The Right Touch

Duke Pearson

The Right Touch
(Blue Note)

The Right Touch

Freddie Hubbard, trumpet; Garnett Brown, trombone; James Spaulding, alto sax;
Jerry Dodgion, alto sax, flute; Stanley Turrentine, tenor sax; Duke Pearson, piano;
Gene Taylor, bass; Grady Tate, drums.

1. Chili Peppers (Duke Pearson) 6:55
2. Make It Good (Duke Pearson) 6:39
3. My Love Waits (Duke Pearson) 5:56
4. Los Malos Hombres (Duke Pearson) 6:34
5. Scrap Iron (Duke Pearson) 5:23
6. Rotary (Duke Pearson) 6:17
Cover Photo by FRANCIS WOLFF
Cover Design by REID MILES
Recording by RUDY VAN GELDER
Recorded on September 13, 1967

The right touch as it applies to Duke Pearson both as pianist and composer-arranger, is that touch which connotes clarity, economy, melodic ease, and resilient lyricism. In a time of musical turbulence, Duke is concerned with form as graceful order. He is true to his temperament in that he does not see the world as essentially a place of combat. His music, accordingly, is a refuge from the pressures epidemic to "advanced" civilization. This album, like Sweet Honey Bee before it, provide relaxation of a rare consistency.

"Chili Peppers" received it's title, Duke explains, because "it sounded hot." A twelve-bar tune with an eight-bar vamp at the end of each ensemble chorus, it begins with a characteristically airy Pearson theme, played with precision but not rigidity by the ensemble. Stanley Turrentine's big-toned, unabashedly assertive tenor is particularly impressive for its incisive, speech-like directness of expression. Duke's own solo, light-hearted and flowing, leads back into the beguiling theme. The flute on this track, incidentally, is played by Jerry Dodgion.

The title of "Make It Good" emerged, according to Duke, because "that's what the melody line seemed to be saying." The first half is 16 bars, and the second half 14 bars. At the start, Duke reveals his capacity for a Basie-like use of space in what is a quintessential example of swinging time. Note too the collective control and inner dynamics of the ensemble passages. Complementing Duke is Freddie Hubbard's ringingly clear horn with its emphasis on a similar quality of improvisatory logic that is as clear as a cloudless sky.

"My Love Waits (O Meu Amor Espera)" is a bassa nova love ballad, distilling the years of absence between Duke and the young lady who became his wife in April, 1967. For three years she was in Atlanta while Duke was in New York, and the composition--with extraordinary song-like, disciplined ardor in Freddie Hubbard's solo and Duke's reflective statement--is one of the most affecting declarations of love in or out of jazz in recent recorded annals. It's as close to a flawless performance as one can find--one of those occasions when everything came together in exactly the right balance and everyone involved was powered by parallel memories of just this feeling of expectation.

The leaping "Los Malas Hombres," the bad men, was written by Duke about seven years before this recording. "It's not easy to play," Duke points out, "because it's in b flat minor and the kind of fingering required for the melody line presents difficulties to hornmen. That's where the title come from. Anybody who can play this is 'bad' in the sense that 'bad' in jazz means very good indeed. It's a 16-bar melody line, repeated, but the solo choruses are on the minor blues." There are hot, spare solos by Stanley Turrentine, Freddie Hubbard and James Spaulding who, I remain convinced, merits much wider recognition that he's yet achieved. Duke's solo--with its firmly controlled soaring quality--brings to mind a virtuoso ice skater.

"Scrap Iron," says Duke, is "an old, slow, funky, down-home blues. Back where I come from, 'scrap iron' is another name for moonshine or white lightning. And after you've had some of it, as this song says, you just sit around lazily because you can hardly walk. In fact, that stuff is so powerful you can get high just off the smell." Stanley Turrentine gets immediately into the root of the song and of jazz, telling as basic a story as you can find. Then, playing a light wind over the waves set up by the horns, Duke too speaks his emotional truth.

The final "Rotary"--all the songs are by Pearson--is a 3-bar tune in 6/4. The first 3-bar phrase is repeated, a second 3-bar phrase is repeated, and then there's a return to the original 3-bar phrase which is repeated. Hence the title. Rather Monkish in quality, the song finds emphatic interpreters in Hubbard, Spaulding, Garnett Brown on trombone, Stanley Turrentine, and the crystalline leader.

Looking back on the date, Duke noted how good the rhythm section felt. "Grady Tate," he said, "has the ability, because of his experience with big groups, to make any unit sound larger, and that's what he did here. As for Gene Taylor, he is strong. Jerry Dodgion is an excellent lead, and really rounded out the reed section. As for Stanley Turrentine, we really needed him for his fire and emotion. And Spaulding, as I've said before, also communicates that emotional force which makes a basic difference in what's happening. What more can you say about Freddie Hubbard? He's a trumpet player who always fits. And Garnett Brown, in his solo and in his ensemble work, gave us a lot of punch. He's sharp, crisp, a very articulate cat at all times."

In sum, Duke chose for this session musicians with characteristics specifically relevant to his own criteria for music--crisp articulation; fire tha's channeled, not wasted; and a virile, unostentatious lyricism. This is music which is so basic in terms of its clarity, warmth, and melodic directness that it doesn't date. No matter what trends succeed each other, this remains an island of sunny order.

--NAT HENTOFF, from the liner notes.

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