Larry Young: Unity (1965) Blue Note


Selection 1: Moontrane (Shaw) 320 kbps MP3

Selection 2: Softly as Morning Sunrise (Romberg, Hammerstein II) 320 kbps MP3


Woody Shaw (trumpet) Joe Henderson (tenor saxophone) Larry Young (organ) Elvin Jones (drums) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, November 10, 1965


The Hammond B3 organ is  a mainstay in the soul jazz genre: some love it, but if you are allergic to Jimmy Smith’s domination of the instrument, Larry Young shows it in a different light, you have to un-hear Jimmy Smith. The distinctive musical pulse of the B3, yes, foot-pedals in place of bass, yes, but the organ here is a team player on what is equally a Joe Henderson album or an Elvin Jones album. Shaw and Henderson stand in their own right, a feisty brass section (possibly funded by the saving on a bass player), and Jones sizzles. Once you get your ear in gear, integrate the Hammond B3 as just another instrumental voice,  it all flows.

Joe Henderson is on top of his game, whether outlining the tune, squawking or blasting. Woody Shaw is a great trumpet voice I hadn’t appreciated as much as I should have. There is not a bad track here, impossible to choose which. They breathe new life into standards like Softly as Morning Sunrise, an exciting tear it up performance, and hearing Monk played on a B3 is positively audacious. The Shaw tune accolade to Coltrane – Moontrane – is one I come back to for its strong composition.

Vinyl: Blue Note BLP 4221 NY labels, VAN GELDER and ear, mono, OG

The catalogue number BLP 4221  is right up against the cut-off point for Blue Note’s sale to Liberty Records in 1966 of 4250, and it was something of a surprise to find Plastylite’s ear present – twenty or so lower numbers are found with NY labels and no ear. Unity must have been one of the last true Plastylite pressings.



Collector’s Corner

 Unity is an album I had only on Evil Silver Disc – and rarely listened to. The opportunity to own it on vinyl was not something I encountered often, as it is sought after by a variety of jazz-genre collectors, soul-jazz fans, DJs, East End postcode hipsters with beards and flat caps, not to mention blogging pensioners. That tends to push the price up.  The decision to bid high was based on a calculation of provenance, and paid dividends. A trifle expensive, but not overly so, considering it reconnected me with music I should have been listening to, but was not.

Photographer’s footnote

An example of new techniques to capture “the vinyl cover artefact”, including the “3-D” drop-shadow line of the cover against a paper-white background, which matches web-page monitor white. Viewed at full screen or lower, it should recreate the experience of seeing the real thing. There is of course nothing “natural” about the process, which is a trifle more labour-intensive. The DxO RAW-conversion software I have adopted also helps to reproduce readable on-screen text of the liner notes thanks to some sharpness controls in RAW format.

We should now have a super-natural view of the crucial detail in the run-out, the label  and now the cover. Still a few problems managing reflective glare from black in glossy covers, but I hope improving the on-line experience – (though “smart phones” and ipads seem limited in their ability to reproduce heavy WordPress content and screen layout)




21 thoughts on “Larry Young: Unity (1965) Blue Note

  1. I know this is an old post but I have this album with the New York labels/Van Gelder Stamp/Mono but it does not have the P. So is this a 1st pressing or no? I don’t see any other Mono pressings on discogs with NY labels besides the 1st pressing.

  2. Your site is just outstanding. I wish I had the time and resources you must bring to bear on this.

    As a singer and musician (guitar, some piano/keys, some electric bass, some drums) I’ve always been interested in music. Most of my experience and that of most of the musicians I’ve been around has been in hard rock, progressive rock, etc. I’ve always liked jazz and classic jazz records, but I’ve really only made a concerted effort to hear and get educated about the genre for maybe 15 years. On streaming sites I listen to a lot of the music you talk about collecting, and although obviously lacking something in the way of fidelity, these sites allow people who might never otherwise become acquainted to become exposed to (and with some effort conversant about) the music itself and the musicians who made it. I think it’s important to note it’s not the “stuff” that matters, but what’s on it. And also, since my comments appear very past-tense, to point out that there are still great musicians playing jazz, both forward- and backward-looking.

