Donald Byrd, Herbie Hancock: Royal Flush

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It should strictly be Byrd, Hancock and Pepper Adams, because the gruff baritone man is also featured on all these tracks. Byrd fell from grace somewhat by turning to fusion, but the deserved revival has been belated and partial and he’s now (surely?) not regarded with the respect given to Lee Morgan and other hard-bop trumpeters. It’s hard to say why, because Byrd almost never delivered a dull, let alone a poor, performance.

These are the recordings made during 1961, right before the trumpeter and Hancock recorded Free Form with Wayne Shorter. What you hear on all these cuts is speed of thought, not so much reacting to what is happening round him but anticipating where he can make the next move, place the next phrase and change the direction of the whole. Hancock at this stage largely defers to him. While his accompaniment is impeccable and his own solos always full of interest, one senses that it’s Byrd’s group. Adams tends to breenge (good Scots word) through it all, without much attention to his environment, but his booting sound is integral to the group and one notices how much more ethereal the line up with Shorter was only a short time later.

The two albums packaged together are Royal Flush and Out Of This World, but there’s bonus material from The Cat Walk and a live version of Hush from a St Louis jazz club, which bookends the set rather nicely. Normally these compilations are overloaded with material, however welcome the documentation is, but this one actually passes rather quickly given its duration, and that’s testament to Byrd’s agility and the flow of ideas passing between the two principals.

The rhythm sections are good, too. Higgins is in imperious form on Royal Flush and Cobb is at his stately best on the other main record. Only Philly Joe overplays his hand and makes some of the Cat Walk material sound a bit brash. Great packaging with some wonderful photographs.

Discography
CD1: (1) Hush; I’m A Fool To Want You; Jorgie’s; Shangri La; 6 M’s; Requiem; (2) Out Of This World,; Curro’s; It’s A Beautiful Evening; Mr Lucky Theme (76.07)
CD2: Bird House; Day Dream; I’m An Old Cowhand; (3) Say You’re Mine; Duke’s Mixture; Each Time I Think Of You; The Cat Walk; Cute; Hello Bright Sunflower; (4) Hush (live) (77.14)

Byrd (t); Pepper Adams (bar); Hancock (p) on all tracks except CD2 4-9 when Hancock out; with (1) Butch Warren (b); Billy Higgins (d). Englewood Cliffs, NJ, September 1961. (2) Laymon Jackson (b); Jimmy Cobb (d); Teddy Charles on It’s A Beautiful Evening only). NYC, 1961. (3) Duke Pearson (p); Laymon Jackson (b); Philly Joe Jones (d). Englewood Cliffs, NJ, May 1961. (4) Hancock returns; Cleveland Eaton (b); Teddy Robinson (d). St Louis, MO, June 1961.
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