Larry Young, In Paris: The ORTF Recordings

If this doesn't wind up as the year's archival jazz find, I can't wait for the treasure that beats it. In Paris: The ORTF Recordings (on the Resonance Records label) is dazzling, riveting stuff—previously unissued sessions by Larry Young, made during a brief stay in Paris, from December 1964 to February 1965, just before his string of Blue Note albums established him as the modern innovator on the Hammond B-3 organ.

A two-disc set (available on CDs and LPs), it documents the innovation already underway, with Young more upfront, his solos more elaborate and daring, than the future Blue Notes, which gave more prominence to his sidemen (granted, they were quite the sidemen: Elvin Jones, Joe Henderson, Sam Rivers, Hank Mobley, Woody Shaw, among others).

Shaw plays a major role in these Paris sessions too, but more as an equal collaborator, he and Young (only four years his senior) having grown up together in Newark. As the album's extremely informative booklet recounts, Shaw had come to Paris in 1964 to join Eric Dolphy's band. When Dolphy died of diabetic shock, Shaw stuck around, playing trumpet with Nathan Davis, a Kansas City tenor saxophonist who'd resettled in France. Just 20 years old and homesick, he persuaded Davis to bring over Young and their drummer friend, Billy Brooks. It's this resulting quartet that went into the studios of Radio-Television France and cut most of the tracks on Disc 1. (Disc 2 consists of two live performances at the French Academy of Jazz, also just recently discovered.)

Young was the first musician who took the Hammond B-3 off the soul-groove circuit and took it in a modal direction, influenced by John Coltrane, and, while there's still a soulful punch, there's also a spry freedom in his playing—jagged and jubilant—unlike anything he did before or since. And Woody Shaw, maybe teed up by the reunion, blows with an ecstatic drive and a blistering post-bop virtuosity that ranks among his finest hours—and he laid down dozens of very fine hours. (His Mosaic boxed setsone of them out of print and hard to find—are a good place to do deep-binge exploring, though I'm also a particular fan of his work on Mal Waldron's underrated Seagulls of Kristiansund).

The 10 tracks on the ORTF recordings comprise a mix of originals by Young, Shaw, Davis, and a couple of their French collaborators, as well as a 14-minute excursion through Wayne Shorter's "Black Nile," which I would single out as the album's peak, except I think it's topped by the 20-minute firestorm on Shaw's "Zoltan" (better than the version on Young's Unity, his most celebrated Blue Note album, recorded later that year). Both are among the live tracks on Disc 2.

Another cause for wonderment: the sound quality on these discs is extraordinarily fine: the horns dynamic and vibrant, the drum kit crackling, the B3 billowing with air. The LPs, mastered from high-rez digital files by Bernie Grundman and pressed on 180-gram vinyl at RTI, heaves more space around the horns; the CDs catch a bit more slam from the drum kit.

Young and Shaw were both tragic figures. Young died in 1978, at age 38, of unknown causes, after being hospitalized with stomach pains. Shaw died in 1989, at age 44, of kidney failure. This album unearths what may be their greatest work. Buy it.

COMMENTS
fetuso's picture

Thanks! Just ordered the cd's from Amazon for $18.99. Thought about the vinyl, but it was pricey and for that kind of dough I like to stick to AAA if possible.

michaelavorgna's picture

You can get the 24/96 download from HDtracks.

fetuso's picture

Thanks, Michael. I noticed in Fred's review that he mentioned the vinyl was mastered by BG using a high res file. I only got into vinyl about 6 months ago. I'm a big fan of Blue Note jazz and I got frustrated by what I think is the sub par sound of the Van Gelder CD remasters. So I've been busily collecting from Ebay and other sources a lot of Blue Note vinyl from Music Matters, Analogue Productions, and some older vinyl releases. I bought a couple of Blue Note 75th anniversary pressings that were also mastered from high res files and I wasn't happy with the sound. On the other hand, I love the sound of the AAA pressings. So as a way of managing expenses I decided that I would only splurge for vinyl if it's AAA. I have purchased several Analogue Productions SACD Blue Note titles and they sound excellent. Of course these are just my subjective observations and should not be taken as gospel :)

michaelavorgna's picture

Enjoy!

fetuso's picture

The cd arrived this afternoon (I love Amazon). Got a chance to listen to disc 1 this evening and it sounds great. If all music on cd were produced as nicely as this I would have never bothered with a turntable. It's got plenty of dynamic range. I was able to turn up the volume and there was no harshness, no etching, just great sound. As for the music I really enjoyed it also. I don't like to say to much about something I've only listened to once, but it was upbeat and accessible. My son was even dancing to some of it.

michaelavorgna's picture

...is as good a response as it gets!

John Atkinson's picture
When I was living in England in the early 1970s, a local hall advertised on a Friday that Tony Williams Lifetime would be playing Saturday. Had to catch the gig and what a band - TW on drums, John McLaughlin on guitar, Jack Bruce on bass guitar, and Larry Young on Hammond. A wonderful night's music making!

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

michaelavorgna's picture

...wow, wish I had been there.

John Atkinson's picture
michaelavorgna wrote:
...wow, wish I had been there.

I found some on-line references to the gig, which was on 11/20/1970 in Welwyn Garden City, with Google:

www.charliegillett.com/bb/viewtopic.php?f=54&t=23334
www.jackbruce.com/tours1.htm

Looks like it was part of a 6-week tour, though the later dates, including some in the US, were canceled.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Allen Fant's picture

Thanks! for sharing- JA