Horace Parlan Blue Parlan (1979) SteepleChase

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Track Selection: Pork Pie Hat (Mingus)

A rendition of Mingus’s elegy to Lester Young, “Goodbye Porkpie Hat,”

Artists

Horace Parlan (p), Wilbur Little (b), Dannie Richmond (d) recorded November 13, 1978 Copenhagen, Denmark.

As a child, Parlan was stricken with polio, resulting in the partial crippling of his right hand. As with other pianists, like West Coast pianist crab-style Carl Perkins, the handicap contributed to Parlan’s distinctive style, developing a particularly “pungent” left-hand chord voicing style, while comping with highly rhythmic phrases with the right. A regular member of Mingus line up, recording for Blue Note in the 1960’s, in 1973, Parlan moved to Denmark , where he has remained, a surviving figure of the bop years, currently age 83.

The trio has some pedigree. Parlan was the pianist on Mingus’s original recording, on the classic “Mingus Ah Um” album. Dannie Richmond was Mingus’s long term collaborator on drums. Wilbur Little originally played piano, but switched to bass after serving in the military. I guess he figured it was lighter to carry on the battlefield.

Music

 SteepleChase records founded by Nils Wither in 1972 as a haven for many artists who had lost contracts with larger US labels after the 1960s and moved to Denmark, quickly becoming fluent in Scandinavian.  Regular artists featured on SteepleChase include jazz-refugees  Andrew Hill, Dexter Gordon, Thad Jones, Kenny Drew, and Duke Jordan.
Vinyl: SteepleChase SCS 1124 Stereo, 116 gm vinyl
SteepleChase recordings are exceptionally fine. Anyone used to the feeble efforts of the big American labels in the Seventies will be shocked by the sheer quality of sound of SteepleChase, sitting alongside MPS, ECM and the often quite good Enja label – a European oasis of audiophile performance amidst a sea of transatlantic dross. The depth of bass and brightness across the tonal range belies its miniscule 116 gm weight. SteepleChase are definitely a thoroughbred label.

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Collectors Corner

From the collection of the late Brian Clark.

Steeplechase can often be found on the shelves of record shops, usually at minimal cost.  Whilst there are few if any “warhorse” recordings in the catalogue, they can selectively add  some light relief  to a bookshelf heavy with vintage jazz from earlier decades, and they are sheer pleasure to listen to.

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