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December 1997

Donald Byrd
At the Half Note Café, Volumes 1 & 2
Blue Note Records

Long before trumpeter Donald Byrd was known as Professor Byrd he could be found playing jazz in clubs with groups like the one here. These two CDs capture his quintet-Pepper Adams, baritone sax; Duke Pearson, piano; Laymon Jackson, bass and Lex Humphries, drums-on a Friday night in November 1960 gigging at New York City's Half Note. Like Mulligan's quartet with Chet Baker, the use of the baritone sax gives this combo a focus quite different from the standard trumpet and alto/tenor quintet.

Although Byrd and Adams play well off each other, this gig didn't quite strike the kind of sparks one might expect; however, it does have its moments-Pearson, in particular, is a revelation. Four extra tunes on the original LPs add some 40 minutes of music.

Originally published in December 1997
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