Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Red Garland Quintet w/ John Coltrane - Dig It (Prestige 1958, 2009)

The original liner notes to this archival release note that this is a blowing session, where the individual emotion of the musicians takes precedence over the material composition. Stating that the blowing session was the essence of jazz in New York in the 1950's, they make the case for the primacy of hard bop as the lingua franca of jazz. These statements are borne out by the music which is mostly up-tempo, and based on a foundation of swing, blues and bop. Red Garland is the nominal leader, joined by John Coltrane on tenor saxophone and George Joyner on bass and Art Taylor on drums. Trumpeter Donald Byrd sits in on two tracks and bassist Paul Chambers on one. The album opens with the Charlie Parker composition "Billie's Bounce" which features an attention grabbing solo from Coltrane. He was at the height of his sheets of sound period when this was recorded, and the music comes at a lightning pace. Byrd keeps the kettle boiling with a fast up-tempo solo backed by thick bass and rock solid drums. Garland leads the rhythm trio through a bright and swinging interlude before making way for Joyner who takes an elastic solo. The brief selection "Crazy Rhythm" is taken by the piano trio with Chambers replacing Joyner and contributing a dexterous and scraping bowed solo. Garland and Taylor trade percussive snippets before closing the tune out. Coltrane returns on the rapid "CTA" which is taken at a very fast pace accentuated by a steaming Coltrane solo that is very agile even at high speeds. Foreshadowing his later work with Elvin Jones, he trades phrases with Taylor at the end of the performance. The final selection, "Lazy Mae," filled an entire side of the original vinyl LP, clocking in at over sixteen minutes. Garland opens solo before adding bass and drums and developing a gentle bluesy swing trio: loping bass, steady pulse drums and rippling piano. At the 7:45 mark, Coltrane enters digging in with a deep blues feel, but clearly holding back a little so not to overwhelm the mood. The trio comes back and takes the performance out with brief solo spots for Bryd and Joyner. Although this album comes from several different recording sessions (and even steals a tune from an Art Taylor LP!) stitched together it works quite well, both as a glimpse into the development of John Coltrane in the early stage of his career and a look at Red Garland as a leader. The swinging hard bop found here was the mainstream of the time and this is a solid slice of it.
Dig It! -

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