We Insist! Freedom Now Suite
This is uncompromising hard bop with an in-your-face social conscience. We Insist! is one of the defining statements of America's black civil rights movement. Drummer Max Roach defied convention when he teamed up with veteran tenor Coleman Hawkins and indomitable vocalist Abbey Lincoln to make this classic protest record.
1960 [Prestige/New Jazz]
Charles Mingus alumni Eric Dolphy's second album as a bandleader points in the direction of his classic 1964 album 'Out to Lunch!', without ever really approaching its ferocity. Made at a time when most critics were having extreme difficulty coming to grips with free jazz, Dolphy is unrepentant in his approach. 'Out to Lunch!' fans will love it.
A Night in Tunisia
Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers
1961 [Blue Note]
Sandwiched in between drummer Art Blakey's classic 1950s hard boppers and 1964's 'Free for All', this transitional album is an artistic triumph. Saxophonist Wayne Shorter and trumpeter Lee Morgan kick in two compositions a piece. Blakey, as usual, leads from the back with some powerful drumming, urging his cohorts to greater heights.
We Free Kings
It is difficult to know whether to take the 'Free' in the albums title in a musical or political sense... perhaps it is both. He was, after all, well-known for his on-stage political rants, but he also an eccentric side to his music. Most of the compositions are originals, with a couple of Charlie Parker tunes rounding out the bill.
Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley
Nancy Wilson & Cannonball Adderley
Not long after this record was made vocalist Wilson found commercial success in the pop and R&B markets, eventually ending up with her own variety show on American television. Here she teams with the Adderley brothers (Cannonball on alto sax) and pianist Joe Zawinul to produce her best pure jazz album. Cannonball is his usual brilliant self.
Out of the Afternoon
Roy Haynes Quartet
In a career spanning over a half century drummer Haynes established himself as a topnotch support player for some of the biggest names in postwar jazz. His quartet for this 1962 set includes pianist Tommy Flanagan and the multi-talented Roland Kirk on reeds. A good Hard Bop outing featuring some great solos from all involved.
Everybody Knows Johnny Hodges
As an alto sax player in Duke Ellington's orchestra, Hodges was just one of multitude of topnotch players pumping out a big band sound. Here he gets to be the frontman, although he still uses a number of orchestra personnel, with the notable addition of Jimmy Jones on piano. Hodges had a hand six of the 16 tracks on the digital release.
Pete La Roca
1965 [Blue Note]
Drummer Pete La Roca didn't show up much as a leader, and this terrific album makes that all the more disappointing. He was a Harlem kid who made good, playing with some of the biggest names in jazz. Here he leads a very capable quartet, with tenor Joe Henderson showing off his considerable talents. Good to see Basra getting due credit.
Smokin' at the Half Note
Wes Montgomery & Wynton Kelly
An incredible guitar with a piano that's smokin'. Thumb-picking guitarist Montgomery reels off a mind-boggling solo on 'Unit 7' that is worth the price of admission alone. Kelly's trio at the time featured drummer Jimmy Cobb and bassist Paul Chambers - both accomplished players in their own right. An easygoing hard bop set.
Mercy, Mercy, Mercy!
Despite the claim that the album is live from a nightclub, it was actually recorded in a studio with an invited audience and an open bar... a sure-fire formula to ensure a happy crowd. Outside of altoist Adderley, the other star here is pianist Joe Zawinul who penned the hit title track. An album bursting with high-spirited live energy.
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