Michael B. Richman | Portland, Maine USA | 08/24/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After years of pleading by many a jazz fan, Donald Byrd's "Royal Flush" finally has been released as a domestic CD in the RVG Series. (Thankfully it has also been available for some time in the 6CD Mosaic set "The Complete Blue Note Donald Byrd/Pepper Adams Studio Sessions.") This September 21, 1961 session has to be considered the trumpeter's best Blue Note album. Not only does it feature six standout, classic post bop tracks, impeccably performed by Byrd and his musical soulmate, the bartione saxophonist Pepper Adams (What a glorious sound they make together!), but it is also a jazz landmark for several important reasons. "Royal Flush" is the first Blue Note album to feature the magical rhythm duo of Butch Warren on bass and Billy Higgins on drums, a pair that would go on to provide the backbone of famous records by Dexter Gordon, Sonny Clark, Jackie McLean, and Herbie Hancock among others. And speaking of Hancock, "Royal Flush" was the legendary pianist's first Blue Note session to be released, and it contains his first recorded composition, "Requiem." In all, don't fold on this one -- "Royal Flush" is a winning hand and a jazz classic!"
Menage a trois
Samuel Chell | Kenosha,, WI United States | 09/08/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Don't buy this recent RVG remaster because it's Herbie Hancock's first recording session (who looks all of 14 in the photo though he was 21 at the time). Pick it up because, as Michael Richmond suggests in the previous review, "Royal Flush" is a winning hand by Byrd, possibly his best ever.
Should proof be required, listen to the trumpeter's performance of "I'm a Fool to Want You," the song often said to be Sinatra's most moving performance thanks to the influence of Ava Gardner. She must have had the same impact on Donald Byrd, who turns in the instrumental equivalent of Sinatra's reading, right down to Old Blue's "breathless" phrasing. The trumpeter takes the song once through, demonstrating both extraordinary technique and sensitive musicianship when he employs circular breathing in the bridge, extending the two most important notes of the song until time itself is suspended.
As for Hancock, there's nothing about his playing to suggest he's anything other than a seasoned pro on what was, in fact, his actual "maiden voyage." On the opener, "Hush," he summons up a Ramsey Lewis gospel feel; his solo on "Jorgie's" could have been played by Bill Evans; on the modal "Shangri-La" (not the familiar pop hit) he evokes the voicings and melodic patterns of McCoy Tyner. And contrary to expectations, there's never the slightest hint of "overplaying."
In some respects, I wish I could give the recording four and one-half because the last two tunes are anti-climactic: Byrd's "6 M's" is another laid-back blues in C (at least in 3/4 this time), and Herbie's "Requiem" is too close to "Shangri-La" in modality and tempo. One up-tempo number with ample blowing time for Pepper Adams would certainly have done the trick. On the other hand, the most enduring and perpetually fresh jazz recording ever made--"Kind of Blue"--has no fast tunes. What's the difference? I know you're going to say Miles, Coltrane, and Bill Evans, but I don't think that's it. Instead, imagine what "Kind of Blue" would have sounded like (most pointedly Bill's piano) if recorded by Van Gelder."
