6 Songs

EDITORS’ NOTES

Fusing his roots in R&B and soul jazz with the modal music of John Coltrane, organist Larry Young hit on his own sound. Young eventually played with Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, and Tony Williams’ Lifetime, but before that, in 1965, he released the excellent Unity. The lineup on the album is interesting: Young, trumpeter Woody Shaw, tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson, and drummer Elvin Jones. (There is no bass player; Young provides bass lines with his instrument’s foot pedals.) Unity opens with “Zoltan,” one of three pieces penned by Shaw, who is a fine writer. The striking head played by the horns is supported by swarming organ and drums that move from a martial beat to a torrent of rhythm. A cover of “Monk’s Dream” transforms the original. The timbral qualities of Young’s Hammond B3 organ warm up Thelonious Monk’s signature angularity in appealing ways. The 1920s show tune, “Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise,” becomes a burner with punchy horn riffs and solos by Henderson, Shaw, and Young. Unity closes with another Shaw composition, “Beyond All Limits,” wrapping things up on a high-energy note.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Fusing his roots in R&B and soul jazz with the modal music of John Coltrane, organist Larry Young hit on his own sound. Young eventually played with Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, and Tony Williams’ Lifetime, but before that, in 1965, he released the excellent Unity. The lineup on the album is interesting: Young, trumpeter Woody Shaw, tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson, and drummer Elvin Jones. (There is no bass player; Young provides bass lines with his instrument’s foot pedals.) Unity opens with “Zoltan,” one of three pieces penned by Shaw, who is a fine writer. The striking head played by the horns is supported by swarming organ and drums that move from a martial beat to a torrent of rhythm. A cover of “Monk’s Dream” transforms the original. The timbral qualities of Young’s Hammond B3 organ warm up Thelonious Monk’s signature angularity in appealing ways. The 1920s show tune, “Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise,” becomes a burner with punchy horn riffs and solos by Henderson, Shaw, and Young. Unity closes with another Shaw composition, “Beyond All Limits,” wrapping things up on a high-energy note.

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5:48
6:44
7:20
6:23
6:02

About Larry Young

If Jimmy Smith was "the Charlie Parker of the organ," Larry Young was its John Coltrane. One of the great innovators of the mid- to late '60s, Young fashioned a distinctive modal approach to the Hammond B-3 at a time when Smith's earthy, blues-drenched soul-jazz style was the instrument's dominant voice. Initially, Young was very much a Smith admirer himself. After playing with various R&B bands in the 1950s and being featured as a sideman with tenor saxman Jimmy Forrest in 1960, Young debuted as a leader that year with Testifying, which, like his subsequent soul-jazz efforts for Prestige, Young Blues (1960), and Groove Street, (1962), left no doubt that Smith was his primary inspiration. But when Young went to Blue Note in 1964, he was well on his way to becoming a major innovator. Coltrane's post-bop influence asserted itself more and more in Young's playing and composing, and his work grew much more cerebral and exploratory. Unity, recorded in 1965, remains his best-known album. Quick to embrace fusion, Young played with Miles Davis in 1969, John McLaughlin in 1970, and Tony Williams' groundbreaking Lifetime in the early '70s. Unfortunately, his work turned uneven and erratic as the '70s progressed. Young was only 38 when, in 1978, he checked into the hospital suffering from stomach pains, and died from untreated pneumonia. The Hammond hero's work for Blue Note (as both a leader and a sideman) was united for Mosaic's limited-edition six-CD box set The Complete Blue Note Recordings. ~ Alex Henderson

  • ORIGIN
    Newark, NJ
  • BORN
    Oct 7, 1940

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