Blue Note Nuggets Vol. 4: 1958-60
by Seth Colter Walls | May 1, 2014
In honor of Blue Note's 75th anniversary, we've launched a series that takes a look back at hits and obscurities from one of the most important catalogs in all of jazz. From blues to hard bop -- and onto fusion and the avant-garde -- Blue Note has been there. Now you can be, too!
The tail end of Blue Note's 1950s saw the continued dominance of a select few musicians -- mostly hard-boppers -- who had already helped the label define its aesthetic in the era of the long-playing record: Bands led by Art Blakey, Horace Silver and Jimmy Smith tended to come out like clockwork. (Bud Powell was still delivering new compositions, as well, such as "John's Abbey.")
An early incarnation of soul jazz was also in evidence in these years, even if there are no singles specifically meant to introduce a dance craze (as would happen in the 1960s). We have Lou Donaldson's "Blues Walk," and the trombone-and-vocals moan of "Soul Stirrin'" (courtesy of Bennie Green). And who could forget alto-ist Cannonball Adderley's beloved LP Somethin' Else (complete with Miles Davis in the band)?
But some of the biggest stories in this edition of our Blue Note Nuggets series come from comparatively fresh names: the young pianist Sonny Clark's Cool Struttin', intense alto saxophonist Jackie McLean's New Soil, and rising trumpeter Donald Byrd's Off to the Races each brought their creators newfound or increased respect, during the three-year period covered by our mix. (In fact, McLean might be the MVP of our playlist, as he made memorable sideman appearances on both of those other albums, in addition to Walter Davis, Jr.'s Davis Cup.)
We've sequenced a trio of McLean-associated cuts first in our playlist. From there we move on to a smoky-and-suspenseful blues performance by tenor man Stanley Turrentine ("I Want a Little Girl"), performed with The Three Sounds trio. (Turrentine figures as well in the uptempo, Latin-infused "Move," from drummer Art Taylor's album A.T.'s Delight -- also featured in our mix.) Taken together with early efforts by the likes of trumpeter Freddie Hubbard (on his LP [Open Sesame]) -- plus an early appearance by a young tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter (who also got to compose "Lester Left Town" for the Blakey band) -- and you've got the first hints of the next great epoch of jazz, still to come in future Blue Note Nuggets playlists. For now, though, click play on this mix, and explore classic and forgotten cuts from the close of a great decade for the label.