Sonny Red The Mode (1961) Jazzland/ Orpheum


Selection: The Mode (Red)


Sonny Red (as) Barry Harris or Cedar Walton  (p) Grant Green (g) George Tucker (b) Jimmy Cobb (d) recorded Plaza Sound Studios, NYC, May 29, 1961 and December 14, 1961


An interesting LP led by altoist Sylvester Kyner Jr (“Sonny Red”), one of those many “good but not quite great artists” who often get overlooked as a result, which is a shame as there is  a lot of good music to be enjoyed here. He made a run of albums for Jazzland of similar weight, including  A Story Tale (with Cliff Jordan), Breezin’ and Images, and for Blue Note, Out of the Blue, a sound hard bop vocabulary with a bluesy and measured voice that sometimes works up a good head of steam.

On the standout  title track, The Mode, George Tucker’s infectious high-stepping bass virtually steals the show, while Red’s alto counterpoints the shifting rhythmic terrain.  Barry Harris, Red’s fellow jazz-man from Detroit, reminds us what an underappreciated  pianist he was. With The Mode he’s really cruising, with only two or three alternating chords required.. Thrown into the mix, a guest appearance from Grant Green, whose clean linear flow supports this delightful modal excursion.

As for Sonny Red’s later career, in a crowded field of talented saxophonists, it’s never going to help you stand out with the name Sonny .You just had to call out “Hey, Sonny!” in the bandroom and more than a few heads would turn: think Rollins, Stitt, Criss and Fortune.  With the passing of time he reverted to the status of sideman, appearing frequently on Donald Byrd’s funkier outings in the late Sixties, most notably Mustang, By the Seventies he had all but disappeared into obscurity, and lived only see visit his Fiftieth.

Vinyl: JLP 959 stereo Orpheum Productions circa 1966-7 reissue, 150 gm vinyl

Nicely balanced stereo mix and quality pressing is the hallmark of Orpheum’s Riverside reissues, which I never have any hesitation over. Dating from the second half of the Sixties,they are still to my mind vintage US pressings. Still fresh source tapes and sometimes better pressed than original US Riverside and Jazzland, which sound to me the product of poor practice in the pressing plant. The sonics are much superior to the later Riverside capital R reissues produced by Fantasy, which are best avoided, so I actually rate Orpheum Productions as a good alternative pressing.



Collectors Corner

Source: record store located in West London, specialising in soul – lots of lurve and dance moves, but with the occasional interesting jazz record.

Photographers Corner : stand in the corner, LJC!

A quick appraisal of the cover photography should show the “whites” have gone yellow. That’s because that it is how it looks in real life. My past photo routine adopted the fairly standard studio practice of colour-correction, but a photographer pointed out I was blowing out the highlights with over-zealous correction. Closer inspection showed it was true. The highlights were being clipped, losing detail. After some experimentation I settled for a more sensitive manual approach, which delivered a more realistic capture of the record sleeve artefact. As a result of which dirt and age will be more apparent, but that is how things should be. Fidelity in sound, fidelity in image.

6 thoughts on “Sonny Red The Mode (1961) Jazzland/ Orpheum

  1. Nice session here, often overlooked. I picked up a white label promo a few years ago, and it plays beautifully. It’s one of those records you forget about, but then see in the stacks and say “oh, right, that’s a good album!”


  2. A very good hardbop session. Orpheums sound ok but some are apparently shorn of tracks found on the original issues. So it pays to check. Regarding Sonny Red’s Blue Note oting, the CD issue contains a large number of bonus tracks from an otherwise unreleased session. Sonny’s Mainstream date is also worth seeking out , significantly better than many on that label.


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