Monday, July 02, 2007

I have worked through the rest of the second batch of reissues from the Keepnews Collection. The Jimmy Heath album Really Big was new to me, and it’s a consistently good disc of writing and playing from at ten piece band. It’s a very impressive band too, with Cannonball and Nat Adderley, Clark Terry and Tommy Flanagan among others. Heath’s writing and arranging are excellent and standout tracks include the master and alternate takes of “Wail” and the wonderful arrangement of Bobby Timmons’ “Dat Dere.” Also carrying the hard bop flame were Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, making a rare appearance on Riverside with the album Caravan. Drummer Blakey had some real heavyweights in this edition of his group: Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Curtis Fuller on trombone, Wayne Shorter on tenor saxophone, Cedar Walton on piano and Reggie Workman on bass. All of these men would go on to lead significant bands of their own. All of the music here is played at the height of professionalism, but nothing really stands out as a classic. This isn’t meant as criticism, far from it. With a Blakey band you knew you were going to get well played blues, bop and ballads and that’s exactly what you find here. I just mean that there’s nothing to make this stick out from the reams of other well played Blakey albums. That said, I think the cookers stand out by a hair over the ballads with the wailing two takes of “Thermo” as the highlights. Finally, vocalist Flora Purim’s Butterfly Dreams was an enjoyable fusion romp that reminded me of fusion albums by Miles Davis and Chick Corea’s Return to Forever (who Purim sang for.) Joe Henderson on tenor saxophone, George Duke on keyboards and Airto Moreira on drums and percussion keep the groove bubbling. Overall the second group of releases in this series work pretty well, Keepnews adds additional liner material and the sound quality is generally fine. I would love too see Concord plumb the depths of their considerable catalog for some of the lesser known albums on their next round of reissues.

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