Paul Horn: Something Blue (1960) HiFi Jazz

Selection 2: Something Blue (Horn)
.  .  .

Tracklist
A1 Dun-Dunnee  (Horn) 7:13
A2 Tall Polynesian (Moer)  8:13
A3 Mr. Bond  (Horn) 8:21
B1 Fremptz  (Richards) 6:03
B2 Something Blue (Horn)  7:37
B3 Half And Half  (Horn) 7:51

Artists

Paul Horn, alto sax, flute, clarinet; Paul Moer (Moerschbacher), piano; Emil Richard , vibraphone; Jimmy Bond, bass ; Billy Higgins, drums; producer, David Axelrod (HiFi Jazz A&R), liner notes Gene Lees, recorded Los Angeles, October 27, 1959, released March 1960.

All Music awarded 4/5 stars: “Years before Paul Horn became famous for his pioneering new age and mood music albums, he was an adventurous bop-based improviser trying to create an alternative to the hard bop music of the era.” He was trying to do it with West Coast sensibility. It’s Something Blue, not Somethin’ Blue, Cannonball would add, you know what I’m sayin’?

Horn found his mission in life, not jazz, but new age spirituality, with acoustics recorded in natural and sacred sites, Inside the Taj Mahal sold 750,000 copies, somebody must have liked it, Inside the Great Pyramids, and Cosmic Consciousness in Kashmir. It all seemed very profound at the time.

Perhaps at the time, real life didn’t have much going for it. The early Sixties boundless optimism for the future through scientific progress turned out to be largely science fiction, the rat race became the only race in town, and hifi an escape portal, certainly one I adopted in the Seventies. I have a box of New Age LPs in the loft, and a bookshelf of 70’s Californian self-help psychobabble: don’t scoff, it certainly helped me through a day of corporate ladder-climbing. “Who’s driving your bus?” (Bandler & Grinder, NLP)

Music

The music is buoyed up by lots of Horn alto, clarinet and flute, and vibraphone of Emil Richards, a firm swinging piano, and lots of kicks up the rear courtesy of Mr Billy Higgins. I hadn’t appreciated that Higgins, a driving force on so many Blue Note titles started musical life in LA, before moving to New York in the 60’s. This swings in its own way, and with the lights down and a glass of Macon-Lugny, I’m relaxing in 1959,  a big improvement on 2021.

Emil Richards enjoyed a six decade career, which including an album for Impulse, “Spirit of 76” , reference to American Independence, not the year 1976. Richards, who left us in 2019, reminisced of his initial move to LA: “My first gig was the first night I got into town. I worked that day on a recording session and at night I worked with Paul Horn at a club called the Renaissance, opposite us Lord Buckley and Lenny Bruce.”

Bobby Hutcherson was destined to do the vibes heavy lifting. Meanwhile Richards toured extensively with Frank Sinatra, and was a regular feature of countless film and TV scores. I think the ample rewards of Hollywood entertainment industry signed a death warrant to the spirit of jazz, though many players enjoyed a more comfortable life as a result, and who can blame them.

I’ll leave the final word on Paul Horn to John Fordham in his 2014 obituary:

Horn made 50 albums over an illustrious career that began as a jazz sideman in the early 1950s, winning Grammy nominations and accolades as a player, composer and movie-soundtrack writer. He published books of musical instruction and spiritual guidance, and he was prolific, influential and musical, although the jazz cognoscenti dismissed his later work as weightless, and his serenely ambient records began dropping out of jazz discographies after the mid-1990s.”

 

That said, I am enjoying “Something Blue“, which started out on the right path, even if Horn later set off in a New Age direction. And HiFi Jazz brings it to life.
 
Vinyl: HiFiJazz J615 

Matrix / Runout (side 1 stamped): J R-615 A D2
Matrix / Runout (side 2 stamped): R J-615 B D2

Hollywood-based short-lived independent label founded in 1956 by Richard Vaughn, one of the pioneers of stereophonic recording. The label’s jazz recordings appear limited to 1959-60, and Vaughn’s money-spinner seems to be the sister-label HiFi Records, mainly featuring the exotic Hawaiian sounds of  Arthur Lyman Group, and Wurlitzer organ records of George Wright. Exotica or mood music.

Releases by HiFi Jazz in 1959 included the first issue of Harold Land’s The Fox, recorded at Radio Recorders, LA, possibly the same studio for Horn. Links with Contemporary Records are tempting – The Fox went on to have its reissue  by Contemporary. Also the matrix of Something Blue has stamps similar to Contemporary, D2/ D2 (though no sign of the “H” stamp of RCA Hollywood).

The hifi sound is great for 1959, a damn site better than many if not most modern vinyl records. By chance, my copy is the mono release, which makes the stereo hype redundant, but hifi it is. Good mono from this time is natural room filling, wide dynamic and tonal range.

The inner bag is a polythene horror, looks authentic, but best kept away from the  vinyl.

 
Collector’s Corner
 
My mailbox is heavy with promotions of the new Coltrane Live in Seattle, but I haven’t listened enough to my three original copies to jump.  I’m a bad collector right now, a beachcomber,  undiscovered vintage records, not better copies of what I already have. This didn’t disappoint, a natural fresh breezy ambience, absence of stodgy transistors or throttling digital source, fresh flowing jazz improvisation from artists I am less familiar with. If you take Balliett’s maxim, “Jazz is The Sound of Surprise”, you have to work at surprising yourself.
 
This LP was sitting unloved in the record store new arrivals, waiting for someone who appreciated it. I was convinced I don’t like vibes, but in context, Emil Richards sounds great, as do HiFi Jazz recordings. Just throw open the windows and let in the car exhaust and smog of 1959 (cough cough). Who needs clean air anyway? It is over-rated. 
 
