Frank Strozier: Runnin'
Frank Strozier (alto sax)
Fantastic Frank Strozier (Koch Jazz 8550)
Composed by Frank Strozier.
Recorded: New York, February 3, 1960
Rating: 95/100 (learn more)
Frank Strozier was one of a group of up-and-coming young musicians on the Memphis jazz scene in the early '50's, which included George Coleman, Harold Mabern, Phineas Newborn and Booker Little. So it was fitting that Little would join Strozier for the altoist's first date as leader in 1960. No one could have predicted what lay ahead for these two very talented artists. Little, who would undoubtedly have joined Freddie Hubbard and Lee Morgan as one of the new trumpet stars of the '60's, would die tragically of uremia the following year at the age of only 23. Strozier's career would stagnate, despite a brief stint with Miles Davis, to the point that by the '70's he had taken a job teaching science in the public schools of New York. When he landed a recording date in 1976, it was his first in 15 years, and with perhaps a touch of bitterness, it was titled Remember Me. In the mid-'80's, he tried a futile comeback on his first instrument, the piano, and has been little heard from since.
"Runnin'" is an aptly titled finger-busting, up-tempo hard-bop vehicle, the kind used to eliminate pretenders from bandstands during jam sessions, and both Strozier and Little eat it up, backed ably by none other than Miles Davis's rhythm section at the time. Strozier's leadoff solo possesses an urgent intensity comparable to that of Jackie McLean, with biting staccato phrasing, bluesy shouts, and an overriding sense of restless exploration. Little's spirited solo contains spiraling lines impeccably executed, interspersed with almost melancholy interludes and insistent wails. Cobb gets a brief but authoritative drum break before the intriguing call-and-response theme returns.
Reviewer: Scott Albin