The Red Garland Quintet
[Rudy Van Gelder Remasters]
First Appeared in The Music Box, September 2007, Volume 14, #9
Written by John Metzger
Sat September 8, 2007, 06:00 AM CDT
In the months that preceded the session that produced Soul Junction, which was held in November 1957, Red Garland, John Coltrane, and Arthur Taylor each had been ousted, one by one, from Miles Davisí quintet. Coltrane was let go when his drug habit had made him too unreliable, while Taylor ó who had been tapped to replace Philly Joe Jones ó was dismissed for having had the audacity to develop his own style of playing. As for Garland, his firing remains somewhat of a mystery, though it very well might have been because of his long history and nearly telepathic connection with Taylor. Perhaps, Davis was simply unwilling to risk that Garland would be unhappy within the context of whatever his new ensemble happened to be. Both Coltrane and Garland rejoined Davis the following spring when he began working on Milestones, but in the meantime, they flitted about the New York City jazz scene, frequently performing and recording together.
Coltrane, of course, was in the midst of embarking upon a solo career, and on albums like Traneing In and Stardust, he (with the help of Garland and Taylor) was deeply rooted in the process of learning how to lead a collective of his own. At the same time, Garland had put together his own quintet that ó in addition to Coltrane and Taylor ó included trumpeter Donald Byrd and bass player George Joyner, a pair of rapidly rising stars who had yet to establish themselves fully. As the five tracks that compose Soul Junction clearly demonstrate, the music that Garlandís outfit made flowed effortlessly from the musicians that he had assembled.
Where the quiet elegance of Duke Ellingtonís Iíve Got It Bad (and that Ainít Good) and the brassy firepower of Dizzy Gillespieís Woody íN You could have been delivered in a routine fashion, Garland and his outfit found ways of injecting them with an abundance of ideas. Elsewhere, Garlandís piano solo on Birksí Works skips merrily over the gently rocking rhythm that is laid down by Taylor and Joyner as Coltrane and Byrd accent his phrases with soft blasts of colorful punctuation. When itís his turn to take the lead, Coltrane paints blazing streaks of notes across the swinging groove. Wisely, Byrd doesnít try to match the saxophonistís explosive intensity; instead, he invokes an air of heady coolness. In a similar fashion, Hallelujah, the final cut on Soul Junction, is taken at a brisk pace. Bass and drums combine to form a nervously agitated undercurrent, and buzzing like bees around a hive, Garland, Byrd, and Coltrane take turns unleashing frenzied, almost manic leads.
The finest song on Soul Junction, however, is its title track. Not only is it the lone original composition to appear the set, but it also is impeccably performed. For the first half of its 15-minute journey, Garland is backed in an understated fashion by Joyner and Taylor, and as it darts and weaves over the lazy groove, his extended solo explores the blues from all angles. When Coltrane begins to blow, the sound he emits isnít full of bluster. Instead he offers a lovely, tenderhearted cry, the hazy dreaminess of which is pierced by Byrdís more forceful attack. Although the album doesnít come close to being as groundbreaking or monumental as other works with which Garland, Coltrane, Taylor, Byrd, and Joyner were associated, the purity of the music on the endeavor allows Soul Junction to achieve its own transcendence, one that exists outside the realm of the ensembleís obvious technical proficiency.
Other Rudy Van Gelder Remasters Releases
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
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