"Off to the Races" is a Good Start
Michael B. Richman | Portland, Maine USA | 09/13/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Among the 12 recent Blue Note RVG reissues, two are albums by Donald Byrd featuring Pepper Adams, "Royal Flush" (see my review) and this title "Off to the Races." (The trumpeter and the bari-saxophonist do make glorious music together, and all of their non-live sessions have been available for some time in the 6CD Mosaic set "The Complete Blue Note Donald Byrd/Pepper Adams Studio Sessions.") This December 21, 1958 session is Byrd's first as a leader for Blue Note, and he is joined additionally by Jackie McLean on alto sax, and the formidable rhythm trio of Wynton Kelly on piano, Sam Jones on bass and Art Taylor on drums. The material here is very similar to that on "Byrd in Hand" (see my review) -- straight ahead hard bop with excellent front-line interplay. However, I would think the general jazz public would rather have "Chant" or "The Cat Walk" re-released, instead of this above average blowing session. But at the rate that Donald Byrd titles are coming out lately, maybe we'll see them too shortly. And for now, enjoy the start of Byrd's long Blue Note race."
email@example.com | usa | 09/14/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"depending on the era where Donald Byrd moved you the most overall you will have many opinions about his earlier Trumpet work to his more Jazz/Funk Fusion work of the 70's which has Dominated alot of his musical Legacy,but this Album showcases Donald Byrd in the late 50's creating some good pieces&having a signature sound.Wynton Kelly is on Piano, with Jackie Mclean on Alto Sax,Sam Jones on the Bass&Art Taylor on the Drums.the arrangements compliment a nice trade off between the Byrd's playing&His leadership skils. Donald Byrd is One of the Most Versatile Musicians in the History of Jazz. this is a good place to start to appreciate some of his earlier work."
Full Throttle Hard Bop
Jack Baker | LeRoy,IL | 05/06/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Over the course of the past couple months, Donald Byrd has slowly supplanted Freddie Hubbard as my favorite trumpet player. Byrd has such a great combination of lyricism and a full, rich tone and it's shown off to great effect on Off to the Races, Byrd's first date as a leader on Blue Note (although he had led sessions on other labels prior to this). Byrd is joined by Jackie McLean (alto sax), Pepper Adams (baritone sax), Wynton Kelly (piano), Sam Jones (bass), and Art Taylor (drums).
Byrd is one of the most underrated composers in jazz in my opinion (See his fabulous "Tanya" on Dexter's One Flight Up). He composed all but two of the pieces on this album, the exceptions being the standard "Lover Come Back to Me", given a quick bop treatment here, and Sonny Rollins's "Paul's Pal's", another great tune that'll follow you around for days. "Sudwest Funk" is true to its billing, a deep, funky blues with a great central riff, given weight by the three horn interplay. "When Your Love Has Gone" is a stunning ballad with Byrd as the solo horn. Wynton Kelly is outstanding on this track, providing subtle shading to back Byrd's soulful trumpet lines. "Off to the Races" is an extended blues march that kicks off with a great drum into from Taylor before moving into another heavy unison horn riff. The length of the piece allows all the players to show off their skills. Finally, "Down Tempo" is a bluesy piece highlighted by some funky piano work from Kelly and some tight bass from Jones. Greasy.
This is one of those great albums like Mobley's Soul Station or Clark's Cool Struttin', providing a blueprint of what hard bop should sound like. With a great cast of players and solid set of songs, this is one race whose outcome won't disappoint."