Lou Blackburn

The Complete Imperial Sessions

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Trombonist Lou Blackburn's contributions to jazz have been long overlooked, but Complete Imperial Sessions, a collection of his two jazz albums for Imperial, include the full contents of Jazz Frontier and Two Note Samba, plus a previously unissued track, and shows the potential of his early-'60s West Coast quintet, even though they worked infrequently. Trumpeter Freddie Hill is a capable foil for the leader, while Blackburn's fluid chops on his instrument invite an obvious comparison to J.J. Johnson. The potent rhythm section includes pianist Horace Tapscott, bassist John Duke, and drummer Leroy Henderson. Most of the disc is devoted to Blackburn's originals, sticking to bop and hard bop vehicles during the initial sessions (highlighted by his driving piece "New Frontier") and including an exotic take of the oldie "Song of Delilah," a breezy original waltz called "Blues for Eurydice" and strong charts of bossa nova hits on the latter sessions. The musicianship throughout these dates is exemplary and it is a shame that the short-lived quintet didn't achieve greater recognition. Even bop fans who are not at all familiar with Lou Blackburn will enjoy this collection of his early work as a leader. The reissue producer is also to be commended for squeezing over 80 minutes of music onto a single disc, rather than omitting a track or reissuing the compilation as a more expensive, two-disc set.

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