"I think Blue Mitchell was one of the most melodic players of his generation"
Blue Mitchell, as a trumpeter and leader, produces jazz that is ultimately infectious, fully flavored with "funk," "soul" and "swing," but devoid of all pretentiousness. His ability to establish an immediate rapport with those on the other side of the stage is understandable when his background is considered.
Since he pulled out from his native Florida, as a member of the Paul Williams aggregation, Blue has learned the "ins" and "outs" of pleasing people by working with a wide variety of musical outfits. Certainly the three years he spent as a stalwart of Earl Bostic's band, back in the early fifties, had a profound influence on the formation of his style. This earthy approach was enhanced by a stint on the road with a show headlined by Arthur Prysock, Sarah Vaughan and Al Hibbler. And in between he payed his dues by playing virtually everything from rock 'n' roll to hard bop.
Blue's first actual jazz recording date came back in 1952 when he was called into a set led by Lou Donaldson, featuring Art Blakey, Percy Heath and Horace Silver. Just about everyone knows what happened after that. Blue spent seven solid, highly productive years with Silver in what became one of the swingingest combos of all time. It was then that he developed strong musical ties with the group's tenor saxophonist, Junior Cook, bassist, Gene Taylor, and drummer, Roy Brooks. When Silver disbanded his quintet in early 1964, to form another, Blue stepped up to lead his own group. It was a natural, since he, Cook, Taylor and Brooks had been making their own gigs on offnights, even while working with Silver. Shortly afterwards, Brooks became ill, and a fine replacement was found in the person of Al Foster, a young drummer who had been making the scene with several of the more promising performers of the coming generation.
--PHYL GARLAND, from the liner notes,
Down With It, Blue Note.
Blue Mitchell made his name as a member of Horace Silver's quintet, where his lyrical playing and beautiful timbre perfectly complemented Silver's simplified, soulful brand of bop. When Silver disbanded his group the members stayed together under Mitchell's leadership; Silver and Brooks were replaced by Chick Corea and Al Foster, whose places were later taken by Harold Mabern and Billy Higgins.
Mitchell then returned to popular music, recording soul-jazz albums (1967-69) and touring with Ray Charles (1969-71) and the blues-rock bandleader John Mayall (1971-73). From 1974 he worked as a freelance in Los Angeles, and played as a principal soloist with Tony Bennett and Lena Horne. He also performed in the big bands of Louie Bellson, Bill Holman, and Bill Berry, and in bop groups, including a quintet with Richie Kamuca. During his final years he recorded a number of disco-jazz albums (1975-77) and played in a bop quintet with Harold Land (1975-78).
--BARRY KERNFELD, The New Grove Encyclopedia Of Jazz
A selected discography of Blue Mitchell albums.
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