LARRY YOUNG Unity (Blue Note)
Another ensemble that makes a joyful noise out of all proportion to its size, the quartet on this 1965 session includes trumpeter Woody Shaw (who also writes half of its six tunes), saxophonist Joe Henderson and drummer Elvin Jones. It’s organist Young who contributes the most, musically, though. Playing rhythm and bass lines simultaneously as well as the inevitable solo spots, he does the work of three men here, evidenced by a version of “Monk’s Dream” on which he’s accompanied solely by Jones, in which you’d never notice the lack of other musicians. His multitasking musicianship might also explain the tight-knit togetherness of the group’s sound here, reflected in the album’s title.
“Zoltan” begins and ends by quoting Zoltan Kodaly’s “Harry James Suite”; in between it gets funky with a Latin lilt. “If” models a jabbering, choppy solo from Young. The highlight for me, though, is “Softly As A Morning Sunrise”. The version of this Hammerstein tune that closes “In Person: Saturday Night At The Blackhawk, Complete” is my favourite performance on any Miles Davis album (ironically enough one that doesn’t include the trumpeter) so it’s fascinating to hear another perspective on it, especially Henderson’s high-strung one note soloing, which anticipates some of Neil Young’s more, uh, rudimentary guitar work.
A Scorpio pressing, “Unity” has a dense, muggy sound with barely any breathing space between the musicians. No doubt Music Matters or Analogue Productions could work wonders with this music, but this version is merely a better-than-nothing option for those who prefer their vinyl factory fresh.