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Redd's Blues (1961)

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Jackie McLean

Redd's Blues didn't make it to LP until 1988 and CD until 2002 and that's a tip-off. It's a generic Blue Note disc, journeyman in the sense of not offering any great revelation, no undiscovered "shoulda-been-a-standard" composition, nothing to supplant The Connection as the first Freddie Redd disc to look for or add any greater luster to his welterweight reputation. The sextet lineup reads better than it plays -- it's perfectly adequate, but no one sounds inspired except for trumpeter Benny Bailey, who was back in the U.S. for a handful of recording dates. Jackie McLean's tart tone is immediately recognizable on the up-tempo opener "Now," with a solid groove from Paul Chambers and drummer Sir John Godfrey, the latter fond of Art Blakey bombs that aren't obtrusive. He's miked very high, so every stick click and cymbal sizzle is audible, which may account for why Tina Brooks' tenor never sounds more than just present in the room. Redd is a pretty fundamental player, with a bluesy feel lurking close beneath the surface that comes out on "Old Spice" and some nicely down-home soloing on the light, springy "Blues for Betsy" following Bailey's opening solo blast. But Chambers' arco solo discordantly derails the momentum and some nice horn harmonies on the head to "Love Lost" is about the only other thing worth noting. It's puzzling why the performances are so lukewarm because McLean and Brooks were well familiar with Redd's music, Chambers is Chambers, and Bailey is probably the most impressive player here apart from the leader. Great labels have their uninspired sessions, too, and Redd's Blues sounds like one of those off-days where the music just came out sounding generic and lifeless. ~ Don Snowden