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Roy Eldridge: Decidedly

By his 64th year, the once mighty trumpeter Roy Eldridge had lost some of his dexterity but none of his fire. On Decidedly (Pablo), he heats up a live, previously unreleased 1975 performance at Antibes surrounded by fellow jazz giants. This is a Jazz at the Philharmonic kind of date: no fancy charts or stylized arrangements, just a flat-out jam session that brings out the best in these players. It’s an interesting, if sometimes odd choice of band mates, and Norman Granz is to be credited or blamed. Pianist Ray Bryant, for example, is all about feeling and is never far from the blues, even on a ballad like “Lover Man.” Tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin eats up the changes and spins high velocity bebop lines on the opening piece, occasionally triple-timing an already brisk tempo. “Bee’s Bloos” finds Eldridge attacking notes with short phrases and a raspy tone that’s as much about timbre as chord selection. Nobody plays more guitar in this kind of setting than Joe Pass, though that can be good or bad depending on your taste. Drummer Louie Bellson and bassist Niels-Henning _rsted Pedersen fit hand in glove and play their usual jaw-dropping solos, but the big surprise is a special guest appearance by Milt Jackson playing piano, not vibes, on “Hackensack.”

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