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Billy Root/Curtis Fuller/Hank Mobley/Charles "Specs" Wright/Lee Morgan/Ray Bryant/Tommy Bryant: Monday Night at Birdland [Limited Edition] *

Album Notes

Famed jazz DJ Symphony Sid Torin ruled the roost in New York City from the earliest days of bebop up to the birth of its hard bop brethren in the late 1950s. Birdland was the focal point of the scene, and Blue Note records provided the recording studio forum for the rising stars of the music, especially a teenage trumpeter named Lee Morgan, fresh from Philadelphia and ready to take on the world. Morgan is the ostensible leader for these nightclub jam sessions done on two consecutive Monday nights, as he is upfront in the mix and brazenly takes charge of the melody lines throughout in these septet recordings. Emerging from the new music, trombonist Curtis Fuller, tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley, and pianist Ray Bryant are the principals on this date, with lesser-known but equally potent tenor man Billy Root, Ray's brother Tommy Bryant on bass, and drummer Charles "Specs" Wright rounding out this high-level combo of talent and enthusiasm. In his distinctive, dry, mush-mouthed manner, Torin introduces these standards as vehicles for extended solos, all familiar to mainstream jazz listeners. The full and rich melody of "Walkin'" is played one time through only, so the saxophonists can get right to business, with the tempo sped up for Morgan's solo, while Fuller leads out on "All the Things You Are" as the tenors second the motion and harmonize lightly. "Bags Groove" really emphasizes the harmonic aspect of the four horns melting together, while Wright again rushes through "There Will Never Be Another You" amid the exciting work of Mobley and Root. Morgan sounds a bit strained on "It's You or No One" but relaxed during Fuller's original "Jamph," a more involved, yet simple, hummable melody. The trumpeter wrote the jaunty, chuckling swing blues "Nutville," and the sets conclude with a thrashing version of "Wee" designed to challenge any rhythm section, here a bit sloppy and tentative to begin, ultimately hurried and harried. Wright might not have been the best fit for this group, and there were stronger bop players out there than the blues-based Ray Bryant. Where the value lies in this session is the developing sound provided by Mobley, while Billy Root is the missing link between peer tenor saxophonists from Philly and the emerging John Coltrane. These Monday night sessions -- originally issued on the Roulette label -- are interesting to listen to especially if you are a fan of any of these legendary musicians. Because of the loosely associated nature of thrown-together bands, it's not an essential item, but good to refer to for perspective.


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