True Blue is led in title under the auspices of Dexter Gordon as a welcome home party conducted by Don Schlitten for the expatriate tenor saxophonist in 1976. Essentially a jam session, this very talented septet features a two tenor-two trumpet front line, utilized to emphasize the soloing strength of the horns, not necessarily in joyous shouts or big-band like unison outbursts. The real star here is Barry Harris, and if you listen closely to his comping behind the soloist or his many colorful chords and single-line runs, you realize how brilliant he continued to be in his prime during this beyond-bebop time frame. The distinctly different, legato flavored sound of Al Cohn contrasts nicely to the broader range and richer tones of Gordon, while Blue Mitchell's warm West Coast trumpet phrasings also run aside but a little behind the animated and clipped brassy sounds of Sam Noto, a player deserving much wider recognition, and playing to the hilt on this recording. The session kicks off with the classic superimposed melodies of "Lady Bird" and "Half Nelson," with melodies split between the trumpet and tenor tandems. In a larger context this is democracy at its finest, with a finish of eight-bar exchanges, Noto's wiry voicings and Gordon's distinctive, throaty sound, but once again Harris is the glue, with his inventive chord shadings constantly adding depth and substance. The ballad "How Deep Is the Ocean?" is led out by Harris ad extensia, while Cohn's solo features held notes that sets him apart from Gordon in shorter partnerships including Noto. Then Mitchell gets his due on the seventeen-and-a-half minute title track, his basic blues swinger where the four horns all play joyously together with little harmonic variation. Mitchell's solo is the first of all, but his is the tone setter in a lighter context, a sky blue sound where air is more important than heft. Gordon's solo, on the other hand, is memorable, sporting his signature swagger, with Harris and drummer Louis Hayes triggering a trading of fours to end the set. There is a companion CD, Silver Blue, that contains the remainder of these famous sessions, a remembrance of the golden years for several of these players, after which Gordon (1990,) Cohn (1988,) and Mitchell (1979) would pass away, but left large legacies.
AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2