever dominated by sound. Gifted with a powerful personality, immense natural talent and a near-obsession with jazz, he seems to have always been destined to become a musical force. A saxophonist of apparently limitless dexterity, he was also an excellent flutist, pioneering … Continue reading Roland Kirk – Now Please Don’t You Cry, Beautiful Edith (1967)

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)

Shirley Scott – Shirley Scott & The Soul Saxes (1969)

Undeservedly obscure but near essential in your collection, this recording from the peak Atlanta Records soul era features some major players and a great set list. In itself this is no guarantee of a classic; this dynamite disc, however, delivers the goods in abundance. Organist Shirley Scott had been a prolific soul-jazz recording artist since … Continue reading Shirley Scott – Shirley Scott & The Soul Saxes (1969)

John Coltrane – Coltrane’s Sound (1960)

Among the heavyweight albums recorded during John Coltrane's solo career, there are several gems that have become somewhat obscured over the decades beneath the vast shadow of the legendary releases. So revered are rightful classics such as Blue Train (1957), Giant Steps (1960) and of course the canonised A Love Supreme (1965) that comparatively minor … Continue reading John Coltrane – Coltrane’s Sound (1960)

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)

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)

Booker Ervin – The Space Book (1964)

Any musician expecting to play for an extended period in Charles Mingus' band had to find his own voice quickly and learn to play at the peak of his abilities. Jackie McLean, who played several times with Mingus, said: "As far as sax was concerned, I was content to play what Bird played, or try … Continue reading Booker Ervin – The Space Book (1964)