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Rollin' With Leo (1961)

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Leo Parker

Drugs and addictions defined most of Leo Parker's adult life, finally claiming it entirely in February of 1962 when he was only 36 years old. Only months earlier in 1961, in two sessions held on October 12 and October 20, Parker had played his heart out in what would have been his second album for Blue Note Records that year, and it had appeared that the baritone saxophonist was well on his way to a much deserved career comeback. The sessions, however, weren't released until almost 20 years later. Rollin' with Leo, presented here in remastered form, is a wonderful portrait of this unsung but brilliant player, whose huge, sad, but almost impossibly strong tone always felt like it carried the world on its shoulders. The centerpiece of Rollin' with Leo is the fascinating "Talkin' the Blues," which unfolds, nearly themeless, like a late-night conversation, ebbing and flowing exactly the way a conversation does, with Parker's baritone swinging back to gather notes, but always moving and stretching forward, expanding the conversation until it seems like everything that could be said HAS been said. Parker's death was tragic because he had so much more to say, and that makes this fine set all that more of a treasure. ~ Steve Leggett