This Savoy double CD brings together in one package all of the label’s sessions led by Harden, a talented young musician who turned up briefly, disappeared and is presumed to have died in the 1960s. It includes several alternate takes, giving ample evidence of his attractiveness as a player. He wrote all the pieces, which are more substantial than the on-the-spot “compositions” of many Savoy sessions of the ’50s. Sometimes playing trumpet and sometimes rotary valve flugelhorn, he was capable of range, power and bursts of speed, but he built many of his solos on a base of restraint, lyricism and a certain wistfulness. Harden’s style seemed to owe something to Miles Davis, but it is a mistake to peg him, as some have done, as a Davis imitator or acolyte. In many of his solos here, he has a good deal in common with players like Tony Fruscella and Don Joseph. In others, he sounds only like Wilbur Harden. Coltrane was his front-line partner and foil in all three of his sessions in the spring of 1958. Trombonist Curtis Fuller was also on one date.
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