Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sonny CLARK - Cool Struttin' 1958

Sonny CLARK - Cool Struttin' 1958
2005 Issue BN-1588


Sonny Clark's classic COOL STRUTTIN' is a session that epitomizes the Blue Note golden era. A celebrated cast that includes Clark, Art Farmer, Jackie McLean, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones in their prime swings and struts its way through Clark's originals and some choice standards.

Bluesy swingers like Clark's smoky title cut and scorching burners like Miles Davis's "Sippin' at Bells" offer swinging grooves at opposing extremes that serve as vehicles for stellar solo spots by all. Intricate tunes like Clark's energetic "Blue Minor" and a blistering read of Rodgers and Hart's "Lover" are held in tight check by the consummate rhythm team of Chambers and Jones. The tracks also provide excellent breathing room for Farmer, McLean, and Clark to strut their stuff. The lone trio cut is the swinging "Deep Night," which showcases Clark's sharp technique and tasteful touch. In all, this is an essential disc for connoisseurs of the classic hard-bop period, a period that continues to inspire future generations.

Recorded in 1958, this legendary date with the still-undersung Sonny Clark in the leader's chair also featured a young Jackie McLean on alto (playing with a smoother tone than he had before or ever did again), trumpeter Art Farmer, and the legendary rhythm section of bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Philly Joe Jones, both from the Miles Davis band. The set begins with one of the preeminent "swinging medium blues" pieces in jazz history: the title track with its leveraged fours and eights shoved smoothly up against the walking bass of Chambers and the backbeat shuffle of Jones. Clark's solo, with its grouped fifths and sevenths, is a wonder of both understatement and groove, while Chambers' arco solo turns the blues in on itself. While there isn't a weak note on this record, there are some other tracks that stand out, most notably Miles' "Sippin' at Bells," with its loping Latin rhythm. When McLean takes his solo against a handful of Clark's shaded minor chords, he sounds as if he may blow it -- he comes out a little quick -- but he recovers nicely and reaches for a handful of Broadway show tunes to counter the minor mood of the piece. He shifts to both Ben Webster and Lester Young before moving through Bird, and finally to McLean himself, riding the margin of the changes to slip just outside enough to add some depth in the middle register. The LP closes with Henderson and Vallée's "Deep Night," the only number in the batch not rooted in the blues. It's a classic hard bop jamming tune and features wonderful solos by Farmer, who plays weird flatted notes all over the horn against the changes, and McLean, who thinks he's playing a kind of snake charmer blues in swing tune. This set deserves its reputation for its soul appeal alone.
By Thom Jurek. AMG.
Sonny Clark- Piano 
Paul Chambers- Bass 
Jackie McLean- Alto Sax
Art Farmer- Trumpet 
"Philly" Joe Jones- Drums
A1. Cool Struttin'   9:24
A2. Blue Minor   10:19
B1. Sippin' at Bells   8:19
B2. Deep Night   9:34

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