Brian D. Fitzpatrick | Medford, MA | 05/17/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"[Donald Bryd Quintet]
Donald Bryd-trumpet Pepper Adams-Baritone Butch Warren-bass Herbie Hancock-piano Billy Higgins-drums
TUNES Hush(Donald Byrd) I'm A Fool To Want You(Wolf-Heron-Sinatra) Jorgie's(Donald Byrd) Shangri-La(Donald Byrd) 6M's(Donald Byrd) Requiem(Herbie Hancock)
Donald Byrd's recordings for Blue Note have always remained of the highest calibre.Bryd is a superb composer,as is well documented in his contributions for this session,and is very shrewd and inventive in picking and choosing the players for his recordings as a leader.It makes a difference!Donald Byrd amoungst a select group of great trumpet players that rose in the ranks beggining in the late 50's.There were many,to name a few,Lee Morgan,Johnny Coles,Wilbur Harden,Miles,'Brownie',Kenny Dorham,Blue Mitchell,et al. Four of the six tunes on 'Royal Flush'come from Bryd's pen.Pepper and Donald,who have a long history of playing together, are the 'front lines'for this session.Pepper Adams,Herbie,and Donald contribute great solos throughout.On 'I'm a Fool to Want You'(Wolf-Herron-Sinatra),Byrd's rendition is superb.His tone and excecution create this ethereal mist.It's like the tune is way inside him for a visit.As Dexter Gordon pointed out somewhere,the importance of knowing the lyrics to the tunes.It changes your whole perspective,whether listening or playing. Some great originals by Bryd,and great playing all around.The quintet as a whole really sparkles on Shangra-La,great soloing all around.It is very difficult to swing hard at slow tempos.These guys cut through it like 'soft butter'.A great rhythm section,Herbie,Warren,and Billy provide finesse support for Pepper and Donald.This comes highly reccomended. Health and Happiness.Enjoy*
The Universal Truth | Atlanta, Georgia | 09/10/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I lump this album in a group of cd's I like to call "Life Outside of Miles". Whether or not you are a fan of Miles Davis, it's almost insane to dispute his influence and legacy. The fact of the matter is Miles casts (emphasis on present tense) such a large shadow, dozens of classic albums from various different artists tend to go overlooked by pretty much anyone other than hardcore fans of classic jazz. Enter Donald Byrd...
For those who aren't familiar with Byrd, it's somewhat of a challenge to describe his sound. One thing that I immediately noticed was the playing difference between Donald Byrd and some of his contemporaries. While listening to "I'm a Fool to Want You", it's clear that Lee Morgan isn't on trumpet. He doesn't have the, for lack of a better phrase, "fat and full" sound that Lee Morgan employs, nor does he change notes in the same sharp, definitive way. Even at times when he does sound mildly comparable in sound to Morgan (like he does on "Requiem"), there is still something different in the way he sounds. He isn't quite Miles, and he isn't quite Freddie Hubbard. Donald Byrd sounds like... well Donald Byrd. Herbie sounds like his typically wonderful early 60's self. In other words, his style on this album is more comparable to Takin' Off, rather than that of Maiden Voyage. Pepper Adams sounds great, and seems more comfortable and polished than some of his earlier appearances (Lee Morgan's The Cooker comes to mind). This is probably the effect of having made numerous recordings with Byrd. If I had to compare him to another musician for the sake of the unfamiliar, I'd say his style of play would pretty much be the baritone equivalent of Dexter Gordon. (Jazz experts feel free to correct me on the point).
I honestly must say that I'm extremely impressed with this album. After only my first or second listen, I have already placed it in my list of top 5 albums not by Miles or Trane (I'm a self-confessed Coltrane fanatic, save his forays into free jazz). Royal Flush is one of those first listen home run jazz albums. It didn't have to grow on me like some other classic records - notably Art Blakey's Night in Tunisia, or Lee Morgan's The Sidewinder. While I love both of those recordings, I wasn't overly impressed by either of them upon first listen, although appreciation was eventually developed for those 2 classics.
Everything about this album is wonderful. I find the compositions diverse enough to be considered a well rounded album, yet cohesive enough to avoid that label-assembled feel that causes albums to feel more like compilations than artist assembled albums. I say all of this of course from the perspective of someone who owns about 50 jazz cd's from the 1956-1967 period alone. I'm not stating that to brag about my personal Jazz knowledge, as I'm sure my small collection pales in comparison to that of Mr. Richman and Mr. Chell. I only mention that to prove this point: someone can still manage to be blown away by Royal Flush, even after already hearing dozens of classic albums from the same period.
(As a side note, I'd like to mention that I own both this cd as well as Lee Morgan's The Cooker. I've read the linear notes of both, and I don't see any signs of the notes being mixed up. Maybe the complaining reviewer below managed to purchase a randomly botched copy, because my copy is perfectly fine.)"