Thursday, February 16, 2017

Horace Parlan - 1963 - Up & Down

Horace Parlan 
Up & Down

01. The Book's Beat
02. Up And Down
03. Fugee
04. The Other Part Of Town
05. Lonely One
06. Light Blue

Bass – George Tucker
Drums – Al Harewood
Guitar – Grant Green
Piano – Horace Parlan
Tenor Saxophone – Booker Ervin

Recorded on June 18, 1961.

By adding guitarist Grant Green and tenor saxophonist Booker Ervin to his standard rhythm section of bassist George Tucker and drummer Al Harewood, pianist Horace Parlan opens up his sound and brings it closer to soul-jazz on Up and Down. Green's clean, graceful style meshes well with Parlan's relaxed technique, while Ervin's robust tone and virile attack provides a good contrast to the laid-back groove the rhythm section lays down. Stylistically, the music is balanced between hard bop and soul-jazz, which are tied together by the bluesy tint in the three soloists' playing. All of the six original compositions give the band room to stretch out and to not only show off their chops, but move the music somewhat away from generic conventions and find new territory. In other words, it finds Parlan at a peak, and in many ways, coming into his own as a pianist and a leader.

In a lot of ways, this is an archetypal Blue Note album. Thumping, funky hard-bop, with masterful sound thanks to RVG. But one close listen shows the band's phenomenal singularity.

Booker Ervin, who opens the record, is a wildly special player. A Texas tenor with that bluesy, thick sound you'd expect; but what sets him apart is his edge, his willingness to get weird and draw outside the lines - something that either comes from, or is a rule for, playing with Mingus for an extended period of time.

The same can be said of Horace Parlan, who's physical limitations gave him a truly unique voice; soulful and bluesy but adventurous. You can see why they worked well together.

Add to that the master Grant Green - a guy who, from a technical standpoint, shouldn't have been as influential as he was, but his ability to stand out with a solo like literally no one else in jazz, made him a legend. He had a sixth sense for going where the song took him naturally with single notes, using space like Miles or Ahmad Jamal. He wasn't the player that Wes was, or even Jim Hall or Kenny Burrell. But his solos are more memorable because they don't blow past in a whirlwind; they hover and sing.

All that said, this album is fantastic and without a weak song in the set. Highly recommended.

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