Harold Land – Westward Bound! – Reel to Real RTR- LP- 006 – Two 180 gm LPs (limited edition of 1500 pressings) – 1962-1965 – ****
(Harold Land – tenor sax; Carmell Jones – trumpet; Buddy Montgomery, Hampton Hawes, or John Houston – piano; Monk Montgomery – bass on all tracks; Jimmy Lovelace, Mel Lee, or Philly Joe Jones – drums)
Reel to Real, a boutique jazz label owned by jazz saxophonist, Cory Weeds and Resonance Records co-owner, Zev Feldman, is issuing very special historical live recordings at The Penthouse jazz club in Seattle, featuring tenor saxist, Harold Land and three different dream line-ups, recorded over a three year period (1962-1965). These previously unreleased tracks were recorded in the club by engineer, Jim Wilke, who had a weekly local broadcast on KING-FM in the Emerald City. The tracks have been remastered by Kevin Gray at Cohearant Audio, and pressed on 180 gm vinyl by the Standard Vinyl company from Toronto. Wilke did an exemplary job live mixing from the Penthouse, and present day remastering gives the listener a live “in-the-club” auditory experience. Reel to Reel has issued prior Penthouse recordings from Cannonball Adderley, and Johnny Griffin/Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis. Now we have another find from the Penthouse vaults, unearthed by the “jazz detective,” Zev Feldman.
There will only be 1500 copies of the 2 LP set released on the next “Record Store Day,” June 12, but fans can get a CD version six days later. Both formats will receive printed interviews with Sonny Rollins and Joe Lovano extolling the talents of Mr. Land, as well as essays from Mosaic Records owner, Michael Cuscuna, and pianist, Eric Reed (who highlights the three pianists backing Harold.
Harold was a vastly under appreciated tenor saxophonist, who because he used Southern California as his home base, never received the accolades that the New York City reed players gained from jazz critics stationed there. Land was the original front line sax player of the Max Roach 1950s quintet that had the iconic trumpeter Clifford Brown, who made a big splash in his short lived recording period, before his tragic death at age 25 in a car accident. Land had to leave this group (replaced by Sonny Rollins), when his wife became pregnant, and needed Harold back home. In LA, Harold played and recorded with Gerald Wilson, as well as recorded some fantastic hard bop, and soul jazz sessions for Dick Bock at Pacific Records. Later Land recorded with another under appreciated talent, trumpeter, Blue Mitchell.
Harold Land was recognized by jazz artists back East, and when they came out west to play or relocate,, they were eager to play on live gigs with him. Thus, when Land had gigs in Seattle at The Penthouse, he had his pick of this talent. On these three dates (12/12/62, 9/17/64, and 8/5/65) there are three different pianists as well as drummers. The only constant member of all three gigs is Monk Montgomery, the brother to pianist Buddy, and jazz legend, guitarist, Wes. Monk’s beat is steady and always in the groove.
The three pianists, Buddy Montgomery, John Houston, and the gospel inflected, Hampton Hawes, primarily accompany Land, but get adequate time over extended length tracks to let their talents be shown. The drum chairs are handled by local, Mel Lee; John Houston, and most importantly, on the 1965 date by the legendary, Philly Joe Jones.
A real treat to me is the opening 1962 date that has three tracks that feature, trumpeter, Carmell Jones. Jones was out of Kansas City. He came out to the West Coast around this time period and made an immediate splash as a front line trumpet sensation. His records with saxist, Curtis Amy, are collectors items. He later moved to Germany for 15 years, before going back to Kansas City. His warm tone fit right in on both hard bop, and soul jazz recordings.
What stands out on these dates from Land is a bop feel with a harder edge than his later hard bop recordings. The opener, “Vendetta,” shows the bebop pulse in the front line of Land and Jones. Buddy Montgomery gets some space also. “Beepdurple” (how about that title?) from Carmell, has the two horns share lead, along with an intricate unison head. “Happily Dancing/Deep Harmonies Falling” is a re-purposed waltz done in 3 / 4 time, and more uptempo than you would expect from its title.
The next date has Hampton Hawes on piano, a real treat to hear him “communicate” with Land. “My Romance” has Hawes bringing a Bill Evans “feel,” while Land has a melodic solo. and Montgomery’s bass and Mel Lee, setting a fine groove. “Triplin’ the Groove” has Hampton and Land doing just that and all is good in Seattle that evening.
The Philly Joe sessions are a step up in drumming, with Philly known for driving a group to up their ante. “Autumn Leaves” gets a workout with Jones being a gentle but insistent taskmaster for Land, who responds in kind. We get a breather on the ballad, “Beau-Ty” with Harold showing his gentle side.
The closer, “Blue N Boogie,” a Dizzy Gillespie tune, at only 2:47, is strictly a feature for Philly Joe’s talents.
On these tracks done over three years, Harold Land deftly shows that he was the head honcho of West Coast tenor saxists, with only Teddy Edwards as his chief competition. The addition of Carmell Jones, and legends, Hampton Hawes, and Philly Joe Jones, only sweetens the pot for a recommended purchase for jazz vinyl aficionados.
LP One, Side 1:
LP One, Side 2:
Happily Dancing/ Deep Harmonies Falling (8:38)
My Romance (10:38)
LP Two, Side 1:
Triplin’ the Groove (11:07)
Autumn Leaves (11:27)
LP Two, Side 2:
Who Can I Turn To (4:54)
Blue n’ Boogie (2:47)
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