After recording for Blue Note as both a leader and noted sideman for seven years, Blue Mitchell recorded and released his self-titled debut for Bob Shad's Mainstream label in 1971. (The trumpeter had spent the last year of his BN contract not as a leader, but as a sideman on dates by Lou Donaldson, Grant Green, and Bobby Hutcherson). This date -- also known as Soul Village -- is somewhat of a retrenchment from the more R&B-infused sounds of 1969's underrated Collision in Black and Bantu Village (both produced by Monk Higgins), and featured his working live quintet with Jimmy Forrest on tenor, Walter Bishop, Jr. on piano and Fender Rhodes, bassist Larry Gales, and drummer Doug Sides. While the sound reflects more of his hard bop roots, it also engages readily with soul-jazz, too. As a whole, it offers evidence of a renewed creativity by Mitchell as composer -- he wrote two tunes here -- and soloist. The lone cover is a killer version of Benny Golson's "Are You Real." Opener "Soul Village," credited here to Mitchell but composed by Bishop, is colored by the pianist's darkly tinged Latin Rhodes vamp. It's funky, with breakbeats and an excellent late-'60s soul gospel melody. His and Forrest's solos are in the pocket, coming right out of hard bop. "Blues for Thelma" is straight hard bop with a wonderfully knotty head from the front line, a hard groove from Bishop, and a great loping solo by Mitchell. "Queen Bey" offers traces of both Afro-Cuban son and Nigerian highlife in its slippery, yet driving polyrhythmic attack, but is otherwise a blues. Closer "Mi Hermano" (also a Bishop original that is mis-credited on the sleeve) underscores the Afro-Latin tinge, with Bishop's Rhodes delivering some smoking montunos accented and answered by Sides. The front line statement played in unison resembles a chant, yet is expanded by Bishop's soulful, finger-popping solo, followed by excellent ones from Forrest and the trumpeter before the theme returns. This is a solid session, and one of the best in his Mainstream catalog.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek