Sahib Shihab: And The Danish Radio Jazz Group

Long out of print 1965 set, remastered by Kevin Gray and meticulously packaged, is a fitting testament to Shihab's creativity and musicianship

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Sahib Shihab’s career stretched over four decades and saw him play and record with some of the biggest names in jazz including Art Blakey, John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk. But he was perhaps best known for his membership of the Kenny Clarke / Francy Boland Big Band with whom he recorded around 20 albums.

Born Edmund Gregory in Georgia, 23 June 1925, he was one of the musicians featured in the famous photograph A Great Day in Harlem, taken by Art Kane on 12 August 1958. Shihab quit the United States and moved first to Sweden and then in 1964 to Denmark where he worked for Copenhagen Polytechnic whilst writing scores for various media. Copenhagen was also where he recorded with the Danish Radio Jazz Group.

Di-Da opens with a walking bass, wry Ellingtonian single-note piano and dulcet vibes, building with the ensemble and followed by solos from Bent Jædig on tenor, Palle Mikkelborg on trumpet and Shihab on baritone. Not Yet features a short solo from bassist Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen. Tenth Lament, the longest piece and a veritable earworm, takes the form of a three-part composition, opening with a wistful filmic intro followed by a lively middle section featuring Shihab on baritone and a moody reprise of the initial theme.

Mai Ding starts with a vocal call to arms by Shihab who is then heard on cowbell before the ensemble enters with a 16-bar blues with a catchy tail that bears a passing resemblance to Herbie Hancock’s Watermelon Man; Shihab solos here on baritone, the instrument with which he is most associated. However, demonstrating his talent isn’t limited to baritone, Shihab evinces a brief ebullient flute solo on Harvey’s Tune. The finale, Little French Girl, sees Shihab contributing winsome Nat Cole-esque vocals.

This set has been long out of print except for a Japanese reissue in 2001; copies of the original 1965 Oktav release command astronomical prices, ranging between £1500 and £3500. This Sam Records release is painstakingly and meticulously produced with Oktav logos, artwork, Danish and English sleeve notes and a perfectly laminated cover. It’s remastered from the 1965 tapes by Kevin Gray and so the sonic quality is faultless. This vinyl-only release, replete with Shihab’s memorable, finely crafted compositions, is a magnificent and fitting testament to this most inventive of players.

Discography
Di-Da; Dance Of The Fakowees; Not Yet; Tenth Lament; Mai Ding; Harvey’s Tune; No Time For Criers; The Crosseyed Cat; Little French Girl (36.47)
Shihab (cond, bar, f, pc, v); Palle Bolvig, Palle Mikkelborg, Allan Botschinsky (t, flh); Poul Hindberg (as, cl); Bent Jædig (ts, f, cl); Niels Husum (ss, ts, bcl); Bent Nielsen (bar, f, cl); Ib Renard (bar); Torolf Mølgaard (tu, eu); Svend Åge Nielsen (tb, btb); Poul Kjældgård (tu, tb, btb); Louis Hjulmand (vib); Fritz von Bülow (elg); Bent Axen (p); Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen (b); Alex Riel (d). Copenhagen, 18 & 21 August, 1965.
Sam Records SRLP30