Horace Parlan: Movin’ and Groovin’ (1960) Blue Note


Selection: Bags Groove


Bonus Selection: Lady Bird



Horace Parlan (piano) Sam Jones (bass) Al Harewood (drums) recorded at Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, February 29, 1960


Leonard Feather opens the liner notes with the same gambit often adopted by Whitney Balliett – physical description, written almost in the voice and precise diction of Alistair Cooke’s Letter from America : “ Horace Parlan is a tall, quiet-mannered man, essentially a gentle person with virtually irremovable  easy smile”  In just a few words, you feel you know Mr Parlan. And, already like him. That’s great writing. The same smile is immediately recognisable in Francis Wolff’s cover photo.

Horace Parlan first came to the jazz world’s attention on sessions for Charles Mingus (contribution to “Better Get It In Yo’ Soul.”  and “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting“) Parlan’s father was a church minister, and the young Horace would have absorbed church music long before striking out on his own path. Perhaps it was Parlan’s gospel – churchy inflection that first caught Mingus’s ear, his practice to deploy his choice of musicians much as an artist works hues and tints of paint on his palette. Or perhaps it was just a chance encounter in a hotel lobby as the notes say, Mingus was looking for a pianist. “Hey, tall guy, I’m looking for a pianist. You play piano?”

Parlan’s  choice of a music career was all the more remarkable in the light of  being struck by polio at the age of five, which left him only limited use of his right hand. Every reviewer notes the 4th and 5th fingers of his right hand are not used, requiring him to adapt chord voicings and runs through a different combination of left and right hand and fingers. (East coast pianist  Carl Perkins  bore a similar  deficiency in his left hand, also from childhood polio). In a modern world full of pre-emptive excuses for under-achievement, more than a few jazz musicians overcame visual or physical limitations in their determination to follow their musical path. ( Django anyone?)

A lot of musicians with all ten fingers could never swing like Parlan could with just eight, remarkably agile and fluid. With his resulting  emphasis on the rhythmic flow rather than solo virtuosity, Parlan’s trio pushes the bass and drums to the fore in a tight but contrasting interplay between the three musicians.

.Recording sessions with Lou Donaldson opened the Blue Note door, and in 1960, Movin’ & Groovin’ opened a run of three trio albums, recorded within the year, hard-driving, bluesy bop and lyrical ballads , including a remarkable follow-up album, US Three, ( the subject of a future post).  Donaldson’s drummer Al Harewood became a permanent feature of the Parlan Trio, whilst  Sam Jones  was later replaced by George Tucker, an incredibly dynamic and inventive  bass-walker

Parlan moved from trio to a larger ensemble including Booker Ervin, sessions giving rise to the Back From The Gig, later released  by United Artists under Ervin’s name. In the early ’70s Parlan  finally departed for Europe to join the growing US expatriate  jazz community in Copenhagen, which then included  Ben Webster, Dexter Gordon, Oscar Pettiford and Sahib Shihab. He recorded regularly for Steeplechase over the following two decades, including two impressive duos with Archie Shepp, the blues tribute Trouble in Mind, and  Going Home, in which Parlan revisited his gospel roots.

Horace is still with us, in frail health, but I would hope, still smiling.

Vinyl:  BN 4028

Released in May 1960, double deep groove, 47 West 63rd St labels after the incorporation, RVG, Plastylite 1st pressing, this offers a benchmark original Blue Note mono sound for a small scale trio.


I’ve done what I can to render the liner notes legible. The original has water damage to the front and back, to which I have applied substantial Photoshop repair. It doesn’t look as good as what you see below.



Collector’s Corner

A fairly rare item in the range of $434 to $1260 in it’s top ten auctions. Needless to say my copy is no where this league.


Next up, another The Three Sounds title…no.  only kidding.

Normally I wouldn’t have gone for one of those “cover has seen better days…” offers   (I guess that description might equally apply to myself), but it was a rare title which I had not previously seen and had no reissue of, so at a fraction of the price, a benchmark 1st pressing seemed  a good idea. It lived up to its description, the cover scrapes in between Good and Fair, but the vinyl is pretty much ok, very playable, though crackly from time to time. Hopefully you haven’t suffered too much, the music is the thing, I’m told.


