Charles McPherson

Live at the Five Spot

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This 1966 live set comes by its retro-bop feel honestly. Its link to the bop tradition is the group's pianist, Barry Harris, who bridges the generation between Bird, Diz, and Bud Powell and that of leader Charles McPherson. It was Harris, a Powell disciple, who steeped saxophonist McPherson and trumpeter Lonnie Hillyer in the bop idiom when they were teenagers growing up in Detroit. An equally formative experience for McPherson and Hillyer was their time with various Charles Mingus groups in the early '60s. By the time of this date, the bop flames the pair had nurtured had become white hot. McPherson is a commanding performer, with a penetrating tone and an ability to explore a song for subtler possibilities. Hillyer, a less imposing presence, has a questing musical conception that makes up for occasions when his ideas get away from him at a technical level. Harris is the connecting tissue, the player who -- with drummer Billy Higgins -- holds the music together, keeping these loose-limbed performances from becoming a rambling blowing session. Bassist Ray McKinney plays a classic supporting role, seamlessly weaving his contribution into Harris and Higgins' fabric. The best tracks on this varied set are the ones most firmly rooted in bop: a turbo-speed treatment of Charlie Parker's and Dizzy Gillespie's "Shaw Nuff," one of the better versions of Thelonious Monk's "Epistrophy," and Harris' own "Luminesence," derived from "How High the Moon."

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