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Us Three (1960)

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George Tucker

On this recording made in 1960 during his tenure with Lou Donaldson, pianist Horace Parlan is situated nicely alongside bassist George Tucker and drummer Al Harewood. The trio had its own gig on Sundays at Minton's in Harlem, and had established a repertoire and reputation for being able to lay down both hard bop and soul-jazz stylings with equal verve. (And yeah, that jazz/hip-hop group from the 1990s was named after this disc.) The proceedings here are straight-ahead with some cool soul-jazz touches. Parlan's "Wadin'" moves the off-minor key of "Wade in the Water" and funkifies the rhythm, paraphrasing and improvising as the rhythm section struts it out. On the title track, there is a gorgeous lilt in his playing that corresponds to a behind-the-beat walk by Tucker that makes Harewood slip and shimmy constantly on the cymbals with his brushes. There and on "I Want to Be Loved" as well as "Return Engagement" (another Parlan original), something else starts to creep into his playing: the spacy, spare feel of Ahmad Jamal, who Parlan cited as a contemporary influence. The economy of touch, which stands in stark contrast to the hard bop he played with Donaldson and the energetic music he played with Mingus, is in some ways more complex harmonically, and more emotionally satisfying. This is a fine effort from an underappreciated trio. ~ Thom Jurek