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Larry Young - Unity CD (album) cover


Larry Young


Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.76 | 13 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Bashin....the predictable Jimmy Smith

Prior to this I believed that Jimmy Smith had completely monopolised the jazz organ domain during his lifetime but not so, as this excellent album can testify. Although it certainly inhabits a harsher and less accessible landscape than that explored by Smith, it will reward your time by being perhaps one of the less daunting routes to enter the forbidding world of hard/post bop. First of all please don't expect this to sound conventionally proggy in the least as you are listening to a 'straight no (sound)chaser' jazz album y'all?.

Visitors to this site will be familiar with the name Larry Young from the subsequent stints he did with Tony Williams Lifetime, Miles Davis (Bitches Brew) Carlos Santana, John McLaughlin and various other very badly dressed men in the burgeoning fusion movement of the early 70's.

At this point in his career after signing to the famous Blue Note label, there was a palpable modal influence to much of Young's playing via the avowed inspiration from developments in this area by John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman. Considering he was only 25 at the time, Young certainly betrays no sign of being fazed by his illustrious and considerably more experienced sidemen of Woody Shaw (trumpet) Joe Henderson (saxophone) and Elvin Jones (drums)

Many of you may ask on first acquaintance with this album, and with good reason, Who plays the bass on this dude? Please be aware that Mr Young provides all the slinky bass lines heard on Unity using his foot pedals on the organ. Think about this for a moment, is that independence of four limbs OR WHAT? Jimmy Smith also dispensed with a dedicated bass player in identical fashion, but I suspect that this was more to avoid the session fees involved. (Jimmy was a notoriously grumpy git by all anecdotal accounts).

The good news is that very little here sounds remotely like the sort of jazz standards filler that Mr Smith used to clutter most of his trio records with. (I'm always exasperated by those jazzers who choose any old scrapyard wreck with which to show off their advanced driving skills)

Zoltan - presumably Shaw drew his inspiration from the Hungarian composer Zoltan Kodaly (a contemporary and drinking buddy/golf partner of Bartok?) This starts with Jones tongue in cheek (but still swinging) military march snare before heading off into a main theme that somehow transcends the inherent stiffness of any 2/4 pulse in a quite delightful way. Very effective and simple symmetry employed by ending the tune with a reprise of Jones parade ground snare.

Monk's Dream - It's hardly surprising that a tune from (the loneliest) Monk should elicit a nod of accord from Young, as both he and the composer share a fondness for angular motifs and unresolved harmonic destinations that lend their music a neurotic listless feel. Like so many of Monk's edgy and alien melodies, this is another that will invade your cranium unbidden, unidentified and usually at 4 am. (see Well You Needn't for an instance of a tune that becomes tantamount to a sleep virus) Elvin Jones short drum solo and rippling toms to the end are an unfettered joy on this.

If - A Joe Henderson number that deploys bop's habitual fractured and dislocated melodic writing utilising large interval leaps. This makes this avenue of jazz somewhat hazardous to negotiate but perseverance is the key to avoid indoor road rage provoked by prog snobs who might 'cut you off'. Your steadfastness will be rewarded by the subtle and implied harmonic structure being eventually revealed.

The Moontrane - Woody Shaw's enduring and memorable composition proves a fine springboard for the whole band to plunge headlong into some exhilarating interplay and improvisation. Another glorious drum solo from Elvin Jones that is carefully paced and unflinchingly musical i.e. it has a beginning, a development and a conclusion.

Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise - The original song was written by Sigmund Romberg and Oscar Hammerstein for a musical The New Moon (nah, I've never heard of it/them either) Judging by the results here, I would imagine that Tuxedo habitués of Broadway would be at a loss to recognise same under the welter of bristling license as taken by Young and Co. If this is a morning sunrise fellas, none of you ain't slept. (Darkness at noon more like, and transparently ironic)

Beyond All Limits - Despite my nagging dread inferred from the title, this does not generate into free form jazz wank mercifully. However it does deploy another common bop technique by using what I think are called 'through composed solos' i.e. the improviser plays through the harmonic changes in a linear fashion with the phrasing, melodic shape and pivotal points all imposed thereon by the listener (What, you mean we have to make the tune up ourselves!?) At the lukewarm primordial soup level of my understanding of any type of jazz....Yep, sort of. You do get accustomed to it after a while, and just remember, you get to hear MANY differing melodies from repeated listening to the same source materials this way.

Here's the rub gentle readers:

How to appraise an unadulterated jazz album on a progressive rock website? I don't want us to get embroiled in another tiresome 'Is jazz prog ?' debate but it took PA's very own 'Easy Money' to explain patiently to your obtuse correspondent that the excellent addition to any prog music collection needn't necessarily be a prog album at all. (Seems painfully obvious now but what a silly furry critter I am)

ExittheLemming | 4/5 |


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