Had any pleasant surprises recently? (Musically, that is)
LJC
 
Postscript
Prompted by LJC reader Rich C, I’ll leave the last word on Paul Horn instead to Miles Davis:
“He plays horn the way it should be played” (Like you put the reed-end in your mouth, not the bell-end)
 
 
 
 

14 thoughts on “Paul Horn: Something Blue (1960) HiFi Jazz

  1. Recently, I saw the cult film Night Tide on tv. The film features Dennis Hopper as a sailor on leave in Santa Monica who meets a woman who may or may not be a mermaid. It was filmed in 1960, I believe and the opening scene features an amazing beatnik bar/cafe, populated by the usual types, and with a combo led by Paul Horn, whose music perfectly complements the visuals. The entire score is in the same vein, with the same players.
    Criminally, there appears never to have been a soundtrack album released.
    You can find the full film on youtube.

    LJC adds:
    2:45, enters the Blue Grotto… great catch, Hugh!

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  2. All the Paul Horn on Columbia are great and Victor Feldman’s piano/organ on Cleopatra makes it another favourite.
    Emil Richards made a fantastic Latin Jazz record with the band from Something Blue sans Paul. Think its called Jazz Por Favore and easy to pick up on a repress.

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    • Seventies wasn’t all bad. At work, everyone smoked, got drunk at lunchtime, and had an eye on the girls in the typing pool. Or maybe that was just in episodes of Madmen, my recollections are a little hazy. Nowadays nobody smokes, it’s mineral water at lunch, and everybody types their own letters It’s progress of a kind, but the music was better then

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  3. Forgot to mention my copy of Something Blue is stereo , it has a large stereo sticker on the front of a mono cover , the label is different in that the 1 and 2 on the mono copy are replaced with the word stereo on both sides.

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  4. Firstly can I say I admire your “sink or swim” approach in purchases , it does throw up some duds but it is also great when you get that sound of surprise mentioned. I did the same back in the day with this album and loved it from the start , it spurred me on to buy the 3 Columbia releases .As already mentioned the first 2 are excellent ,the third “Cleopatra” does begin his shift to the exotic ,and is all flute but still worth a listen .To add to the Miles Davis quote on the Sound Of LP Leonard Feather quotes Miles again in the liner notes saying “Watch out for Paul” . I wonder if Miles got paid for all that ???. Emil Richards spent about 3 years with the George Shearing Quintet from 1956 to 1959 and can be heard on the Shearing on Stage album ( worth pulling out of the 50p bin if found).Now that is your 50’s pipe and slipper music if I ever heard it and saying that I am now heading for my garden bomb shelter to withstand the fallout for mentioning Shearing on your site.

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  5. Luckily, it’s Billy on drums. Know what I mean?

    No really – Higgins, who had just won the new talent International Critics award, is given quite a lot of solo space, and he sounds great throughout.

    On “Mr. Bond”, Horn’s alto takes on a definite Cannonball-with-Miles characteristic, “kind of” reminiscent of the ground-breaking album recorded a year or so before.

    In a DownBeat blindfold test from 1960, Pete Rugolo said the title piece was “one of the best things I’ve heard lately.”

    In other words – great stuff.

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  6. Paul Horn’s debut album for Columbia had a tune called “Mirage for Miles” on it, also a version of “My Funny Valentine.” I guess the quote from Miles was a little extra boost for a fellow label-mate.. Horn’s next, Profile of a Jazz Musician, is a good one and has one of the songs that inspired my own interest in jazz -the perky “Count Your Change.” Here’s a “live” version from an old tv show.

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  7. Pleasant musical surprises, you say? Well, I guess my recent one is Joe Henderson’s LPs for Milestone – not all of them, mind, but mostly the late 60s mainly acoustic ones. I found Power To The People earlier this year and I recently scored an excellent brace with Tetragon and If You Not Part Of The Solution, You’re Part Of The Problem. I’m particularly delighted with Tetragon – partly because the copy I’ve acquired is in beautiful condition but mainly because it adds to my small selection of records that feature the overlooked but extraordinary talents of pianist Don Friedman. What a player!

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    • Don Friedman was a very fine player indeed, with a sound and style somewhat similar to Bill Evans. I’m listening now to his first album on Riverside, with Chuck Israels and Joe Hunt, A DAY IN THE CITY – a beautifully recorded album, with the one six part title suite. Israels is very good throughout. I’m happy to have what I take to be an original release of the album (third variation blue/silver 100mm label with INC, deep groove) but it has one of the messiest dead waxes I’ve ever seen. In addition to the correct matrix numbers (although the R in RLP is partially botched on side B) it has several scratched out inscriptions which I’ve as yet only partially decoded – BG-3-A and BG-3B, which I take to refer to Bill Grauer and what may be JLA 52-A? I think I might need to consult the Vinyl Detective!

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  8. Something Blue is a very good record! I am pleased to have it in my personal collection and probably give it more spins than some certified classics. It makes for an easy and pleasant listen.
    I agree with you on Emil Richards. He has a somewhat unique style on vibes I find most effective in a song like the awfully-titled Fremptz: it’s spare but hard-charging. Billy Higgins, naturally, is an ace. Among his early West Coast appearances, The Cal Tjader-Stan Getz Sextet is a real highlight. Paul Horn, too, was a terrific jazzman. I like the flute, but do wish he would have stuck with the sax a little more on this date. With Paul Horn, I always think of an album he recorded for Columbia on the cover of which they printed a Miles Davis quote that said something like, “He plays the horn the way it’s meant to be played.” That ambiguous quote always tickled me: is it genuine praise from jazz’s least-effusive critic or a begrudging, contractually-obligated acknowledgment by Columbia’s top player?

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