Saturday, 5 April 2014

Blue Note 75 series

Larry Young: Unity

Blue Note have decided to re-issue some high watermarks from their classic jazz back catalogue. Originally released in 1966 Unity finds itself in the first batch of re-issues and is legendary among jazz fans.

I wish to state that before today I'd never listened to this LP so what you're going to read is a first impression rather than a knowledgeable article.

Larry Young is the credited artist I suppose you'd call him the 'band leader'; he plays Hammond organ which is an interesting instrument to play in a quartet as being electric in sound contrasts to the sax, trumpet and drums as they are all acoustic in nature.

From the off the pattern becomes clear, each musician is equal in the composition, you don't really feel there is a band leader, more that each musician is a collaborator. In fact Larry Young's organ sound often sounds soft and supportive and almost understated almost like a Thelonious Monk in chord progression although rarely coming to the foreground it seems to hold the track together while the other musicians drift in and out. 
I think that must be quite a difficult thing to achieve as being an amplified (modern for the time) sound the temptation must have been to push that instrument forward in the mix, which actually rarely seems to happen.

The overall impression from the first couple of auditions is that the group is quite relaxed and certainly seem to be on the same page musically, I guess that's why the album is entitled 'Unity' the music drives on without any one musician dominating for any length of time.

The effect is one of a very focused and together sound which is gentle and persuasive rather than in your face. The album grows on you slowly, it's not as accessible as Hard Bop or rock music don't get me wrong just don't expect Miles Davis or Dave Brubeck.
The stand out tracks for me are 'If' and 'The Moontrane' although the drumming in 'Zoltan' is also enjoyable.

Production is obviously excellent, the sound quality being very good, the new LP pressing was almost quiet, with some minor distortion on track two, (which also seems to be on the downloaded MP3). Another thing to note was the inclusion of a download voucher in the LP so if you listen to music on your daily commute you have a reasonably high quality MP3 for your iPod or phone.

Musicians: Larry Young; organ; Woody Shaw: trumpet; Joe Henderson: tenor saxophone; Elvin Jones: drums.

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