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.
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.