Originally recorded in 1960 for Blue Note but not released until 1980, Take Aim, like Harold Land himself, has undeservedly fallen through the cracks. Most famous for his association with the Clifford Brown/Max Roach quintet of the '50s, Land is another unheralded West Coast giant who made a name for himself out here in California, but was under the radar of the jazz elitists. Take Aim, featuring an obscure group of musicians, is a pleasant surprise, and should be a welcome refresher for anyone looking for music similar to the tenorist's earlier and more famous exploits.
Lee Morgan on the hippest side of his 60s talents – working here in a style that's really stretching out, and in the same territory as similar unreleased gems from the time – like Tom Cat or Sonic Boom! The group here is very inventive – Jackie McLean on alto, Larry Willis on piano, Reggie Workman on bass, and Billy Higgins on drums – players who really represent the left side of Blue Note, but not as out as the "new thing" crowd – with a really creative approach to both the rhythms and the solos, commanded by Morgan's rich imagination at this point in his career. All tunes are great, and titles include "Zip Code", "Infinity", "Miss Nettie B", "Growing Pains", and McLean's fantastic "Portrait of a Doll".
Proof that at his start, Jimmy Smith had a greatness that knew no bounds – as the album's one of a few that Blue Note recorded in the late 50s, but never issued until many years later – even though they had already released so many amazing records from this period! The set has Jimmy really cooking away – playing live at Small's Paradise, in a group that has Lou Donaldson's alto on just about every track, and tenor from Tina Brooks on most of the others too. Tunes are tighter and shorter than on the more jam session albums, which makes for a nice change – and titles include "Groovin At Smalls", "Dark Eyes", "Cool Blues", and "A Night In Tunisia" – which begins with an announcement from Babs Gonzales! 8 tracks in all – 4 more than on the 1980 album – with better sound than before as well!
This 1980 recording released for the first time – "Formidable" from a 1959 session and five numbers from a 1963 McLean set. While "Formidable" has a strong quintet (with altoist Jackie McLean, trumpeter Donald Byrd, pianist Walter Davis, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Pete La Roca), the 1963 session has the recording debut of drummer Tony Williams along with strong contributions from Byrd, pianist Herbie Hancock (then also near the beginning of his career), and bassist Butch Warren. The latter unit sticks to group originals by Byrd, Hancock, and McLean, and the music ranges from catchy funk and hard bop to strong hints of the avant-garde.
An entirely worthy Bobby Hutcherson LP that went unissued until 1980, Patterns finds the vibist working in typically challenging territory; what makes this session distinctive is that it features some of drummer and favorite Hutcherson composer Joe Chambers' most structured work, though that hardly means it's traditional or unadventurous. Four of the six pieces are Chambers'; the others are by altoist/flautist James Spaulding (the pensive Martin Luther King tribute "A Time to Go") and pianist Stanley Cowell (the warmly melodic waltz "Effi," dedicated to his wife).
Nigeria is an album by American jazz guitarist Grant Green featuring performances recorded in 1962 but not released on the Blue Note label until 1980. Damn great work from guitarist Grant Green – one of his killer sessions with pianist Sonny Clark – recorded in the early 60s, but unissued until nearly 20 years later! The groove here is a bit different than some of Green's early dates with organ – a bit more soulful hardbop at times, with some great work on rhythm from Sam Jones on bass and Art Blakey on drums – two great players who complete the group beautifully. The setting is calm and spare, but very fluid, and all players play with a brilliant edge – Blakey is excellent, and hearing him on this one makes you want more of his work as a sideman (which was to diminish greatly after this recording).
Moody material from Bobby Hutcherson – and one of the first records to feature his vibes in the company of tenorist Harold Land – a player who would help Hutcherson make some mighty fine music over the years! The set's got a super-hip group – with Stanley Cowell on piano, giving the record a warm, spiritual undercurrent – one that works perfectly with the lyrical soul of Land's horn. Other players include Reggie Johnson on bass and Joe Chambers on drums – and titles include "Spiral", "Ruth", "Poor People's March", and "Visions". The album also includes one more track – "Jasper" – which was recorded in a 1965 session without Land and Cowell – but with Sam Rivers on tenor and bass clarinet, Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, and Andrew Hill on piano! Recorded in the 60s, but only initially issued on vinyl in 1979!
Andrew Hill's Dance with Death, recorded in 1968 with a stellar band, was not issued until 1980. In the late 1960s, Blue Note was no longer the most adventurous of jazz labels. While certain titles managed to scrape through – Eddie Gale's Ghetto Music did but only because Francis Wollf personally financed it – many didn't. The label was firmly in the soul-jazz groove by then, and Hill's music, always on the edge, was deemed too outside for the label's roster. Musically, this is Hill at his most visionary. From hard- and post bop frames come modal and tonal inquiries of staggering complexity.
Medina was another Bobby Hutcherson/Harold Land Quintet session that didn't see the light of day until over a decade later (recorded in 1969, issued in 1980). Again, it's hard to see why, given the high quality of both the group and their music, which seemed to get lost in the shuffle of jazz's late-'60s upheaval. Granted, it may have been a shade less distinctive than Hutcherson's earliest sessions, but the levels of composition and execution remained top-notch.
Lost genius from trumpeter Lee Morgan – a session recorded for Blue Note in 1967, but not issued until the late 70s – and even then, only for a very short time! The session has Morgan moving into that wonderful last stage of his career – working in tight formation towards a sound that still had that groovier hardbop styles of earlier recordings, but which also unfolds towards a more ambitious spiritual jazz mode. The writing on the session is superb – original tunes that crackle with energy in a surge of dark notes and shadowy moods, inspiring the soloists to express themselves at levels that rank with their best work of the time!