In a perfect world, Frank Strozier would have built a large catalog at Jazzland. But regrettably, the alto saxman's association with Jazzland was brief. Strozier only recorded two albums for the label -- Long Night in 1961 and March of the Siamese Children in 1962 -- and both were produced by Orrin Keepnews. In 2002, Fantasy reissued the two albums back to back on this 78-minute Milestone CD. Long Night (which features tenor saxman George Coleman and tends to favor a pensive, reflective approach) is the more essential of the two, but March of the Siamese Children is certainly solid and enjoyable. Both albums show Strozier to be an appealing hard bop soloist with an attractive tone; Charlie Parker and the pre-modal Jackie McLean are strong influences, but Strozier (who plays the flute as a second instrument) is still his own man. And to his credit, Strozier has a way of finding pop songs that have not been beaten to death by fellow hard boppers. Some bop musicians insist on playing the same old warhorses over and over, but Strozier isn't afraid to do some digging when it comes to choosing material -- that's one thing the altoist has in common with tenor titan Sonny Rollins. Rodgers & Hammerstein's "March of the Siamese Children" is an interesting choice, and even though "The Man That Got Away" and "How Little We Know" are not ultra-obscure, they aren't overdone either. Like Rollins, Strozier obviously realizes that one way for an improviser to make his mark is to pick songs that haven't been overdone and set out to record definitive versions. Unfortunately, Strozier hasn't recorded nearly enough albums over the years, but the saxman did show a lot of promise in the beginning -- and this reissue is easily recommended to hard bop enthusiasts.
Long Night Review
by Alex Henderson