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Blue Mitchell: The Complete Blue Note Sessions (1963-67)

Blue was the perfect nickname for Richard Mitchell. Bright or soft, his tone had a wistfulness about it, and his improvisations inclined toward the harmonic implications of the blues even when he worked with sophisticated material. His trademarks were calm, assurance, and relaxation. They were welcome in an era heavily populated with trumpet players bent on exploiting the instrument’s capacity for bravura proclamation.

Mitchell’s career with Riverside Records, from 1958 to 1963, coincided with his membership in the Horace Silver Quintet. His own recordings of that period and those with Silver trace the growth of confidence that resulted in a blooming of his lyricism, swing, and narrative ability. By the time of his first Blue Note session, when he was still with Silver, he was a skilled storyteller. With bassist Gene Taylor and drummer Roy Brooks from the Silver band, Mitchell used pianist Herbie Hancock and two saxophonists, Joe Henderson on tenor and altoist Leo Wright. Henderson brought in a new tune, “Mamacita,” that would become a classic, and demonstrated why the originality of his playing generated enthusiasm in the New York jazz community. Mitchell’s solos on “Sweet and Lovely” and “Cry Me A River” are examples of the maturity and sweetness of his ballad playing.

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