Booker Little on Pure Pleasure
Jazz was teeming with new sounds in 1961—most notably Ornette Coleman’s “free jazz,” with its rejection of conventional chord structures—and Little was pursuing a different sound still. His tone was plangent but soulful, and his compositions were rich with stacked harmonies and dark minor intervals that conveyed a sweet melancholy. His rhythms were complex—driving, restless, with shifting tempos, yet ceaselessly swinging.
Nothing in jazz sounded quite like this, and nothing would for another 33 years, when Dave Douglas renewed Little’s legacy (his 1994 masterpiece, In Our Lifetime, was explicitly a Booker Little tribute-alum). But Douglas, who remains our most vital living trumpeter, could not enjoy the uncanny sextet on Out Front, including Eric Dolphy on reeds, hot off his own “out” albums (Outward Bound and Out There), dashing through arpeggios with Charlie Parker’s graceful energy and Ornette’s piercing tone; and Max Roach on drums, playing off and against Little’s time-shifts, bringing in novel elements (like the tympani), splitting the rhythms like atoms and thereby astronomically boosting the energy.
Engineer Bob d’Orleans’ sonics, like that of many Candids from the day, are exceptional: not quite as airy as the best Rudy Van Gelders on Blue Note, Impulse!, or Verve; nor as tonally true as Fred Plaut’s uncredited wonders on Columbia; but just a notch below.
Pure Pleasure Records is distributed in the U.S. by Acoustic Sounds.