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Frank Foster: Soul Outing

It’s easy to forget about Frank Foster, but he ranks among the outstanding tenors of his generation. I remember a story about Foster cutting Coltrane and Rollins in a (presumably early ’60s) blowing session which I never quite believed, but the fact that it even circulated among serious listeners is evidence of the opinion that he hasn’t gotten his due. Foster doesn’t beat you over the head, and he’s not one of the great innovators, but he is completely his own man and brings a high level of artistry to every session he plays on. Part of the problem is that a lot of his work outside the Basie context has been in circumstances that aren’t the most challenging (his memorable meeting with Elmo Hope being a notable exception). Soul Outing is largely what the title suggests, but the session is saved from banality by Foster’s muscular horn, some good Virgil Jones trumpet, and a strong rhythm team featuring Pat Rebillot, Richard Davis, and Alan Dawson.

Hank Marr’s date is a straight-ahead organ jazz date, dedicated to Basie, who (lest we forget) pioneered the instrument. Foster is so at ease that you have to really tune in to appreciate what perfect melodic statements he spins out. Guitarist Cal Collins has some great solos, the opening “B Jam Shuffle” providing an excellent example, and drummer Jim Rupp deserves high praise for pushing things unobtrusively. Seven of eleven tracks are from Marr’s pen, and his lines are well above average.

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