Better than Bill
Samuel Chell | Kenosha,, WI United States | 03/23/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Scarce and out of print domestically, this album has become a collector's if not a cult item. In fact, it may even be a good investment, given the prices it's been fetching on eBay, especially a good vinyl copy. And Vick's underground reputation was given a boost when Sonny Rollins named an original tune after him.As for me, I had been chasing the album in large part because I actually caught Vick live back in the 60's. A small-town boy with little city sense, I frequently ventured to McKie's at 63rd and Cottage Grove on Chicago's southside, where on one occasion the attraction was Jack McDuff and Harold Vick. I remember little about the music, but Brother Jack with his frosted silver "do" and Harold with his tall frame and Karl Malone cheek bones both left indelible visual impressions (the ladies were out in full force that night).As for "Steppin' Out" it's a worthy and in most respects "typical" Blue Note release (I ordered my copy from England). Big John's presence is a plus, not only because he walks bass lines with the best of them but because I've come to prefer B-3 to acoustic piano when it's a Van Gelder-recorded session. Grant Green's reputation, which continues to grow, won't be hurt by his performance here. Blue Mitchell represents a more sensible, straightforward lyricism than either Freddie or Lee. Ben Dixon, whom I was unfamiliar with, is locked in tight and right with Big John's bass patterns.As for Harold, he's an original and occasionally effective and interesting soloist. His phrasing can be choppy and indecisive, and his intonation at times seems shaky, or at least questionable. This latter effect is exaggerated, I've decided, by the almost total absence of vibrato in his bolt-like tones. Comparing him to some other underground, unsung tenor players--Tina Brooks, David Schnitter, Junior Cook--I'd have to say that Harold is definitely not in their league. At the same time, with a line-up like the one on this session, even Bill Clinton on tenor saxophone couldn't go wrong.Conclusion: a worthwhile pickup but not worth mortgaging your house for."