Blue Note

Menu

The Finest In Jazz Since 1939
High Fidelity


Undercurrent (1960)

Releases

Back to
Louis Hayes

Kenny Drew's seventh recording as a leader is significant for many reasons, not the least of which that it is one of the finest Blue Note hard bop statements in either of their catalogs. Teamed with rising young star, trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, and the wonderful tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley fresh off stints with Donald Byrd and Art Blakey, Drew is joining the ranks of the premier mainstream jazz pianists just prior to moving permanently to Europe. He's a complementary piece of the puzzle as a player, but stirs the drink as the composer of all of these very fine hard bop vehicles. Bassist Sam Jones and especially drummer Louis Hayes contribute mightily to the beats that keep Hubbard and Mobley flying on this recording, whose energy runs contrary to the more subtle, suggestive title. The band is roaring out of the gate on the title track in a Blakey-like stance, where Drew's rambling piano fortifies the under-the-surface horns. There's no messing around during the straight-ahead, fleet "Lion's Den," as the steady Hayes drives the combo, and Jones masterfully commands held tension-and-release segments. Toning it down into the blues spectrum, "Funk-Cosity" offers a beautiful melodic line where the identity might be typical, but the individualism of the performers is not. There's deft unison playing between the very compatible Hubbard and Mobley during the simplified "Groovin' the Blues," and even more pronounced on the ultra-melodic "The Pot's On," a gem of a tune that swings with a religious fervor via the adept drumming of Hayes. The lone downtempo track, "Ballade," is a real beauty as the trumpeter and tenor saxophonist wax poetic, but it is Drew whose cascading piano and deeply emotional romantic forays come across symphonically, like a young Erroll Garner. This is an extraordinary recording that reveals more upon repeat listenings. One does wish there was alternate or bonus material from this fine jazz band, but as is, it's the best of Drew as a leader aside from his quintessential work as a consummate sideman. ~ Michael G. Nastos