Saturday, March 26, 2016

Larry Young - In Paris: The ORTF Recordings (Resonance Records, 2016)

Larry Young is credited as being the musician who moved the Hammond-B3 organ from being an instrument solely used for blues and gospel tinged jazz into more modern and forward thinking musical concepts. Young made three albums in the earlier vein for OJC while he was starting to make his breakthroughs, but it was when he signed to Blue Note Records in 1964 for an extraordinary five-year run that he truly revolutionized the instrument. The music on this two-disc set comes from the French ORTF archives, and while Young is the lynchpin that ties all of this music together he is only the nominal leader on a very few selections, but on every one his contribution is outstanding. The small group recordings are of The Nathan Davis Quartet with Davis on tenor saxophone, Woody Shaw on trumpet, Young on organ and Billy Brooks on drums. This is a fantastic group and the collection leads off with the blistering Davis original “Trane of Thought" which makes their modernist case beautifully and also alludes to the Young/Shaw combination which would work so brilliantly shortly thereafter on Larry Young’s classic 1965 Unity LP. It is a shame that this this group couldn’t have been recorded more, but Davis was firmly established recording and supporting fellow expatriates in Paris while Shaw and Young had commitments in the States. The three remaining performances of the quartet on disc two of this album give a further taste of what might have been as they powerfully swing through Woody Shaw’s “Beyond All Limits” in the studio and then there is a live recording of the band playing a dark and moody version of Wayne Shorter’s “Black Nile” before launching into an astonishing twenty minute performance of Shaw’s “Zoltan.” The sound quality on these two cuts is a little rough, but the playing is so fresh that it is easy to overlook. For radio broadcasts, the quartet was joined by the Jazz aux Champs-Élysées All-Stars, making for an octet that relied on mostly jam session material, although something must have clicked, because the group records a near fifteen minute blowout of Young’s “Talkin’ About J.C.” that had been recorded for Gran Green’s Talkin’ About album in 1964. The music on this re-issue is fantastic and definitely makes for a first rate re-issue. There is a lengthy booklet of essays and interviews with Nathan Davis, Dr. Lonnie Smith and John Medeski that helps to put things in context. But it is the chance to hear Larry Young playing at the peak of his musicianship that it the real gift here, his career was very brief so this is something to be cherished. In Paris: The ORTF Recordings - amazon.com

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