Horace Parlan: Us Three (1960) Blue Note – MM33

4037-Horace-Parlan-US-3-cover-1900--LJC

Selection: US Three (Parlan)

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Artists:

Horace Parlan (piano) George Tucker (bass) Al Harewood (drums) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, April 20, 1960

Music:

“Us Three’s title track  bristles with a funky wail that characterized Parlan’s forays on such Mingus works as “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting” and “Better Get It In Yo’ Soul.” An all-time Parlan classic” – AllAboutJazz

Whilst claiming to be influenced by Bud Powell – which pianist wasn’t? –  Parlan can be likened more to John Lewis and Tommy Flanagan and, at a stretch, Horace Silver. Not that you would necessarily know from listening, but Parlan suffered limitations on some fingers of his right hand as a result of a childhood illness, and in compensation developed a more powerful left hand, resulting in a stylistic leaning towards lower-register chording and rhymthic  drive, comping on the right hand,  but also able to weave in melodic phrases and swinging single-note runs.

His defining strength, however, is not so much his technical skill in solo, as his close interplay with his fellow musicians – something which is less immediately obvious until it rolls over you. His interplay with Tucker’s storming energetic bass on Us Three is astonishing. Add Harewood’s ability to maintain that rhythmic propulsion, you know you have something out of the ordinary happening here, not just another piano trio but a complementary tight-knit unit, which can travel at great speed and with great mobility, and with whom you will want to hitch a ride.

19601960 was Parlan’s golden year with Blue Note, in which he recorded four titles as leader, with Us Three following close on Movin’ and Groovin’: (review LJC last December)

 

4028 Movin’ and Groovin’   Feb 29    Sam Jones (b) Al Harewood (d)
4037 Us Three   Apr 20  George Tucker (b) Al Harewood (d)
4043 Speakin’ My Piece July14 Turrentines (t,ts) George Tucker(b) Al Harewood(d)
4062 Headin’ South Dec 6   George Tucker (b) Al Harewood (d) Ray Barretto (cgs)

Drummer Al Harewood was the common thread, with  George Tucker on bass on three of the four sessions.

In 1970  Parlan relocated to the expatriate US jazz community in Denmark (Dexter Gordon, Ben Webster, Idrees Sulieman, Sahib Shihab). His ability to attune sensitively to other musicians made him a natural choice for Archie Shepp in his Blues and Gospel sessions in the later ’70s (Goin’ Home and Trouble in Mind)  for Steeplechase , and subsequent live performances.Parlan, as a fine-tuned musician, was in the league of those who could be relied upon to know what to play without having to be told.

shepp-parlan

But what of George Tucker? His astonishing contribution here led me to want to find out more. His sideman session list bristles with five-star titles, Eric Dolphy Outward Bound, Dexter Gordon Doin’ Allright, five titles with Parlan, Curtis Fuller Vol 3, Freddie Redd, Booker Ervin, Jaki Byard, and many more, running from 1957 through to 1965, where it stops dead, usually a bad sign. Tucker suffered a fatal stroke while performing with Kenny Burrell in 1965, at the age of only 38. In a cruel contrast, drummer Al Harewood reached the age of 90, before finally departing in Spring, 2014.

Vinyl: BST 4037 MM33 (2015)

Taken from original Blue Note archive tape, Us Three is no ordinary transfer, it verges on the supernatural in its power and drive. With what was already a high-octane performance, it grabbed my attention and had me sitting up miming Tucker steaming up and down the bass neck, in one of the first recorded cases of involuntary air-double bass guitar.

The excitement is infectious, causing one of my hi-fi-buff friends to laugh out loud. “Andrew! Modern reissues aren’t supposed to sound like this!“. Auditioned on three different systems, each time its strength shone out like a lighthouse, rising up from a sea of competent but ultimately unexciting modern reissues.

MM33’s continue to impress, extracting maximum information from the original Van Gelder recording, and packing it into the grooves, sounding natural and fresh, with a lively top-end, a midrange with punch, underpinned by well-tempered taut and musical bass, richly detailed with full dynamic and tonal range.  All kudos to Ron Rambach and Kevin Gray for a remarkable production.

Gatefold:

Francis Wolff photos of the session, beautiful chiaroscuro, Tucker and Harewood listening thoughtfully to playback, Horace as usual, just smiling. All of them have good reason to be pleased with the session.

