Harold Vick – Don’t Look Back – Strata East/PurePleasure 

by | Jun 19, 2018 | Jazz CD Reviews

Continuing the Strata East tradition…

Harold Vick – Don’t Look Back – Strata East/PurePleasure SES-7431 – audiophile 180 gm vinyl – 1974 – ****:

(Harold Vick – tenor sax, flute, bass clarinet, soprano sax; Virgil Jones – trumpet and flugelhorn; George Davis – alto flute, guitar; Kiane Zawadi – euphonium; Joe Bonner – piano, Fender Rhodes, tuba, percussion; Sam Jones – bass; Billy Hart – drums, percussion; Jimmy Hops – percussion)

Strata East was a black musician owned jazz label started by Charles Tolliver and Stanley Cowell in the 1970s. The label produced over fifty albums during this period. A unifying factor to most all of their issues was an assertive, spiritual, post bop modal African influence. There was a lot of percussion used, and the musicians were deeply involved with interplay, as opposed to comping behind the soloist. Standards were minimized, and the session leaders both composed and arranged their own material.

Multi instrumentalist, Harold Vick, recorded for the label in 1974, after having been with Blue Note, Muse, and RCA. His first album from 1963, Steppin’ Out, was a classic Blue Note hard bop release and featured an all star line-up with Blue Mitchell, Grant Green, John Patton, and Ben Dixon. Its quality was a primary reason for its inclusion in Blue Note’s Connoisseur series. At that time, Harold was primarily known as a tenor saxophonist. He later expanded to flutes and clarinets.

Vick had a full bodied tone on tenor associated with Texas tenors, but with an affinity for blues. For his Strata East issue, Vick continued with this pattern, but also embraced post bop tendencies with a freer sound. Harold’s flute playing has an ethereal quality that makes the spiritual Afro based themes striking. Both the assertive and the gentle sides are explored.

Sidemen are top notch with trumpeter Virgil Jones and the rhythm section of pianist, Joe Bonner, and veterans, bassist Sam Jones, and drummer, Billy Hart, providing support. The addition of Kiane Zawadi on euphonium on three tracks brings a robust bottom end, much like Zawadi provided to Hank Mobley on Blue Note.

The title cut highlights the septet’s ensemble blend. Vick’s arranging abilities are put to full use, both here and throughout all six cuts. Harold also produced this session and wrote all the compositions.

“Melody for Bu” brings Harold’s prowess on flute to the forefront. The hard charging “Senor Zamora” provides a high intensity opportunity for all the horns to free blow and it is an excellent example of the Strata East sound from that period.  “Stop and Cop” is a heavy blend of percussion from the entire rhythm section plus guest, Jimmy Hops. “Lucille” was written for Vick’s grandmother in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Vick was raised in this same small town, as was Thelonious Monk. This track is the most straight ahead of any on the session. “Prayer” at under a minute is a spiritual ending as a duo with Joe Bonner on Fender Rhodes. Vick provides layers of flutes, soprano sax, and bass clarinet.

Fans of the Strata East label will find lots to like on this release. As usual, the remastering by Ray Staff at AIR Studios in London, helps bring out the warm acoustics that make PurePleasure re-issues so special.

Side A:  Don’t Look back, Melody for Bu, Senor Zamora
Side B:  Stop and Cop, Lucille, Prayer

—Jeff Krow

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