With Mosaic's terrific Complete Blue Note 45 Sessions box now out of print, From Hackensack to Englewood Cliffs rescues the earliest of Ike Quebec's jukebox-oriented comeback recordings, covering all eight tracks from the initial July 1959 session and adding two more cuts that weren't on the box. Of course, that's nowhere near complete (the box featured three additional sessions and 18 more master takes), but as the title hints, this reissue isn't completely focused on the music -- the added significance of Quebec's first 45 session was that it marked the last time a Blue Note artist would record in the label's original Hackensack studio. Hence, the two bonus cuts are basically loose jams experimenting with the more spacious sound of the new Englewood Cliffs facility, which would house the label's myriad '60s classics. Historical and technical trivia aside, though, this is a chance to hear Quebec in a mostly grooving, swinging context, before his unerring feel for ballads began to dominate his recordings (see the moody "Blue Monday" for evidence why). The sound of the session lies somewhere in between hard bop and soul-jazz, though the group instrumentation -- organist Edwin Swanston, guitarist Skeeter Best, bassist Charles Sonny Wellesley, and drummer Les Jenkins, all veterans of the Harlem club scene -- certainly pushes it toward the latter. Perhaps more importantly, it also captures Quebec regaining his confidence after a long period away from active performance; he sounds positively thrilled to be back in a recording studio, blowing passionately throughout the date. That's enough to make the music on From Hackensack to Englewood Cliffs essential; it's just a shame that the scope of this reissue wasn't wider, though at least it's better than nothing.
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AllMusic Review by Steve Huey