Paul Horn

6 Classic Albums

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The deliberately obscure third-party label Real Gone Jazz digs into the early catalog of Paul Horn on this four-disc set that covers the earliest part of his career. Jazz fans recognize Horn as part of the second generation of West Coast jazzmen who brought a distinctly "California" sound to his offerings, rather than as merely the new age musician of later years. The set commences with his appearance as a soloist on Zen: The Music of Fred Katz from 1957 with Chico Hamilton. His own two debuts, both Dot albums, House of Horn (1957) and Plenty of Horn (1958), featured an octet with both the drummer and Katz -- though for contractual reasons, Hamilton's nom de plume was "Forest Thorn." Larry Bunker played vibes on these albums, Gerry Wiggins bass, and Red Mitchell piano. Inexplicably, 1959's Impressions by the Paul Horn Four on World Pacific is left out of the mix and we get Something Blue, initially issued on Hi-Fi Records in 1960, instead. It is the artist's first quintet date and the lineup includes vibraphonist Emil Richards and drummer Billy Higgins. The final two discs here are his first two for Columbia: 1961's The Sound of Paul Horn with Richards, pianist Paul Moer, bassist Jimmy Bond, and drummer Milt Turner, as well as Portrait of a Jazz Musician from 1962, which features almost the same band, but Victor Gaskin replaces Bond in the bass chair. These are provocative records in their way; they were gently swinging, spacious, fingerpopping affairs, breezy and light with a certain sense of the exploratory -- though they had nothing to do with the vanguard's emergent "new thing." They were, in their use of tonalities and harmony, already looking East, though they're a distant cry from Horn's experiments in the '60s. The issue with all Real Gone Jazz titles is source material. They are indeed cheap, but the term "remastered" is dubious. Given that these are all beyond the limits of European copyright law, it is unlikely that source tapes were used; given how they sound -- complete with pops and clicks -- it might have instead been either vinyl or even MP3s.