Urbie Green

About Urbie Green/Blues and Other Shades of Green

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This two-fer on the Spanish label Fresh Sound compiles a pair of Urbie Green dates recorded for ABC/Paramount in the mid-'50s. Its title to the contrary, About Urbie Green is in fact all about forging a big, bold sound -- so much so that Green must fight for facetime with rival trombonists including Jack Satterfield, Chauncey Welsh, Lou McGarity, and Rex Peer, not to mention a sprawling ensemble of trumpeters, tenorists, and other assorted contributors. John Carisi's thoughtful arrangements nevertheless place Green squarely at center stage, and if anything, the large settings and friendly competition seem to galvanize his solos -- no matter how many players join in on a particular track, there's no question about who's in charge. Blues and Other Shades of Green heads in the opposite direction, casting Green in a rare small-group setting alongside a stellar quintet including guitarist Jimmy Raney, bassist Percy Heath, pianist Dave McKenna, and drummer Kenny Clarke. This crisp, coolly efficient session leaves just enough wiggle room to allow all of the individual contributors their moment in the spotlight: Green wields both the slide and the valve trombone here, and the simplicity of the arrangements affords his lovely, direct tone the perfect platform to shine. As its title suggests, much of Blues and Other Shades of Green boasts a melancholy atmosphere, and Green is unusually expressive in capturing the emotions that haunt material like "Reminiscent Blues" and "It's Too Late Now."