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Crate Digger’s Gold: Urbie Green – Señor Blues

February 28, 2016

If I find a CTI release I don’t own in decent condition and at a reasonable price (in this case $4 for an unopened/still in the cellophane copy) I am going to buy it. Even if I am unfamiliar with the artist. In this case I was familiar with Urbie having previous picked up his other CTI release The Fox. Señor Blues had the added bonus of Grover Washington Jr. being prominently featured as a sideman along with David Matthews’ Big Band.

It is not often that a jazz album is led by a trombone player. Urbie is considered a master of the instrument. He has magnificent tone and makes the bone a legitimate lead instrument.

The album opens with Chic Corea’s “Captain Marvel” which I am familiar with from the Stan Getz album of the same name. It is a great jazz song and offers ample opportunity for both Urbie and Grover Washington Jr. to solo. It is a very high energy song. When I first heard the song on the Getz album I could hear the seed of what would blossom into Corea’s Return To Forever (I came to RTF long before I came to Getz). Arrangers Matthew’s is no doubt pretty familiar with RTF and takes a big band twist on the RTF vibe.  Urbie’s bone sound is so sweet on this song. Washington dumps his light jazz persona and shreds on tenor. A perfect foil for Urbie. David Matthews’ big band arrangement is pure joy.

Next comes the Billy Preston ballad “You Are So Beautiful” made famous by Joe Cocker. It is a great opportunity to strip back the arrangement and to just let Urbie’s tone prevail. A bit sappy, but Urbie’s tone is so gorgeous you can’t help but forgive the dripping sentiment.

Mingus’ “Ysabel’s Table Dance” finishes of side one. This is a piece I was not familiar with so I had to Spotify it. It comes from an album called Tijuana Moods.  The original song has a south of the border feel, but it also has a Mediterranean/North African groove.  The Mingus original was more of a suite with some free jazz going on. Urbie’s cover is much easier, but by no means light weight.

Side two starts with the titular track – a Horace Silver song. Green’s version has a much more big band feel than the original. Grover Washington Jr. absolutely wails on this song. Green’s solo follows – almost duet with the bassist.

Next comes “I’m In You” a Peter Frampton song of all things. Urbie pulls out some pretty nifty melodies and funk from the unremarkable original.

The album ends on a funky note with a Stevie Wonder song. The basic groove is pretty loyal to the Wonder original, but Green’s bone replaces Wonder’s vocals. After a Green solo a young John Scofield takes his turn. Green steals back the solo to close out the song. Throughout there is a jamming horn section.

The album reminds me a lot of last year’s Kamasi Washington release with its mixture of jazz chops and pop sentiments. This is easy listening jazz without pandering or becoming lite. This is the reason I crate dig – to discover gems like this. Thanks to another great record sale from Jeffery!

Sorry no Spotify version – you are going to have to crate dig for this one. I have put together playlist of what I presume are the originals inspirations.   I have pulled together the bulk of the tracks I could find on You Tube too.

One Comment
  1. Very cool find. A good reason “to crate dig” like you say.

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