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Blue Note seldom ventured far from the spontaneity of small-group jazz, but they put special resources into this 1963 project, letting trumpeter Donald Byrd and arranger Duke Pearson achieve some stunning results with a septet and the voices of the Coleridge Perkinson Choir. Gospel and blues influences had become more prominent in jazz through the work of Horace Silver and Cannonball Adderley, but Byrd explored the connection further here, combining the rich and wordless voices with a potent rhythm section, fluent soloists, and his own brassily declarative trumpet in an authentic and compelling way. Donald Best's bell-like vibraphone and Kenny Burrell's soulful guitar further emphasize the music's wealth of associations. The moods vary from the declamatory power of "Elijah" to the deep blues of "Beast of Burden" and the luminous hymn of Pearson's celebrated "Cristo Redentor" (a little-recognized master of jazz composition, Pearson also wrote "Idle Moments" for a Grant Green session), but the tunes are all realized with energy and feeling. The band seems to take special inspiration from the choir's carpet of sound, and tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley and pianist Herbie Hancock also make substantial contributions. The session has always sounded fantastic, but Rudy Van Gelder's remastering has added even greater luster.
2) Beast of Burden
3) Cristo Redentor
4) The Black Disciple