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Label: BST 84037 MM33 review copy 180gm

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The 47 West 63rd address is perfect, the colour blue is perfect, the vinyl weight is exact at 180 grams,  and the cursive P in the run out is a nice touch, though in the interest of true authenticity it should be inverted (picky picky, LJC!)  It is of course a complete work of fiction, as this record never existed (see Collector’s Corner below)

Liner Notes

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Collector’s Corner

Given the anodyne nature of some “piano trio” sessions, as a benchmark,  The Three Sounds ten best auction results of all their titles range from $176 – $303.  Us Three is in a different league. The ten best  auctions results for BLP 4037 are in the range   $898 –  $2,669 , getting on for ten times greater. I sense our friends in Tokyo are on to something, they know.

It is doubly interesting that a stereo edition of BN 4037 was never issued by Blue Note. Given the shaky early beginnings of Stereo at Blue Note, quite a number of titles were issued in stereo only some time later, or in this case not at all. All the premium auctions of Us Three below are mono.

popsike logo

4037 top10 auctions

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The first release of BST 84037 was in Japan, according to Fred, I guess Toshiba LNJ-80133 (1976-7). So there is no stereo “original” Blue Note of Us Three for comparison.

I didn’t have an original mono, nor can recall even seeing a Liberty reissue of Us Three, and now I know why. Even if I had, I would probably have dismissed it. “Do I really need another piano trio album?” We make assumptions all the time, that’s what gets us through the day.  This would have been one of those assumptions that causes you to overlook something special.

You find out these things only if you dig beneath the surface, which requires time, patience and persistence, all of which seem nowadays in short supply. Except at LJC, where they are found in generous quantities. Only The Birdman of Alcatraz had more time on his hands.

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25 thoughts on “Horace Parlan: Us Three (1960) Blue Note – MM33

  1. I can’t get enough piano trio albums. They are basically old reliable. When all else fails and the shit hits the fan, there’s really nothing better, in my personal opinion.

  2. I just acquired a NM- BLP 4037, but no cover. I’ll be hoping against hope to one day find a cover only auction on the bay. My initial reactions to it were not as strong as yours, but a large hole (incompletely) filled in my 4000 series quest.

  3. with all this talk about shipping cost I thought it might be worthwhile if point out that this pressing is really something to behold. I won’t start saying it is better than the original cause we all know that is pointless comparison. However, compared to the cost of a decent original, buying the MM shipping included is still a bargain.

    If you have a decent system there is no how you are not gonna be in awe of this release

    Take my word for it!

  4. $30 is a bear…but I just sent an LP to Belfast and the postal service, with no insurance, charged $22.50, so there is not much to be saved by using the “friend route” unless you are buying multiple records.

    • Always multiple records, but more important, the delicate matter of customs duties (not that I am advocating tax avoidance, of course) . A couple of $300 original pressings at an Ebay auction , The Sherriff of Nottingham – correction – Notting Hill here demands 20%, Ebay collect first if it’s posted to a UK address.

  5. My original theory on Happy Frame of Mind never being released was that Lion feared over-saturation of a particular artist within a given time period. (Of course that never stopped him and Jimmy Smith.) Digging a little further however Happy Frame of Mind was recorded in 1963 and Horace hadn’t done anything in 1962 or 1963 so over-saturation was not the reason for this session being canned. Interestingly 1962 was the last Three Sounds release on BN until 1966. They went to Mercury from 1963-1966. Perhaps the piano trio era was coming to an end on BN by 1963 and Horace didn’t make the grade. Interestingly, the Three Sounds were huge money makers for BNs based on the sheer volume of product out there. Lion’s changing tastes must have trumped economic incentives which in and of itself is nice to see. (Beautiful thing to opine about the motivations of deceased people who left little in the way of evidence to refute my musings.)

  6. After buying the. MM33 SPEAKIN’ MY PIECE this is a record I would definitely have bought — had MM not made the somewhat strange decision to cut out European and UK distribution. I understand all of the reasons cited but unlike LJC I can’t make myself come to terms with the ‘total cost of acquisition’ argument he puts forward. Perhaps I am just too mean.

      • I don’t see how it can be, Tony. I’ve just checked again and even if I bought three LPs (Boland/Clarke; Shorter; and Parlan) with international postage they would still cost £43.33 per LP all in. I used to buy at either GBP30.00 or GBP32.00 when they were distributed by my regular UK jazz dealer, and a maximum of GBP7.00 postage and packing, irrespective of how many records I bought.

