Douglas on Blue Note

Various Artists

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Douglas on Blue Note Review

by Michael G. Nastos

Alan Douglas ran the United Artists label jazz division for a brief time period in the early '60s, creating a body of work stretching over a ten-year span of recordings. At that time, record companies allowed their artists to do albums apart from their major-label commitments, so Douglas capitalized on this contractual loophole to present combinations of artists that ostensibly became one-shot record deals. Douglas on Blue Note comprises 14 tracks from several of those albums, including some of latter period recordings of Billie Holiday in 1954, the highly touted and similarly reviled Duke Ellington/Charles Mingus/Max Roach "Money Jungle" collaboration, and a band featuring John Coltrane, Cecil Taylor, and Kenny Dorham. Established figures like Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, Oliver Nelson, and King Pleasure are included, as well as a young Betty Carter, and peers of Eric Dolphy's like Jackie McLean and Ken McIntyre. Blakey's version of "Three Blind Mice" is likely the most well-known of these selections, primarily for its soured, off-minor phrasings in the melody line, and the fact that it features the mighty Wayne Shorter/Freddie Hubbard/Curtis Fuller frontline. Herbie Mann's flute is front and center during "Brazil" which is more a hard bopper than a samba or bossa, with Hagood Hardy's vibes and Dave Pike on the marimba. The pair of Billie Holiday songs -- "My Man" and "Them There Eyes" -- show ballad and bop chops respectively from Lady Day with perhaps her most obscure band ever, featuring drummer Elaine Leighton, bassist Red Mitchell, and pianist Carl Drinkard. Sweet and sour alto saxophonists Jackie McLean (with Dorham on the jagged-edged "El Matador") and McIntyre on "Say What" (with Jaki Byard at the piano) are ultra-modern compositions, both in 5/4 and bookending the CD, while Nelson 's big band features a young Phil Woods on "Rendezvous" similar to Duke Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood." Lloyd G. Mayers is on piano, but features on a sharp, stinging Farfisa organ during the Herb Alpert pop song "A Taste of Honey." This quite substantial collection of jazz is a cut above most, a great introduction to the emerging progressive side of the music, and an even better sampling of different-sized groups and singers in post-World War, post-bop America.

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