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At The Half Note Cafe (1960)

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Lex Humphries

This 2004 remastered Rudy Van Gelder edition of Donald Byrd's At the Half Note Cafe (the original double-disc version was only issued for the first time in 2000) appears to add one extra track -- "Theme (Pure D. Funk)," which clocks in at 1:51 and is also on the second volume in its full form, and a slightly shorter version of "Cecille." Here it clocks it at 12:52; on the 2000 issue it was 14:46. The sequence has also been altered slightly. The real deal is that, while this is the live date showcasing the Byrd quintet with Pepper Adams (and with Duke Pearson, Lex Humphries, and Laymon Jackson in the rhythm section), there is little here to make this worth purchasing yet again if you have the previous set. The sound is only marginally better -- and is likely only to be noticed by audiophiles. However, if you don't have the originals, this is one of the most essential hard bop purchases in the canon. The performances of Pearson -- of his own four tunes, five by Byrd, and the standards -- showcase his improvisational acumen at its height. His soloing on studio records pales in comparison. This was a hot quintet, one that not only swung hard, but possessed a deep lyricism and an astonishing sense of timing, and one need only this set by them to feel the full measure of their worth. Forget the Riverside date that caught them live early on; this is the one. ~ Thom Jurek