Walter Davis, Jr. – Davis Cup – Blue Note ST-84018/ Analogue Productions stereo-only SACD CBN 84018 SA (1960) 38:09 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] *****:
(Walter Davis, Jr., piano; Donald Byrd, trumpet; Jackie McLean, alto sax; Sam Jones, bass; Art Taylor, drums
Davis Cup has long been one of my favorite Blue Note classic hard bop sessions. Recorded in 1960, it featured a front line of Donald Byrd and Jackie McLean, both at their hard bop peak. Walter Davis, Jr. had a sporadic career, recording only eight albums as a leader between 1960 and 1989. He passed away in 1990. He had two stints with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, and had long periods between recordings, as he also worked as a tailor.
Davis Cup was his high water point and it came at the beginning of his recording career. It was nearly 20 years before his next chance to lead a recording session. Davis wrote all the tracks on this CD and it is hard bop heaven.
“Smake It” opens the album and it smokes immediately. The horns crackle with energy, and Davis kicks in with sparkling piano lines while Byrd and McLean are at the top of their game. In 1960, Donald Byrd was hot, and equal to Freddie Hubbard and Lee Morgan in power, brashness, and his trumpet tone simply pops with verve and excitement. Jackie McLean keeps right up and digs in on his solos. Art Taylor’s drum solo on this track is well-recorded. What a start to the session…
“Loodle-Lot” lets Donald and Jackie blend on the intro before Jackie steps up with his bluesy astringent tone. Davis follows with a steady easy-going solo, just right for the proceedings. Byrd then kicks his solo into overdrive. The next tune, “Sweetness,” is… a beautiful ballad played with restraint and without need for show boating. Byrd’s solo mid track is spot on with mid range lyricism.
“Rhumba Nhumba” takes us to the islands, and Art Taylor’s percussive stick work adds to the Caribbean feel. Jackie’s solo here shines as well. “Minor Mind” lets Byrd and McLean blend together in synchronicity, while Davis’ solo, again low key, but fitting in with the song’s mood. “Millie’s Delight” closes out this hard bop heaven set with another vehicle for Jackie and Donald to show their bona fides.
I found this Analogue Productions SACD to rise to the top of their Blue Note re-issue series. Kudos to Kevin Gray and Steve Hoffman for a brilliant SACD remastering. Every instrument’s mix is spot on and the soundstage is wide with flawless acoustics. This session was made for SACD treatment, and I highly recommend purchase of Davis Cup. It will be money well spent….
TrackList: ‘Smake It, Loodle-Lot, Sweetness, Rhumba Nhumba, Minor Mind, Millie’s Delight
Mack Avenue Records released a stunning live album!