When Jazz Giants Roamed The Earth!

Imagine a hard bop jam session featuring three tenor sax greats: Johnny Griffin, Hank Mobley and John Coltrane. Add Lee Morgan on trumpet and propel them with the rhythm section of Wynton Kelly on piano, Paul Chambers on bas and Art Blakey on drums.

Why imagine it, when that's what's on this double slab of 45rpm 180g RTI mono vinyl originally issued in 1957?

Are there players alive today who can deliver this level of muscular musical energy? I'm not sure but I don't think so!

Griffin positively sprays Van Gelder's studio, sounding (to me anyway) like an out of control sewing machine punching its way through heavy cloth, changing stitch size and style with each hit. Coltrane has yet to produce any sheets of sound, but his smaller gestures (pillowcases?) are already moving in new directions while Mobley lays back (relatively!) to create needed contrast to the breakneck solo pacing.

Lee Morgan doesn't hold back though nor does Kelly and Blakey hardly knows how.

The group takes the opener, the usually elegant and velvety "The Way You Look Tonight" at a hair-raising tempo and if that one doesn't get your adrenalin flowing, Coltrane's opening solo on the Griffin original "Ball Bearing," will, though more for its intrigue than speed. And if that doesn't move you, Morgan's solo thereafter definitely will!

If you know these three tenors, you'll know instantly who is up at the plate but it doesn't matter if you know who is who or you don't. There's not a less than thrilling minute on this four extended tune set that epitomizes one important seat at the Blue Note table.

Another Jerome Kern standard, "All the Things You Are" and "Smoke Stack," the second Griffin original, round out the fast paced, high energy set.

The RVG mono sound is big, full and spacious with plenty of room sound and monophonic depth. Kelly's piano doesn't sound boxed in and Blakey's cymbals have natural grit and shimmer. Yes the sound is in some ways "dated" but it's a place you'll be happy to revisit repeatedly, musically and sonically.

We're inundated with Blue Note reissues, one more worthy than the next but this aptly named one cuts to the heart of the matter, and its high speed, relentless intensity will make for exciting listening every play.

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Paul Boudreau's picture

Just curious what you mean by that, thanks.