Sixties hyperbole! Blue Note titles which end in a shreik-mark!!, full list over 30 below post! (now even fuller thanks to Ed) Update August 15: Super Summer Bonus! Artist photos from 1968-73 courtesy of The Jazz Paparazzi, Harry M,
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Blue Mitchell, trumpet; Junior Cook, tenor sax; Chick Corea, piano; Gene Taylor, bass; Al Foster, drums; recorded Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, July 14, 1965.
Introduced to Riverside by Canonball Adderley, Mitchell was a mainstay of the Riverside catalogue, which launched his thirty year career. Riverside line-ups frequently featured Wynton Kelly on piano, and many heavy hitters of the day like Jimmy Heath, Johnny Griffin and Curtis Fuller. His title Out Of The Blue (RLP 12-293, reviewed April 2012) found Mitchell in the company of virtually Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, however that connection was not to develop, Lee Morgan still ruled the trumpet roost there.
Blue Mitchell belonged in this company, though his trumpet voice and vocabulary do not quite reach the excitement of Lee Morgan, nor the lyricism and warmth of Donald Byrd or Freddie Hubbard, my opinion. He just doesn’t sound like he is leading from the front, a little reserved, where he needed to be the boss, unleashed, but still good.
Aside from his Riverside albums as leader, Mitchell’s most productive work over the period was as the trumpet voice of the Horace Silver Quintet. His Silver albums include “Doin’ the Thing,” “Finger Poppin’ ” and “Silver’s Serenade“, with outstanding solo work on “Sister Sadie” and especially the marvelous “Filthy McNasty,” When the Horace Silver Quintet disbanded, Mitchell quietly re-built it with bassist Gene Taylor, Mobley sound-alike Junior Cook, adding the young Chick Corea.
In 1963 Blue Note gave Mitchell his first leadership opportunity in Blue Note’s roster of “soul jazz”/bop artists. However his first recording as leader for Blue Note, intended as BLP 4142 ,Step Lightly, never made it out of the vaults until the tail end of the United Artists era, when in 1980 Michael Cuscuna rescued it for the Blue Note Classics LT Series.
Initially I overlooked this late issue, with its unimpressive white frame/shroud image, but the artist listing – Joe Henderson and Herbie Hancock – made me me sit up and take notice! Japan gave it a much more sexy presentation in one of their Unissued Masters series.
The first recording to make the Blue Note catalogue was not until the following year, 4178 Blue Mitchell – The Thing To Do (LJC post 2012), followed by the current title 4214 Down With It, and 4228 Blue Mitchell – Bring It Home To Me, (1966).
One collector bright spot, again from Bob Sunenblick’s Uptown Records, Blue Mitchell/ Sonny Red, Baltimore 1966. Note Blue and Sonny in suit, collar and tie, not sports-wear grunge. True class.
For those not transitioned to the post-bop genre, Mitchell offered Blue Note listeners straight ahead “continuity bop“, with a soul-jazz flavour, but eschewing the Hammond groove.
Down With It! offers a bit of boogaloo (hi-heeled sneakers), a latin-themed tune, some straight ahead, a ballad – something for everyone, nothing outside your comfort zone. All-Music opinion: “Each the soloists have fine moments that makes the session worthwhile, undemanding but very listenable”. And always solid Van Gelder engineering – Rudy could record this blindfolded
Vinyl: BLP 4214
Blue Mitchell, Liberty discography of a Blue Note survivor!
Whilst a number of Blue Note artists failed to find favour with new management under Liberty, Blue Mitchell continue to lay down his horn-led soul jazz formula, with Blue Note quality. A steady flow of titles followed for Liberty, for whom Mitchell’s brand of R&B-soul-jazz fitted well.
By the early ’70s, Mitchell joined the roster of artists recording for the Mainstream label, some with top quality players, some less so. Recording thought to be Mercury Recording Studios, West 57th Street, New York City. Mainstream recordings are variable in engineering quality, not to the standard of RVG. The few titles I have, some have been disappointing, or worse. Caution advised.
Going with the ’70s fusion flow, the ever-expanding line ups began to incorporate electric guitars, Fender bass, synthesisers, strings, multiple percussionists, but also provided work for other surviving jazz figures such as Harold Land, Victor Feldman, Hampton Hawes, Cedar Walton, Walter Bishop Jr.
Across the span of the Seventies, Mitchell’ recorded prolifically, justified by the “a guy’s gotta eat” imperative. Although there are some fine players on some titles, Blue Mitchell’s talents and distinctive sound was lost amidst inferior material and excessively commercial arrangements. There are some high spots, particularly his work with Harold Land, and a few other sessions with shared leadership among headline artists. My favourite is a Concord release, Mapenzi (1977), with “The Harold Land/Blue Mitchell Quintet” which still gets frequent trips to the turntable:
Selection: Habiba (Kirk Lightsey)
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The tune Habiba opens with a wonderful head of horn-unison unfolding, floating above a rhythmic cushion with percussive accents, finding its way to the chorus. Land spins off with his own ideas, everything maintains the tone and pace, evolving back to it original theme, just beautiful, uplifting.
Harold Land (tenor saxophone) Reggie Johnson (bass), Al “Tootie” Heath (drums), Kirk Lightsey (keyboards), Blue Mitchell, (trumpet, flugelhorn), Engineer Phil Edwards
Richard Allen “Blue” Mitchell’s time ran out in 1979, at the age of only 49, leaving behind a rich heritage of recordings for Riverside and Blue Note in the company of ’50s and ’60s greats, and an uneven haul beyond, with still a few highlights worth seeking out. Ironically, Mitchell’s most valuable legacy of his work is as sideman on the titles of other Blue Note artists, with only his own Riverside title Blue Moods close to trophy price status.
Indeed! The Sermon! Bottoms Up! Look Out! Preach Brother! Go! Hey There! Steppin’ Out! Out To Lunch! Judgement! It’s Time! Oh Baby! Right Now! Mustang! Conquistador! Destination Out! Stick Up! Andrew!!! Heads Up! New York Is Now! Think!
! declare Jackie McLean the winner!
UPDATE: Ed adds more shriekers. I guess I missed a few because album listings don’t always include the exclamation mark as part of the album title
Jubilee Shout !!! Good Gracious! Good move! Talkin’ about! Wahoo! Bucket! Say it now! Caramba! Now! Alive! Shoutin’! Crazy! Baby Compulsion !!!!!
Compulsion!!!!! overtakes Andrew!!! Lord only knows who the winner is now,
The shriek-mark count stands at about thirty titles, which is over 5% approaching 10% of Blue Note titles. Extraordinary!!!!!!!
UPDATE August 15, 2020 – Harry M has more photos:
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