43rd & Degnan

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Although the Los Angeles-based group Black/Note has recorded for Columbia and Impulse, their debut was actually made for the tiny World Stage label, which (like the club) is run by drummer Billy Higgins. At the time the group was a quintet (trumpeter Richard Grant would eventually depart), and while sticking to originals, Black/Note essentially played modern hard bop. With the Jackie McLean-inspired altoist James Mahone, pianist Ark Sano, bassist Mark Shelby and drummer Willie Jones III (who has thus far had the most significant individual career) joining Grant in the band, the music is well-played, spirited and swinging in its own fashion. Worth searching for.

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