Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Donald Bailey's Philly Based Hard Bop

This is the third of three reviews I did reviewing the initial batch of releases on the Taking House Records series, Blueprints Of Jazz. I received review copies I believe in Jazz & Blues Report, but I am unaware if this review ever ran. I will be running the other reviews in the next several days.

A series of new releases from Talking House Records, Blueprints Of Jazz, shines the spotlight on lesser known innovators and style-setters in jazz. Series co-producer Marc Weibel noted the series “is unique in that it presents a collection of modern recordings by some of the few remaining musicians that have a true historical connection to jazz scene of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. … Blueprints of jazz gives the casual jazz fan a chance to discover significant jazz artists they weren’t aware of before - artists that are peers with the jazz legends they’re already familiar with. The series first releases spotlight drummers Mike Clark and Donald Bailey along with saxophonist Billy Harper. each is handsomely packaged with digipacs that include liner booklets as well as use modern and vintage photographs, the latter using or evoking the classic work of Francis Wolff and used not only in the booklets, but the back cover and the disc labels.

Blueprints in Jazz, Vol. 3, showcases drummer Donald Bailey. Bailey is best known for his stint with the late great jazz organist Jimmy Smith with whom he spent nine years and played on many of that legend’s most celebrated recordings. Bailey grew up as part of Philly’s very vibrant jazz scene playing with the likes of Lee Morgan, Bobby Timmons, Jymie Merritt, Jimmy Garrison, Jimmy Health and John Coltrane, although his most important mentor was the highly influential, although obscure pianist, Hassan Ibn Ali and with whom he played with extensively, attributing to that experience how he “learned to play drums.” In 1982 he relocated to the Oakland area, but for this session he surrounded himself with Philadelphians. The band here includes two veterans of Max Roach’s group; the terrific unsung saxophonist, Odean Pope and bassist Tyrone Brown. Pianist George Bailey fills out the band with trumpeter Charles Tolliver appearing on one track.

Pope’s Plant Life opens with a hot groove and a robust solo that Bailey kicks and the rhythm kicks along. Hassan Ibn Ali’s Blues It was an unrecorded original by the pianist that Bailey supplies a Caribbean groove with Burton introducing the theme before Pope makes his entrance. Tyrone Brown opens on bass on his composition Gone Now with a 5/4 time signature, while Bailey’s brother, Morris Junior (father of bassist Victor) supplied the lilting jazz waltz, Variations.

Pope’s “Fifth House” is a variation on Coltrane’s Giant Steps, with Pope’s impressive utilization of the sheets of sound approach. It is followed by the ballad For All We Know, which opens with Pope unaccompanied before joined by Brown’s bass. It is followed by Pope’s Family Portrait, that Scott Yanow suggests is similar to Coltrane’s 1960 recording of Summertime, and if the performance conjures up the classic Coltrane Quartet, the players each display their own distinctive styles. A medley of Brown’s USQ, a stunning bass solo, that leads into Pope’s Trilogy on which Charles Tolliver makes the group a quintet, with a horn line that suggests some of Sun Ra’s horn arrangements with Bailey driving the piece along.

On the closing Blue Gardenia, Bailey is on harmonica with Burton and Brown supporting him on a charming performance that shows a different side of him. Its a surprising conclusion to another excellent recording in what one hopes is simply the initial; batch of releases in this series of recordings.

Here is a you tube video with Donald talking about his career and playing harmonica.

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