13 thoughts on “Horace Parlan: Movin’ and Groovin’ (1960) Blue Note

  1. To my ears, the best example of a Van Gelder piano trio recording. Hard for me to to say why this performance is so engaging, and while I like the Parlan larger ensembles too, this feels like it is missing nothing. I was offered an original in 1983 when Greenline Records in Jamaica NY was going out of business, it was their last jazz LP in the shop. Ignorantly, I passed and have been only able to correct the situation recently. A great Blue Note.

    • I’m in two minds about this one. Basically, I like Parlan’s restricted yet soulful style, which was developed in defiance of a physical handicap. Still, of all the versions of “C Jam Blues” I have heard, this is the most monotonous by far, a succession of rather simple block chords from beginning to end. Some might call it ecstatic, I’d rather call it boring.

  2. What is it about jazz pianists named Horace? Long been a fan of Horace Parlan, but mostly through his recordings on SteepleChase (Frankly-Speaking featuring Frank Strozier on alto and Frank Foster on tenor), No Blues (Inner City label, likely a resissue of the SteepleChase), Trouble In Mind, and Arrival. For the most part I’ve found SteepleChase to be a very respectable sounding label. And indeed, every cover displays that permanent smile. Thanks for reminding us of the earlier Blue Notes, but will definitely need to locate reissues. There is an EMI-Capitol reissue (gulp!) of On the Spur of the Moment that claims to be sourced from the original masters.

  3. Oh this is an equisite session, Andy! As is Us Three, which you also mention. Alright, all these Parlans are lovely. Well preserved mono first pressings of all the Parlan Blue Notes are scarily expensive and, at present, out of my price bracket. So I took a different route to you and patiently waited for a copy of the Mosaic box set to come on to the market. Then I pounced! Although 5,000 copies of this box set were produced, I have it on the very best authority that only 400 of them were vinyl and the rest Evil Silver Disc. That authority being no less than Michael Cuscuna who obliged me by answering a few questions about Mosaic via e-mail.

    Ever since I’ve been left with a nice problem: how to write about this box set on my blog. One posting about the whole set seems parsimonious. But I’m not sure my readers and I will have the stamina for a posting per record in the set. I had been thinking about grouping together the trio sessions (including Headin’ South where Ray Barretto is added on conga) for one posting and doing the larger group sessions in a second posting. What do you think?

    • I see a natural dividing line between Parlan trios, and larger ensembles. The dynamics become different.

      I’ve not seen the Parlan Mosaic, sounds a very interesting alternative way in, smart thinking. Just one issue. I have never had confidence in Cuscuna’s understanding of sound engineering.

      Mosaics are variously remastered by Van Gelder, Ron McMaster, Masterdisk, EMI, heaven knows who else. The guy pushing the dials matters, but seems of little account to Michael. Is there a blind-spot over audio-quality? Seems so.

      • I don’t own any of the Mosaics but have heard much about them and most if not all opinions I’ve heard are positive…though I didn’t know they’re remastered by various people. I have however heard the digital versions of many of them via Spotify and those sound great to my ears.

        • There are different people involved with the (re-)mastering on different Mosaic sets over the years. In the case of the Parlan set the credit reads “Mastered from the original master tapes by Ron McMaster”. In this case, he’s done a great job to my ears.

  4. Love Parlan & happy to see this post (thought thats another mis-fired one…). Not a big fan of the trio format (just me) but his larger ensemble Blue Note albums are all fantastic.

  5. A very good record indeed.If you can’t afford the original first pressing,try to find a Japanese King pressing.It is cheap(max.30 dollar)and sounds excellent!(better than the cd.)

    • Thanks for the pointer on the Japanese King pressing.

      I’ve just noticed that there was also a Classic Records reissue on QUIEX SV-P 200gm vinyl, presumably some time in the 90s. I’ve got the Classic Records issues of both Sketches of Spain and Kind of Blue and they are superb…

  6. Terrific, swinging, joyful. I’ve never even seen let alone heard this and so very much appreciate the post. The only Parlan I have is SPEAKIN MY PIECE, which I enjoy a lot, but I think this trio outing may be even more to my taste. I shall have to look for a CD 🙂

    (Oh, I’ve just remembered — it isn’t quite true that I only have SPEAKING’. I also have GOIN’ HOME and TROUBLE IN MIND, the very different duet records Parlan recorded with Archie Sheep — and both excellent, as are Shepp’s the duet records.)

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