10-28-2016  5:08 am      •     

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This is another one from the wonderful Orrin Keepnews-produced re-release by what definitely qualifies as an all-star band. It is so good it demands a place in serious collections.
Blue Mitchell may be one of those trumpeters few remember because he passed away from cancer at the early age of 49 in 1979. However, he made his jazz bones working first in rhythm and blues bands including Earl Bostic's. He recorded with Cannonball Adderley, Horace Silver, toured with Ray Charles, John Mayall and was a soloist with Lena Horne and Tony Bennett. He became a Southern California resident and continued to play his bebop style trumpet until his death.
This release was his third as a leader and catches many of his sidemen during their prime years. In addition to the major soloists — trombonist Curtis Fuller, tenor saxophonist Jimmy Heath — Mitchell has the fabulous rhythm section of pianist Wynton Kelly, bassist Sam Jones and drummer Philly Joe Jones.
"Minor Vamp" serves as an introduction to the full crew with a swinging bebop exercise. One of the prettiest is the ballad "Polka Dots and Moonbeams" featuring some gorgeously unique horn voicings accompanying Mitchell's main solo. He switches to his mute and the beauty continues. 
There are nine tracks plus three bonus tracks of other takes of previous tunes. The title tune, "Blue Soul," is the seventh cut at 4:12 but as a bonus track, played at a faster tempo runs 6:29. It has a definite Horace Silver feel.

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If you like big tone, power-playing tenor saxophonists who can and do draw upon the nuances of a sensitive ballad, then Wayne Escoffery is for you.
However, Escoffery isn't the whole show. Trumpeter Tom Harrell is on three of the eight tracks. Joe Locke, one of a dwindling number of swinging vibes players, even plays marimba on the first cut. And with his vibes, one doesn't even realize right away there is no piano.
Drummer Lewis Nash is on five tracks while Jonathan Blake is heard on two. Bassist Hans Glawschnig is on all cuts. "Chronic Blues" is a fine, even-paced swinger where both Escoffery and Harrell on flugelhorn get to stretch out. Locke solos most melodically backed by Glawschnig and Nash before the horns return to close it out.
This is an outstanding release by mature, veteran players who are perhaps just reaching their collective peaks.

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Although this is billed as a salute to Lou Rawls, this singer Nicolas Bearde maintains a sharp difference from the departed great soul-blues-jazz legend Rawls.
Bearde's voice lacks the timbre and rawness of Rawls. They do share a similar phrasing and fondness for the certain tunes.
On "God Bless the Child," Bearde gets superb backing from tenor saxophonist Charles Mc Neal plus a very nice solo by pianist Glenn Pearson who evokes the late Gene Harris. Bearde does score points with Rawls' "World of Trouble" without the original's preamble. "Lady Love," "The Girl from Ipanema," "The Shadow of Your Smile," "I Believe
in You" and more are included.

Dick Bogle hosts a weekly jazz radio show Mondays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 89.1 FM KMHD. He can be reached at r.bogle@comcast.net.

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