        • I am a subscriber to the 33 series, costs me about 90€ inc. shipping, etc. for 2 LPs a month. Regular airmal doesn’t seem to attract the taxman either….

        • I think you should do a trial run.

          order your copy of US Three and Right Now from MM and if you don’t like how things are go, you won’t have to order again from them

          • Spencer, It isn’t that I think things won’t go “well”. I’m sure the purchase would be perfect. I just don’t want to pay the price this now entails….and hence will have to do without. Oddly, the older I get, the easier I find it is to reconcile myself to doing without things…

            • Clearly a case of “life bus on diversion”, Alun, we are on a different route. I find the older I get, the more I say, “it’s only money, what the hell, records play much better than money, I’ll take it” It’s about priorities.

              Interestingly today, two things happened. This morning I got a letter telling me that from now on some savings I had would earn a half percent interest. This afternoon I picked up a 1956 Tempo, which though it was rather expensive, offered 100% interest on my listening time. I figured that was a good return.

            • Alun, if there are no disruptions to my schedule, I am planning to go to the Bristol hifi exhibition in a couple of weeks time. Last year there were several stands selling MM records and there may still be some this year. Would you like me to look out for the Parlan LP for you?

              • Martin, Thanks, that’s a kind offer but I think I’ll do without. I’m adjusted to the fact that I’m not going to have it, and to be perfectly honest, if I do change my mind I’ll probably be satisfied with a secondhand CD. But thanks again for offering and I hope you enjoy the show and find some things you want.

                cheers, Alun

  7. Andrew
    sounds fantastic , cant see where i purchase the MM 33rpm 2015 version, except MM website stateside at 39USD + 30 for shipping. (70 dollars)
    any suggestions ?

    • I have raised the problem of distribution with MM, I can do no more. It pains me to spend as much on postage and charges as on a record itself, but pragmatically I see it as “the total cost of acquisition”. Like a tank full of gas, what you pay at the pump is in large measure just tax, but you can’t have it without it.

      I have a friend who has a friend in the US. They buy and post to the friend, who then forwards it declared as a gift. Not an elegant solution, but it works.

      • Spencer: I’ve read about Alfred Lion being a perfectionist and that’s why a LOT of sessions were left unreleased but a handful of them recieved catalog numbers with Van Gelder mastered Plastylite test pressings. Why were these few titles rejected after they made it that far into production? I’ve only had the chance to play a couple of unreleased Plastylite test pressings.The John Patton Blue John BST-84143 was wonderful until the last song side 2 that seemed to have some kind of obvious groove distortion. It was from the Phyllis Garland estate who had done the liner notes for “Let Em Roll” (she had that test pressing also). Since she had passed I was unable to ask her if she had played just that track over and over.

  8. Love this session, I’m a huge Horace Parlan fan. I’ve never understood why Blue Note didn’t release Parlan’s Happy Frame of Mind. They gave it a catalog number, mastered both a mono and stereo test pressing and that was it. I’m wondering if Horace just wasn’t selling very well at that time.

    • LET ME TAKE A WHACK AT IT…

      See, thing is Alfred Lion was an uncommonly choosy producer, the word one comes across in relation to him is often “perfectionist”. He left a lot of sessions unreleased that many other Jazz labels would have put out in a hot second.

      Here are some examples:
      Tina Brooks Back To The Tracks
      Freddie Hubbard Here To Stay
      Hank Mobley The Feeling’s Good
      Grant Green Solid
      Grant Green Matador
      Kenny Burrell Freedom
      Wayne Shorter The Soothsayer

      And many more titles that I can’t think of at the moment. Most of them are now considered great albums but in his life time, none of these titles for one reason or another met Lion’s exacting standards.

      • Spencer: I’ve read about Alfred Lion being a perfectionist and that’s why a LOT of sessions were left unreleased but a handful of them recieved catalog numbers with Van Gelder mastered Plastylite test pressings. Why were these few titles rejected after they made it that far into production? I’ve only had the chance to play a couple of unreleased Plastylite test pressings.The John Patton Blue John BST-84143 was wonderful until the last song side 2 that seemed to have some kind of obvious groove distortion. It was from the Phyllis Garland estate who had done the liner notes for “Let Em Roll” (she had that test pressing also). Since she had passed I was unable to ask her if she had played just that track over and over.

    • agreed – as is the case with most BN titles. The rare mixture of sonic perfection, very lite sales volume in comparison with pop music & artwork made for museums. This is why we salivate over these things.

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