Blue Mitchell – Blue’s Moods

[Riverside Records OJCCD-138-2]
 



Richard Allen plays the Blues
Following in the footsteps of fellow trumpeters, Fats Navarro, and Clifford Brown, Richard Allen Mitchell, most commonly known as “Blue,” made his mark as one of the young up-and-coming trumpet players as part of the Horace Silver Quintet, and particularly after it disbanded. Compared to trumpet greats, Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie, his tone would be considered on the lighter side of dynamic yet strong enough to allow him to lead his own band. Blue’s voice on the trumpet was reminiscent of the legendary Clifford Brown, who crafted his sound after Navarro. His lines were richly melodic, ala Brown’s, without Brown’s technical expertise or genius. To his credit, he was able to produce a warm an inviting sound that was sweet and relaxed in its delivery. His smooth presentation (his greatest attribute) was part of the reason why he initially didn’t receive the credit he deserved. The other part was that his contemporaries’ style was felt to be much more aggressive.

Mitchell’s performances reached a new level after he signed with Riverside records as one of their front men. On one of his best-known recordings, Blue Soul, (the album that directly preceded Blue’s Moods), Mitchell established himself as an exceptional trumpet player, albeit in a three-horn ensemble. The frontline on that recording included Curtis Fuller on trombone and Jimmy Heath on tenor sax. Mitchell was definitely in good company but these performances were a prelude of some good things to come.

Fresh on the heels of the success of Blue Soul, he carried over his excellent performances to Blue’s Moods, in a more intimate quartet setting. On Blue’s Moods, Mitchell recorded a number of songs that I’m sure you will enjoy. The title of the CD would have you to believe that this is all about the blues but it happens to be a captivating rendition of some classics like “I’ll Close My Eyes”, “When I Fall In Love” “Scrapple From The Apple”, and my personal favorite, “I Wish I Knew”. It was an opportunity for Blue to demonstrate that he could solo within in a wide range of moods and tempos.

Mitchell had an excellent team of musicians to sit in with him on this session. Wynton Kelly on piano, Sam Jones on bass, and his bandmate from their earlier days with Horace Silver, Roy Brooks on drums. All three made up a strong supporting cast but Wynton had the unique ability to make just about everybody that he played with sound better. He was so admired by the legendary Ellis Marsalis that he named his second son after him.

The first selection and again, my favorite, “I Wish I Knew,” seemed tailor-made for him. Mitchell demonstrated from the very beginning, that this first selection would set the tone for the rest of the CD. Describing his performances is actually like creating an oxymoron somewhat akin to “silent thunder” or the “velvet hammer.” His sound had a commanding presence but wasn’t forceful. His performance was a statement that this was going to be a signature session and it was just an appetizer for some of the smorgasbord of music to come.

Track four, “Kinda Vague,” an original composition, is a nice mellow selection that features Wynton’s textured playing. He co-wrote this song with Mitchell so it didn’t come as a surprise that both men should share equally in the spotlights. Sam Jones set the tone for this selection with a slow, unobtrusive walking bass line. Mitchell’s contribution to this selection was comforting and peaceful. His solo performance was so moving that it was obvious that he was playing with a high level of confidence.

The other original piece on this CD, “Sir John,” is somewhat up-tempo but simple in its presentation. Here, Blue plays with excellent precision. He alternates between smooth, long movements and an occasional mild flare for the dramatic, but just when you think he might begin to ruin the mood, he succinctly brings you back with diplomatic charm. It is a fascinating piece of work that even the lesser knights should find enjoyable.

On this finely crafted CD you will hear a variety of material. The selections include some familiar classics, a beautiful piece by the infamous Charlie Parker, and of course some original compositions. Blue’s performances were stellar enough that he was secure in his ability to perform without the help of other horn players on this recording. His partnering with Wynton Kelly made a truly remarkable performance even better.

Blue’s Moods certainly qualifies as one of my favorites because it is an excellent recording and is the ideal CD to help accentuate an atmosphere of peace and tranquility. Listening to the material on this CD is a wonderful way to help you wind down while the lights are low.

So the next time you’re looking for a jazz CD that will help you relax after a long hard day of work I really believe that a copy of Blue’s Moods is just the ticket. Blue Mitchell did a wonderful job of providing a sound that was silky smooth. His ability to produce a CD that allowed him to be expressive should appeal to your tastes in traditional “straight ahead” jazz. But, keep in mind that just because the word “Blue’s” is in the title, doesn’t mean that it mostly favors the blues. It’s just an excellent collection of Richard Allen Mitchell’s musical moods. Highly recommended!

If you would like to contact Craig, you can e-mail him at Craigy_g2@yahoo.com

Craig “Craigy- G” Fitzpatrick