Al Haig

Duke & Bird

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Al Haig tends to be overlooked by critics, though he was one of the best bop pianists in the 1950s. But personal troubles, including a murder trial for killing his third wife (he was acquitted) took him out of the spotlight for a time, though this 1976 session from late in his career finds him at the peak of his powers. The unusual setting of a medley for each side of the original LP makes it seem like this may have been a direct-to-disc session, especially due to the rather stingy playing time of 31 minutes. But Haig delivers with a lush arrangement of four of Duke Ellington's best known ballads, followed by a four-song medley dedicated to his former boss Charlie Parker. The latter opens with a relaxed setting of the late alto saxophonist's "Yardbird Suite," continuing into a dreamy takes of "Lover Man," "I Remember You," and "Embraceable You." While Haig's bop chops are in evidence, the pianist never tries to dominate the material with his considerable technique.

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