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Larry Young: In Paris: The ORTF Recordings

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These 1960s European sessions capture organist Larry Young in a fruitful mid-period of his tragically short career: beyond the overt Jimmy Smith influences of his early material for Prestige, but not yet in the cosmic avant-jazz-rock orbit he would later deploy with the Tony Williams Lifetime, jamming with Jimi Hendrix or on criminally underrated discs like his prog-fusion gem Lawrence of Newark.

It was the era of Coltrane, and Young was appropriately enamored of Trane’s modal refinements, his straddle of hard-bop and postbop so that it flirts with the avant-garde, and, most specifically, the way Trane’s pianist, McCoy Tyner, utilized the pentatonic scale as a touchstone for extended improvisation. The best songs on In Paris showcase these Trane-friendly advances that Young would later utilize on various Blue Note recordings in the 1960s.

The In Paris booklet reveals that Young and drummer Billy Brooks were recruited to Paris at the insistence of trumpeter Woody Shaw, who had been invited over by saxophonist Nathan Davis on the recommendation of Eric Dolphy just before Dolphy’s death in 1964. Working as the Nathan Davis Quartet, they deliver scintillating versions of Davis’ “Trane of Thought” and Shaw’s “Beyond All Limits” and “Zoltan.” (Young and Shaw would reprise the latter two compositions on Young’s classic Unity album for Blue Note, with Trane drummer Elvin Jones and tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson replacing Brooks and Davis.) In Paris also includes two Young originals-“Talkin’ About J.C.,” with the Champs-Elysees All-Stars octet; and “Luny Tune,” in a trio with drums and congas-that were recorded on Grant Green’s Talkin’ About! when Young returned to the States later in 1964, again playing alongside Jones.

Other bonuses include the Davis Quartet digging into a 14-minute version of Wayne Shorter’s “Black Nile,” and Young sliding over to piano and slipping some Monk into “Larry’s Blues.” In all, In Paris is recommended not only for fans of Blue Note-era Larry Young but also for acolytes of Shaw, who plays with the passion of a prodigy barely out of his teens. And the quality of the recording, captured at the Office of Radio Television France, is first-rate.

Originally Published