With Music Matters and Acoustic Sounds releasing choice titles as 45rpm double-LP sets and Classic Records continuing its own exhaustive schedule featuring the company's Quiex SV-P vinyl, it seems like every other reissued LP that hits the market nowadays is a Blue Note. Keep 'em coming, I say, because the results speak for themselves, especially as the prices of original Blue Note LPs creep ever higher.
Though released separately, the two Blue Lights volumes comprise a rare Blue Note double-length release. Both were recorded in May 1958 and feature a deep lineup of stars and near stars, including Tina Brooks on sax, Bobby Timmons on piano and the inestimable Art Blakey on drums. Though Kenny Burrell is listed as the leader, he's more of a headliner, though his silky guitar is certainly not prominent -- no one's playing on these jam sessions is. While "Autumn in New York" is essentially a Burrell solo number, it is followed by "Caravan," a workout for all of the musicians. If anyone steals the show it's Louis Smith, whose tone sounds a little like Miles Davis's. A trumpeter turned academic, Smith led two Blue Note sessions in the late 1950s and then retired from performing to teach at the University of Michigan. He made a comeback in the 1990s. Here's hoping those two early recordings -- Here Comes Louis Smith and Smithville -- make it onto Classic Records' reissue docket.
The sound of both Blue Lights volumes is easy-going, even demure. The stereo spread is extreme -- horns and guitar in the left channel, piano, bass and drums in the right, with nothing happening in between. Inexplicably, Burrell's guitar floats outside the left speaker at times. Surfaces are very quiet, except for some scratchiness in the lead-out groove.
The Andy Warhol line drawing on the cover of both LPs hints at what's inside -- graceful, direct playing touched with creative spirit. We all have room for more Blue Notes, don't we?
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