BOOKER LITTLE Out Front (Pure Pleasure)


As with "The Blues And The Abstract Truth" considered below, this 1961 recording is the product of one of those accidental jazz supergroups where the star power of the supporting cast - whether at the time or acquired subsequently it's a bit difficult to determine from this end of the time trumpet - outshines that of the headliner, with Max Roach on drums, vibes and tympani, Eric Dolphy playing practically anything he can blow a note through and bassist Ron Carter, a future veteran of Miles Davis' second great quintet. Undoubtedly, though, Little's death at the tragically young age of 23 explains his relative obscurity today.


This is certainly a more, um, angular record than "The Blues And The Abstract Truth", without quite leaping both feet first into skronky avant-garde inaccessibility. "Moods In Free Time", as promised by its title, emphasises how fractured these pieces can be, breaking down into what could be interpreted as weeping in its mid-section. It makes the regular rhythms of Miles Davis' contemporaneous work look kinda square. Nevertheless, there's something of a "Sketches Of Spain" mood around the keening "Man Of Words".


There's at least a soupcon of what I'm going to call melodic cryptography here, an attribute shared with what little of the work of Andrew Hill I've heard, in which compositions that appear attractively conventional when heard from a distance become increasingly more complex and inscrutable the more attention they're paid. Perhaps, though, that condemns "Out Front" to impress rather than enchant; easier to marvel at than to enjoy, its clever, complex structures aren't particularly memorable or emotionally engaging.


The sound on Pure Pleasure's limited edition 180 gram vinyl reissue is gorblimey marvellous, the moment when Roach breaks out the kettle drums during "We Speak" being particularly stunning. It's a testament to the quality of the original recording, now nearly 50 years old, simply captured to two-track tape.