Friday, February 8, 2019

Blue Mitchell Sextet - 1959 - Blue Soul

Blue Mitchell Sextet 
Blue Soul

01. Minor Vamp 3:39
02. The Head 4:24
03. The Way You Look Tonight 3:19
04. Park Avenue Petite 3:54
05. Top Shelf 4:02
06. Waverley Street 4:56
07. Blue Soul 4:07
08. Polka Dots And Moonbeams 5:46
09. Nica's Dream 6:31

Bass – Sam Jones
Drums – Philly Joe Jones
Piano – Wynton Kelly
Tenor Saxophone – Jimmy Heath (tracks: A1, A2, A5, B1, B3, B4)
Trombone – Curtis Fuller (tracks: A1, A2, A5, B1, B3, B4)
Trumpet – Richard "Blue" Mitchell

New York; September, 1959.

Trumpeter Blue Mitchell left his home in Miami for a short stint in New York City, headed back to Florida, and then to Los Angeles before his brief but vital career as a jazz trumpeter ended. This sojourn identified his sound, initially branded by the warmth of the Southeast, burnished by the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple, and polished by the West Coast cool school demeanor. In 1959, as Mitchell returned to Miami, he connected with Detroit trombonist Curtis Fuller and Philadelphia tenor saxophonist Jimmy Heath to form one of the most potent three-horn front lines in jazz history. Few knew how good they were until after the fact, but this recording, the third album for Mitchell as a leader, has him and his mates in full flight. Drummer Philly Joe Jones has a lot to do with the solid booster rocket-like propulsion on this primarily hard bop date, and check out his calypso variations on the second chorus of the otherwise easy blues swing and ultra melodic "Waverley Street." Credit Mitchell's street smarts and highly developed melodic inventiveness as the focal point for this definitive session. In many ways, this is a parallel album to the Miles Davis classic Kind of Blue, with subtle undertones driven by fourth-gear swing. The set kicks off with the famous "Minor Vamp," of which Fuller's original take for the Savoy label has been remixed and layered, and is heard in the acid jazz dancehalls. It's a familiar sparse line, a two-note vamp tacked onto a lithe, perky melody that needs no critique -- it's simply great! More concisely rendered hard bop follows on "The Head," not complex by any means, but filled with plenty of soul. The hardest line crops up during "Top Shelf," featuring a memorable, cutting, precise solo by Heath. Fuller and Heath lay out so you can hear in full dimension the cozy and warm persona of Mitchell on the ballad "Park Avenue Petite," but especially on the bright, easy swinger "Blue Soul," which most accurately approaches Kind of Blue. In tribute to his then-boss, Horace Silver, "Nica's Dream" features Mitchell's muted trumpet over an underlying fresh bed of trombone and tenor sax. Even more so, Mitchell's deep blue horn shines on the standard "Polka Dots and Moonbeams," an organ of sheer beauty and one to be studied for those who need to learn that playing fewer notes more musically is an admirable quality. This is one of the most precious jazz recordings of a year that would soon give sway to the Blue Note sound, and is in many real and important ways as much of a prelude as any other statement. It's a must-have for all serious mainstream jazz fans.

All of the original songs on this album are good, but for me the highlights have to be the opener, "The Way You Look Tonight", "Nica's Dream" & the ballads "Park Avenue Petite" & "Polka Dots & Moonbeams"; both in which Mitchell plays the trumpet in the way I haven't heard from anyone else play it in a jazz ballad save Miles Davis.

Also of note is the other musicians present in this recording, most of who are well known in the jazz world- musicians such as Jimmy Heath, Curtis Fuller, Wynton Kelly, Philly Joe Jones, & Sam Jones (no relation with the two Jones) all have a mark in this recording & at times offer some great solos as well.



  2. I lost this LP to a purge many moons ago, but I've always considered it to be among his very best. Thanks for bringing it back into my collection, Zen Archer, after so many years.