Jose Reyes

Jose Reyes

“The Mode” and about Sonny Red

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Sonny Red was right there with the new modal sound produced in the late 50’s but was overshadowed by the likes of Dexter Gordon, Jackie McLean and several others. Sonny managed to record 7 albums as a leader until 1962. He made numerous albums with others in the late 50’s but only one after 1962 and then came back strong in 67, when he accompanied Donald Byrd with several significant Jazz-Funk albums (“Mustang!”, “Slow Drag,” “Blackjack” and “The Creeper”). “The Mode” is a great example of his ability to play with the best of them. Grant Green joins him on guitar to make it more interesting. Great album, enjoy!

About the album:

In the early ’60s, modal improvisation was still controversial in the jazz world — not as controversial as free jazz, but controversial nonetheless. Some hard boppers found the modal breakthroughs of John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Yusef Lateef exciting and decided to take up modal playing themselves, while others vehemently disliked modality and refused to play anything but bop. Sonny Red was among those who opted to explore modal improvisation in the early ’60s, although the alto saxman never gave up the sort of fast, chordal, Charlie Parker-based bop he was known for. On 1961’s The Mode, Red fulfills both needs: the need to investigate modal playing and the need to deal with bop’s swift, demanding chord changes. Red is joined by Grant Green on guitar, Barry Harris or Cedar Walton on piano, George Tucker on bass, and Jimmy Cobb on drums, a team that handles chordal bop and modal post-bop equally well. Red is in good form on post-bop offerings like the title song….Read More

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Biography of Sonny Red:

The jazz gospel that was preached by Charlie Parker was deep and wide enough to have influenced legions of musicians. Sonny Red was born in Detroit, Michigan on December 17, 1932, and as an alto sax player he learned much from Parker, though like many he went on to form his own voice on the instrument during the course of his sadly brief career.

His first professional gig was with pianist Barry Harris, a fellow native of Detroit, in the late 1940s. 1954 found him working with both the trombonist Frank Rosolino, with whom he played tenor sax, and Art Blakey. Three years later he worked in New York with the trombonist Curtis Fuller, and recorded with him at that time.

Always a fluent soloist, Red succeeded in making a name for himself as a sideman, and in the late 1950s and early 1960s he built upon that reputation with albums under his own name for the Blue Note and Jazzland labels, for the latter of whom he recorded on more than one occasion.

Barry Harris and Cedar Walton split the piano duties on the LP The Mode, with Harris playing throughout the Images album, which proved to be Red’s last for the label. These albums find him mining Parker’s rich musical seam, whilst at the same time establishing his own instrumental voice, helped in no small part by a feeling for the blues which escaped many of his higher profile contemporaries. This and a certain languor in his phrasing kept his playing at some distance from the more incendiary approach of the likes of Cannonball Adderley and Sonny Criss.

On The Mode, Red’s theme statement and solo on Henry Mancini’s “Moon River”—hardly the likeliest of jazz vehicles—is a manifesto for his musical approach. Both are imbued with a level of good nature that’s hard to resist, especially when as here it’s accompanied by the obvious desire to communicate in an honest and unpretentious manner…….Read More

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