    However, the real reason I’m writing is that I very much appreciate your effort here. Your work (and obvious love for the material) in creating this site, including creating and sharing all your superb images, as well as your informed commentary on the material itself, is just outstanding.

    Thanks for all your effort, and well done!

  3. I’ve often wondered why Unity is not on “The List” of great modern jazz LPs everyone knows, like A Love Supreme and Kind of Blue. With four masters at their peak and perfect set of tunes, this is one of the truly unheralded greats of all time.

      • Another reasons was because of Elvin Jones’ polyrhythmic drums. Add Larry Young’s love for pentatonic scales and polyrhythms drum kicks, then watch out.
        All the guys on this set were pioneers in the use of scales and rhythms in jazz. Put them together and forget about a “Kind of Blue” moment.

        For my taste McCoy Tyner was the only keyboardist to keep up with Elvin Jones’ style. It was that percussive thing he did on the keyboard that excited my ears. The first time I heard him play I was taken. His fingers sound like they walked across the keyboard in this really hip unheard of way.

  4. Definitely my favourite organ album but I only have the RVG CD which I think sounds pretty good although, like you LJC, I never play it. Organ-wise I do like a bit of Billy Preston and recently got into Medeski, Martin and Wood And just now listening to John Patton on Harold Vick’s Steppin Out. Another favourite is the classic Wes Montgomery and Jimmy Smith Dynamic Duo album on Verve
    But B3 organs aside I think I’d probably buy any record featuring the sax of Joe Henderson

  5. The Plastylite P or “ears”. From DottorJazz’s Blue Note Illustrated we distil that after Larry Young’s Unity, Ornette Coleman’s BLP 4224 and 4225 both have the ear, followed by Don Cherry on BLP 4226. The only one after that one with the ear, probably the last one then, is Stanley Turrentine on BLP 4240.

    Last but not least: to me, all photos here are always crystal clear – I never had a problem reading the fine print of the liner notes on the back covers even though it’s on a computer screen. I’d say please add the new techniques, as described above, to the LJC Shoots Records link, ’cause even for me and my new tourist cam it’s still interesting stuff to improve my own close ups 😉

  6. I have to stand up for Mac’s, which after all started life as a computer for designers and photographers and creatives in all fields. Their new Retina screens are the best in the industry and the software is tailor made for visuals, so I’m not quite sure what you’re little jibe refers to, LJC.

    Unity, fantastic album by the way!

    • Slip of the tongue – I meant ipads, not Macs. However – on the subject of Macs, much as I dislike Microsoft (Win 8 especially, horrid), I find everything about the Mac interface and OS counter-intuitive – everything is deliberately different from the way Microsoft does it, for no better reason. Overpriced too. However, I know they have their fans – especially in the graphic arts industry, and they probably feel the same way about Microsoft.

      • “However – on the subject of Macs…everything is deliberately different from the way Microsoft does it, for no better reason.”

        Except….that of being better. No other reason needed. 🙂

  7. I have a reissued copy of this. Cost me $10 a few years ago.

    The jackets says it’s in stereo, but I disregard that, and play it on my mono cartridge because the catalog number on the record label is BLP 4221. It sounds so much better in mono.

    I like Larry Young’s use of pentatonic scales. I think his B3 can sound crowded in some audio systems. Not sure why.

  8. funny as i’m rediscovering these larry young Lps i had for yeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaars!
    i’m not an organ fan – at all. but these LY line-ups are great and this one’s a gem

  9. As a Jimmy Smith fan, I love the non-Smith style of Larry Young, and this is my favourite of his recordings.
    What is a Hammond B6? Certainly it’s not an S6 (a horrible little chord organ), so I guess you meant “B3”, and it sounds like a B3, but it’s actually Rudy’s C3. This organ it’s still there for the organ players at Englewood Cliffs, and it’s one the most important Hammond organ in history.

  10. Excellent album which I have on “The Evil Silver Disc”. I have always thought that your images of “the vinyl cover artefact” were top notch – my technical ability in this area still has a long way to go (mainly caused by the fact that I photograph rather than scan, which I assume is how you produce your images). BTW, I wonder if Mr Roy Civil has seen this?……

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