Nathan Davis spent some time living and working in Europe in the mid-'60s before returning to the United States to serve in jazz education. His recordings as a leader have been hard to find, so this compilation of two 1965 studio sessions, Happy Girl and Hip Walk, (both originally issued by MPS) will be a welcome discovery for collectors who can find it. In the earlier date he is joined by trumpeter Woody Shaw, Larry Young (on piano rather than organ), bassist Jimmy Woode and drummer Billy Brooks. His happy "The Flute in the Blues" showcases his lighthearted flute playing, accompanied only by bass and drums. His big tone on tenor sax in the standard ballad "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most" is somewhat suggestive of John Coltrane, but with a stronger vibrato. His original "Evolution" has an exotic sound like the kind of post-bop material that was recorded by various Blue Note artists a year or two later. Shaw contributed the fascinating "Theme From Zoltan," which showcases Brooks' inventive polyrhythms and Woode's adventurous bass, backing strong solos by the trumpeter and the leader (on tenor sax). The jaunty, angular blues "Along Came Byrd" finds Davis holding his own on soprano sax. The later session retains Woode, but substitutes trumpeter Carmell Jones, pianist Francy Boland and drummer Kenny Clarke. Although the arrangements are equally challenging, things seem looser on this session, suggesting that there was more time to rehearse, though that is unlikely, since Jones was flown in especially for this date. The Coltrane influence is again apparent in the ballad "While Children Sleep." It would be easy to imagine Art Blakey tackling the furious "Train of Thought." Davis switches to flute for a haunting take of Jerome Kern's "Yesterdays." This valuable music was reissued in Europe by Motor Music in 1998, though it may very well have already lapsed again from print; it is well-worth investigating.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden