Roy Eldridge: Melange




Roy Eldridge (trumpet)


What It's All About (Original Jazz Classics 654193)

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Roy Eldridge (trumpet), Norris Turney (alto sax), Budd Johnson (tenor sax), Milt Jackson (vibes), Ted Sturgis (bass), Eddie Locke (drums).

Composed by Roy Eldridge


Recorded: New York City, Jan. 16, 1976


Rating: 92/100 (learn more)

Shades of Jazz at the Philharmonic, Roy Eldridge's old stomping grounds. At 64 years-of-age at the time of this recording, Eldridge may have lost a little off his fastball, but his competitive juices always flowed in this kind of context, namely the 13-minute jump blues, "Melange," that gives the frontliners a chance to really stretch out and express themselves. This track comes from one of the spirited trumpeter's last sessions before he suffered a stroke in 1980 that forced him to retire. Here he's surrounded by the versatile multi-instrumentalists Budd Johnson and Norris Turney, the impeccable "guest star" Milt Jackson, and an optimal rhythm section.

The horns hit the theme's dual riffs forcefully as Eddie Locke provides an emphatic backbeat. Norman Simmons' bluesy, light-touched piano takes the first solo, succeeded by bassist Ted Sturgis's brief yet illuminating spot. Turney's alto assumes a Johnny Hodges persona, and while his tone is harder than the Rabbit's, his message is just as insinuating and succulent as would be expected from his old Ellington Orchestra confrere. Eldridge is next, muted and restrained at first but gradually building, as usual, to now open trumpet climactic wails. Johnson enters breathy and fluttering, and commences to unveil a truly magnificent blue saxophone solo, replete with upper register shrieks, deep honks, raspy flurries, and sighing riffs. Jackson's dampened sound and more laid-back attack present a pleasing contrast to Johnson's exuberance. The exciting horn vamp that follows leads us back to the robust theme.

Reviewer: Scott Albin

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