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Donald Byrd: At the Half Note Café, Volumes 1 & 2

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Long before trumpeter Donald Byrd was known as Professor Byrd he could be found playing jazz in clubs with groups like the one here. These two CDs capture his quintet-Pepper Adams, baritone sax; Duke Pearson, piano; Laymon Jackson, bass and Lex Humphries, drums-on a Friday night in November 1960 gigging at New York City’s Half Note. Like Mulligan’s quartet with Chet Baker, the use of the baritone sax gives this combo a focus quite different from the standard trumpet and alto/tenor quintet.

Although Byrd and Adams play well off each other, this gig didn’t quite strike the kind of sparks one might expect; however, it does have its moments-Pearson, in particular, is a revelation. Four extra tunes on the original LPs add some 40 minutes of music.