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Sonny Red: Red, Blue and Green

Sonny Red was one of legions of Detroit hard boppers who migrated to New York during the ’50s. Though largely forgotten nowadays, Red was one of the better altoists in the style. He had his own routes through the waters originally navigated by Admiral Parker, aided by a distinctive alto tone that could be acerbic on the blues and unashamedly direct on ballads. He didn’t shy away from pretty pop tunes, though Mancini’s “Moon River” hadn’t been muddied that often by 1961. Considerable interest is created by the different lineups used, with players like Barry Harris, Cedar Walton, Blue Mitchell and Jimmy Cobb in the mix. The quintet pairing Red with guitarist Grant Green on the front line is especially noteworthy. This isn’t the hardest of hard-bop recordings-Red’s reading of “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered” is downright romantic-but the fact that it doesn’t exactly conform to the model enhances its appeal.

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