Duke Pearson – The Duke Pearson Big Band/Baltimore 1969 – Uptown Records

by | Nov 5, 2013 | Jazz CD Reviews

Duke Pearson – The Duke Pearson Big Band/Baltimore 1969 – Uptown Records UPCD27.72, 79:26Audio Quality *** – Historical Significance ****:

(Duke Pearson – piano; Burt Collins, Joe Shepley, Donald Byrd, Jim Bossy – trumpet/flugelhorn; Julian Priester, Joe Forst, Eddie Bert – trombone; Kenny Rupp – bass trombone; Jerry Dodgion – alto sax, flute; Frank Foster, Lew Tabackin – tenor sax; Pepper Adams – baritone sax; Bob Cranshaw – acoustic and electric bass; Mickey Roker – drums)

Duke Pearson was a valuable all-around asset for Blue Note Records. In addition to recording for over ten years for the label, Duke also produced and arranged many of Blue Note’s releases during the 1960s. He also wrote for large groups and choir recordings, and was an able advisor to the label’s owner, Alfred Lion. His 1967-1968 big band recordings, Introducing Duke Pearson’s Big Band and Now Hear This have stood the test of time as swinging big band recordings with lots of hooks. They featured the cream of the crop from the Blue Note roster and New York session men. For this reason, I was quite pleased to hear about the issuance of the Duke Pearson Big Band at the Left Bank Jazz Society concert at the Famous Ballroom in Baltimore recorded on April 27, 1969. This CD released by Uptown Records is part of their Flashback Series, with material that is always previously unreleased.

Uptown should be proud of their liner notes as they are always complete and informative, usually so thick that it is difficult to squeeze them back in the standard jewel case. Such is the case with the Pearson issue with the exception that the photos are marginal quality at best, which Uptown freely admits.

The value of this Pearson release is the power and sophistication of Duke’s arrangements on what are primarily well known standards (though there are two of Duke’s tunes in addition to two Chick Corea compositions). In addition Duke’s band is top drawer featuring Donald Byrd, Burt Collins, Julian Priester, Jerry  Dodgion, Frank Foster, Lew Tabackin, and the inimitable Pepper Adams. The rhythm section of Bob Cranshaw and Mickey Roker are first rate as well.

It is a pleasure to single out Lew Tabackin from Frank Foster when the two of them are featured. On “In the Still of the Night,” it is a treat to hear Pepper Adams just rip apart at the seams this sometimes overwrought tune. The front line brass section, when let loose, are a pleasure to experience.

The disappointment, however, is typical of most of the Left Bank Jazz Society recordings… They sound, with limited exceptions, like they have been bootlegged recorded by someone ten to twenty rows back in the audience. Most of the instruments are badly miked , or even ignored in the mix. Every once in awhile, however, an artist steps up and the sound brightens considerably. Just not often enough, however. The salvation with Duke’s band is that their sheer power and prowess can overcome the poor recording enough to appreciate their considerable talents.

If you love your scratchy albums for the music they contain, and can appreciate the historical significance of the music and artists herein, then this CD is a worthy purchase. You won’t get audiophile sound, but you will get to hear a significant artist let his all-star group shine….

Hi-Fly, New Girl, Eldorado, In the Still of the Night, Tones for Joan’s Bones, Straight Up and Down, Ready When You are C.B., Night Song (Theme From Golden Boy)

—Jeff Krow

Related Reviews
Logo Autumn Hill Records Full Size
Logo Pure Pleasure