Sunday, December 8, 2013

Land of Folk

Mr. Land in action at an Emarcy session in Los Angeles with Clifford Brown and Max Roach. Photo by William Claxton

When I think of the great tenors of the 1950s, Rollins, Dexter Gordon and Coltrane immediately come to mind. Somehow, I always overlook Harold Land. His participation in the Max Roach/Clifford Brown quintet should at least earn him an honorable mention in any list of reed notables from that period. And his work with long-time partner, Bobby Hutcherson, extended his legacy well into the '70s and '80s. If you want proof, you only have to sample this offering.

Land came from Texas, but he made California his home. Even though he'd recorded as a leader in 1949 (for Savoy) and had his own group, he joined Max Roach's band in 1954. That led to national exposure, and though he was overshadowed by trumpet star Clifford Brown, he was generally regarded as an excellent hard bop soloist. He eventually left Roach before Brown's death in 1956 and gigged around Los Angeles, making numerous recordings for the Pacific Jazz, Jazzland and Contemporary labels. His work with Curtis Counce and with his own groups from the early '60s is some of his best.

Which leads us to the present download. Imperial was making jazz records on the West Coast at the time, notably with Sonny Criss, but they also got Harold Land into the studio for a few sessions. In 1963, college students were going gaga over the sounds of folk music (the Dave Brubeck craze had faded), and the A&R guys at Imperial hit upon a brilliant scheme to revive jazz's popularity on campus. They would assemble an excellent hard bop quintet and have the boys play ... folk songs. Yes, that's the hook.

It sounds like a recipe for some pretty lame music, right? Bad folk, worse jazz. Well, not so in this case. Don't let the selections put you off. "Jazz Impressions of Folk Music" is a superb album. The arrangements, which are uncredited, take these hoary melodies, deconstruct them and reassemble them into intelligent and hip vehicles for jazz blowing.

The brilliant trumpeter Carmell
Jones, ax in hand.
The standout soloist, aside from Land, is the trumpeter, Carmell Jones. Originally from Kansas City, Jones had to come Los Angeles only three years before this session, and had been working with numerous other West Coast bands. He was a featured soloist with the Gerald Wilson big band at the time, and his lines here are exceptional. Clifford Brown comes to mind. 

Harold himself demonstrates his complete mastery of the horn, evoking Sonny Rollins at times, and running the changes with the fluidity of Sonny Stitt. John Houston, on piano, is the least well known of these players, but he'd worked numerous sessions with, among others, John Coltrane. Jimmy Bond is a familiar figure from his many Pacific Jazz recording dates, and Mel "Lee" is perhaps better known as Mel Lewis. I don't need to tell you about him.

So here are eight folk chestnuts, transformed into jazz classics. I think I found this obscure album in a used record store many years ago, but it's in pristine shape so no cleaning of the sound was required. As always, the tunes are ripped right from the original vinyl. 











 

Jazz Impressions of Folk Music
Harold Land Quintet
Imperial LP-12247

Harold Land, ts; Carmell Jones, tp; John Houston, p; Jimmy Bond, b; Mel Lewis, d.
Los Angeles, CA; 1963

1. Tom Dooley
2. Scarlet Ribbons
3. Foggy Foggy Dew
4. Kisses Sweeter Than Wine
5. On Top of Old Smokey
6. Take This Hammer
7. Blue Tail Fly
8. Hava Nagila

Find it here: https://www.mediafire.com/?7chc11tpow4c5pp

14 comments:

  1. Harold Land left Roach before Brownie died; he was replaced by Sonny Rollins, who stayed with Roach after Kenny Dorham replaced Brownie.

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    1. Right you are, JH. Forgot that fact. I'll make the fix. Sonny and Brownie recorded together with Roach, a session issued on Prestige. Great record, too.

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    2. There's also "Clifford Brown and Max Roach at Basin Street" (EmArcy) as well as the somewhat obscure "Pure Genius, Vol. 1" (Elektra) which I believe remains unreleased on CD.

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    3. Your a jazz fan after my own heart, JH. Thanks for the list. That Elektra set has some extraordinary playing and looong solos. Done in Chicago, if I remember rightly.

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  2. Thank you for sharing the music of an overlooked player. Like Hank Mobley (and others), Land is overshadowed by the Tenor Titans that played at the same time. Thank you for sharing his music David and Happy Holidays.

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    1. Same to you, JC. And don't forget Lucky Thompson, one of my all-time faves (though he was a few years senior to Land, Mobley, et al).

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  3. Hello! Thank you for your LP's! May you re-up this album of Harold Land Quintet, please?

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  4. ... Because RapidShare says: "Contains no data. Edit this Share to add data."

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    1. Sorry about the bum link, Alex. Here's a new one that should work: https://www.mediafire.com/?7chc11tpow4c5pp

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    2. Thank you very much! It's great!

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  5. Thank you very much! It's great!

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  6. Any Harold Land is much appreciated. I grew up on the first Curtis Counce record so I was spoiled!

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    1. That first Contemporary LP? Great. The Dooto "Exploring the Future" album is fine, too. You had a privileged childhood, Dirk!

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  7. Harold Land is a treasure. Thanks for posting this!

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