Horace PARLAN – Up and Down 1961

Horace PARLAN – Up and Down 1961
2009 Issue.

Jazz

By adding guitarist Grant Green and tenor saxophonist Booker Ervin to his standard rhythm section of bassist George Tucker and drummer Al Harewood, pianist Horace Parlan opens up his sound and brings it closer to soul-jazz on Up and Down. Green’s clean, graceful style meshes well with Parlan’s relaxed technique, while Ervin’s robust tone and virile attack provides a good contrast to the laid-back groove the rhythm section lays down. Stylistically, the music is balanced between hard bop and soul-jazz, which are tied together by the bluesy tint in the three soloists’ playing. All of the six original compositions give the band room to stretch out and to not only show off their chops, but move the music somewhat away from generic conventions and find new territory. In other words, it finds Parlan at a peak, and in many ways, coming into his own as a pianist and a leader.
By Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi.
**
Horace Parlan’s “Up & Down” is a most welcome addition to the RVG Series. Over the past twenty years, only three of Parlan’s seven Blue Note albums were even issued in the States, with all of them currently out of print. (Thankfully they were all collected on a Mosaic set.) As a result, you may not have any CDs by Horace Parlan as a leader, but you might be surprised by the sessions he appeared on as a sideman. In the late 1950s, Parlan was a mainstay in the band of Charles Mingus, appearing on the classic Atlantic album “Blues & Roots” and Columbia’s “Mingus Ah Um.” On Blue Note, the great rhythm trio of Parlan, bassist George Tucker and drummer Al Harewood was the foundation for many classic dates of the early 1960s — Dexter Gordon’s Doin’ Allright, Lou Donaldson’s “Midnight Sun” and several Stanley Turrentine recordings, including Look Out, “Comin’ Your Way” and “Up At Minton’s.” This June 18, 1961 session, Parlan’s sixth for the label, added tenor saxophonist Booker Ervin and guitarist Grant Green to that trio to great effect. On “Up & Down,” the pianist continues to showcase the funky hard bop grooves of earlier efforts, but the solos stretch out here in a more modern direction, led by the contributions of Ervin and Green. Look no further than Ervin’s solo on “The Book’s Beat” or Green and Parlan’s solos on the blues “The Other Part of Town” as examples, though my favorite track has to be the forward thinking “Fugee.” You can see why when Parlan returned one final time to the studio for Blue Note in 1963 (for the session known both as “Happy Frame of Mind” and “Back to the Gig”), the only players he brought back were Ervin and Green. It’s too bad these three weren’t able to cut as many dates as the Turrentine/Parlan groups were, but that’s the “Up & Down” of the jazz life — at least we’ve got this one to enjoy!
By Michael B. Richman.
**
This an enjoyable album, skirting that common early-60’s Blue Note line between Hard-Bop and Soul-Jazz, the album in this context is well paced and without noticeable flaws. If you look even a tiny bit deeper this album takes a lot of powerful and energetic parts and assembles a machine of far less power. Booker Ervin and Parlan had just played on some of Mingus’ most explosive dates, and contributed soulfully, leaving there marks all over Blues and Roots and Mingus Ah Um. It just does not reach that level here, and I don’t think Mingus is the missing ingredient. Later this decade Booker would burst with energy on a series of records on Prestige, and play on more great Mingus dates. Parlan would go on to play with even more explosive saxophonists such as Archie Shepp and Roland Kirk. Grant Green was just getting his start in 1961, so he does not have the confidence of style he would on later dates, which some could call formulaic. On Lou Donaldson’s Here Tis’, and other records with Babyface Willette from this year this greeness (pardon the pun) would contribute to the driving bluesy strivings of someone with something to prove. Here when his repetitious lines (I mean this positively, it’s part of his style) get cooking, the ensemble fails to raise the temperature to soul jazz levels, where Green clearly wants to be.

This is an album I hoped, considering the personnel, would explode with energy and the vestiges of Mingus found on Jaki Byard, Jackie Mclean, and Booker Ervin records of this era, instead it is a fairly typical early sixties hard-bop affair, with NO chances taken. Solos are good, relaxed, and jam-esque, but many of the same licks come up across multiple tracks. All this said, this record succeeds at being what it is on all fronts. The playing, pacing, and program choice are flawless, and you will come back to tracks like The Book’s Beat and Fugee more than a few times, but there are no real fireworks going off here.
By Gerrit R. Hatcher.
**
Guitar- Grant Green
Piano- Horace Parlan
Tenor Sax- Booker Ervin
Bass- George Tucker
Drums- Al Harewood
**
01. The Book’s Beat
02. Up And Down
03. Fugee
04. The Other Part Of Town
05. Lonely One
06. Light Blue
07. Fugee (Alternate Take)
**


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