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The Transition Sessions (1955)

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Horace Silver

This CD compilation collects three separate sessions recorded by Donald Byrd and Doug Watkins for Transition with various small groups. The 1955 recordings (first issued under the title Byrd's Eye View) were made shortly after Byrd replaced Kenny Dorham in the Jazz Messengers, all of whom (Horace Silver, Art Blakey, and Hank Mobley, along with Byrd and Watkins) are present, with the addition of local trumpeter Joe Gordon as a guest on two tracks. The half-dozen songs mix an improvised blues ("Doug's Blues"), a favorite from the swing era ("Crazy Rhythm"), a ballad feature for Byrd and Mobley ("Everything Happens to Me"), plus a pair of potent hard bop pieces contributed by the tenor saxophonist. The second session, recorded at engineer Stephen Fassett's Beacon Hill home, features two local musicians (pianist Ray Santisis and drummer Jimmy Zitano) joining Byrd and Watkins; it was first released as Byrd Blows on Beacon Hill. This set is heavily ballad-oriented, with the exception of the surprising choice of Joe Sullivan's "Little Rock Getaway." Byrd sits out both "People Will Say We're in Love" and "What's New." The final of the three sessions in this two-CD set marks the bassist's debut release (Watkins at Large), and it proves to be the most interesting. Hank Mobley, Kenny Burrell, Duke Jordan, and Art Taylor are on hand, with the music including a piece written for a 1953 movie soundtrack (Dmitri Tomkin's "Return to Paradise"), Thad Jones' pulsating "More of the Same," as well as originals contributed by both Burrell and Jordan. These three enjoyable but often overlooked studio dates from the early days of hard bop make this reissue well worth purchasing. ~ Ken Dryden