Blue Note raids the back of its vaults for all four of Melle's long out of print 10" LPs, plus the 12" Patterns in Jazz, in order to place back in circulation a musician who had been nearly invisible to the jazz world for a good three decades. Though Melle's entertaining self-penned liner notes may be outrageously self-aggrandizing, this collection leaves little doubt that he was (and remains) a marvelous saxophonist and an intriguing composer who hasn't been given his due. On the early sides, Melle plays an erudite, relaxed, always musical tenor sax, and "Transition" marks his recorded debut on baritone, which he uses in a thoughtful, even quizzical manner for the remainder of the set. As a composer, Melle was very much the uncompromising cool bopper, but was also equipped with a fascinating mind of his own. His first session is also the most startling: "Four Moons" is brilliant in its Kentonian harmonic way, with vibraphone striking the chords; so is his most famous jazz composition "The Gears," with its Monica Dell scat vocal lead doubled by vibraphone. Further on in the set, Melle does away with the piano in the cool tradition, but gives the lineup an unorthodox twist by using a guitarist (Tal Farlow, Lou Mecca, or Joe Cinderella) in the keyboard role, and a trombonist (Eddie Bert or the swinging, vastly underrated Urbie Green) or even a tuba (Don Butterfield) on the front line. He also employs consistently first-class rhythm sections, with Max Roach and a young Joe Morello among the drummers. For those super-collectors who may have the extremely rare originals (now worth hundreds of dollars each), there is one unreleased track, "The Nearness of You"; the digitally remastered sound, flaws in the master tapes aside, is excellent.
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AllMusic Review by Richard S. Ginell
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2