Howard McGhee

Jazz Brothers

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Post-bop lived quite well in the '70s, especially when expressed by Howard McGhee and Charlie Rouse, as formidable a trumpet/tenor sax tandem as has ever existed. Add peerless pianist Barry Harris, bassist Lisle Atkinson, and drummer Grady Tate, and you had a dynamic quintet that could not only swing hard and play deep, but could even throw Latin rhythms into the mix, with the help of unsung conga player Jual Curtis. The ten songs on Jazz Brothers, a companion recording to Rouse's 1977 album Moment's Notice, make all this abundantly clear. "One for George" and "Driftin'" are essentially the same tune: a patient, counterpointed horn line in a slow-blues framework. "Island Mood," which uses a churning Latin rhythm and turnaround melody reminiscent of "Caravan," features Rouse's spare, staccato tenor contrasts and McGhee's Dizzy Gillespie-like muted trumpet, while the hot calypso bop "Frisky" is replete with melody and rhythm changes that recall "What Is This Thing Called Love?" Straight bop and calypso are welded together on "In There," the out-and-out bopper "Queens" (featuring drum stops from Tate), and the simple tag-team melody of "Search." Rouse gets a ballad feature on "When Sonny Gets Blue," displaying all of the original, wistful passion that made him Monk's favorite. This is an imperfect session, but not so much musically. The hour-long running time is disappointingly deceptive, because alternate takes of each song chew up much of that space. There are also some speed distortions during the piano solos, as if the master tapes were either defective or damaged. Nonetheless, this is some great modern jazz from a group of gentlemen who knew their stuff stone cold.