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Unity

Larry Young

Unity
(Blue Note)

Unity



Larry Young, organ; Joe Henderson, tenor sax;
Woody Shaw, trumpet; Elvin Jones, drums.

1. Zoltan (Woody Shaw) 7:36
2. Monk's Dream (Thelonious Monk) 5:45
3. If (Joe Henderson) 6:42
4. The Moontrane (Woody Shaw) 7:18
5. Softly, Morning Sunrise (Romberg-Hammerstein) 6:20
6. Beyond All Limits (Woody Shaw) 6:00
Produced by ALFRED LION
Cover Design by REID MILES
Recording by RUDY VAN GELDER
Recorded on November 10, 1965


The continuing growth of Larry Young is compellingly clear in this album, which is regarded by Young as the most mature set he's recorded. It's called Unity because, Larry points out, "although everybody on the date is very much an individualist, they were all in the some frame of mood. It was evidentfrom the start that everything was fitting together."

As I noted on Larry's first album as a leader for Blue Note, Into Somethin', he is a remarkably flexible and attentive organist. Unlike too many of his contemporaries on the instrument, he doesn't swallow up his colleagues in a torrent of notes and volume. Or, as Joe Henderson puts it, "With some organists, it's hard to compete against all that juice. But Larry listens to you and complements you." Also characteristic of Young's playing, as Don Nelsen observed in a Down Beat review of Into Somethin', is "his deft, controlled touch ... Young treats his notes ... respectfully articulating them clearly and with a laudable sensitivity to dynamics."

The opening track, "Zoltan," is Woody Shaw's. It begins with the march from Zoltan Kodaly's Hary Janos Suite "because I liked the way he used the bass line." Then comes Shaw's own material which is based on the Lydian mode. Note the crisp authority of Elvin Jones, the tangy blend of the horns, the disciplined power and stinging clarity of Shaw, the fire and searing beat of Joe Henderson along with the concise structural unity of his solo, and the singular expressivity of Young.

Thelonious Monk's craggily evocative "Monk's Dream" reveals Young's understanding of the essence of Monk's conception, including his wit, the asymmetrical logic of his lines and the leaping, jagged momentum of his time. With only Elvin Jones accompanying Young on this track, the performance was made in a single take--a remarkable demonstration of the complex affinity between these two complicated musicians in one of the most absorbing jazz conversations an record in recent years.

"If" is Joe Henderson's tune. A 12-bar song, it has a blues feeling but the changes move differently than the conventional blues patterns. "I wrote it," Henderson says, "in a way that permits the soloist a wider choice of notes." The first solo is by Joe--blistering, incisive, big-toned, and with a fusion of beat and sound that recalls those years in which the highest accolade one could give a jazzman was that he was a "hot" player. Listen particularly to Elvin in the background for an illustration of how astutely he can stimulate a soloist without getting in his way, Woody Shaw comes on with an authority, a brass-proud tone and a firmness of ideas that make him sound--in view of his youth--as if he'd started playing before he could walk. And then there is the building, spiraling, swirling warmth and inventiveness of Larry Young who is one of the very few organists who sound as if he's actually telling an evolving story--and not just pounding out a repetitive message--as he improvises.

"The Moontrane" was written by Woody Shaw when he was about eighteen. "It's dedicated," the composer explains, "to John Coltrane, as can be heard by the harmonic cycles in it. And with regard to the melodic development, I tried to capture the kind of feeling that would result if he were to have played the tune." Especially vivid here is Woody's lyricism--flowing and virile, clean-edged but passionate. Henderson too has the capacity to envelop the deep "cry" in his playing within a strong, personal, malleable but never fuzzy framework of style and conception. And once more there is the continually exploring, continually building--and continually self-controlled--passion and acute musical intelligence of Larry Young. For a climax, Elvin Jones explodes in ordered ardor.

"Softly as in a Morning Sunrise" is reanimated here in a sizzling performance begun by Joe Henderson who gets more from the tune than I thought there was to be taken. Worth digging is the swift, sure, economical comping of Larry Young. Woody comes on with staccato force (and listen to the whirlpool below set by Young and Elvin Jones). Young's solo is, in part, a fascinating dialogue with Jones, both moving inexorably forward. Then, the tension rising, Young talks with the riffing horns, and the record seems to be populated by a blazing big band. Woody returns us to the melody--or rather, more than the melody--and there ends what strikes me as a burningly durable performance of "Softly As In A Morning Sunrise."

The swift "Beyond All Limits" is by Woody, and was also composed when the trumpeter was eighteen. The chord changes are challenging but once mastered, are intended to lead the soloist to a relatively free modal concept using the different possibilities endemic to the pentatonic scale. "By the title," says Shaw, "I meant that once the inherent difficulties of the tune are solved, there are no limits as to where you can go with it."

In the last track, as throughout the album, everyone plays with an infectious, almost overpowering zeal to meet and fulfill musical challenges. I've rarely heard an album with as much sustained, collective spirit as this. Spirit, moreover, that is allied with technical prowess, originality, individuality and yet collective identity. From note one, the music takes hold and never drops into the routine. Larry Young is not one for long-range planning. His philosophy is that you keep trying to get things together--in your own playing and in the men with whom you choose to play. "At one point," he adds, "when things are ready, they happen!" They happened here.

--NAT HENTOFF, from the liner notes.




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