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The Sermon! (1958)

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Curtis Fuller

The seven sides on The Sermon! (1958) come from a pair of studio dates, the first of which was held August 25, 1957 and includes Jimmy Smith (organ), Lee Morgan (trumpet), George Coleman (alto sax), Curtis Fuller (trombone), Eddie McFadden (guitar), Kenny Burrell (guitar) and Donald Bailey (drums). This was followed by a second exactly six months (to the day) later on February 25, 1958. Along with Smith, present and accounted for during the session were Lou Donaldson (alto sax) replacing Coleman in addition to contributions from Tina Brooks (tenor sax) and the ubiquitous Art Blakey (drums). From the '57 confab are the popular music standards "S'Wonderful" and "Blue Room". The former is given an unhurried mid-tempo workout as Morgan banters sublime licks with McFadden. Fuller's full round tones effortlessly manoeuvre "Blue Room" with the intimate trio of Bailey and Smith in support. The real essence can be heard in the variety of styles utilized in the latter gathering. An emotive "Lover Man" is punctuated by Donaldson's fluid leads behind Smith's heartfelt changes. This is sharply distinguished by the longer jams featuring Burrell, Blakey and mighty impressive blows throughout from Morgan and Brooks. They ride hard on the Bird classics "Confirmation" and an intense "Au Privave". Brooks' solos are much of the reason why each excels with such bop finesse and are best experienced rather than simply read about. "Flamingo" is a sumptuous ballad that allows Morgan and Burrell to trade some laid back lines within the context of an unencumbered rhythm section. Whether upgrading the mid ‘80s CD or discovering the platter for the first time, The Sermon! is a prime example of Smith and company's myriad of talents. ~ Lindsay Planer