Wilbur Harden

Jazz Way Out

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The presence of John Coltrane on this 1958 Savoy release is its obvious drawing card, but in fact there are impressive contributions from all hands. Leader Wilbur Harden left the jazz scene by the early '60s, which is a pity. He was a player with fresh ideas and an engaging command of his trumpet's and fl├╝gelhorn's middle register. The sextet heard on this date performs two Harden compositions and one by the group's trombonist, Curtis Fuller, for a skimpy total running time of 29 minutes. The "way out" reference in the title is misleading. There are traces of exotic Asian and African influences, but they never overpower what is essentially an intelligent, straight-ahead, hard bop date. At the time of this release, Coltrane had been recording as a leader and sideman for Prestige and was on his second tour of duty with Miles Davis, whose group was on the verge of recording Kind of Blue. (Coltrane was also about to begin recording for Atlantic.) With Harden's group, Coltrane, as he did with Davis and on his own Atlantic recordings, systematically (and with sublime composure) turns the chord changes inside out, upside down, and sideways, creating a new vocabulary, syntax, and structure for jazz. Coltrane completists will definitely want these tracks in their collections, but the less fanatical listener will also have no difficulty in appreciating the collective performances of the entire sextet.

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