SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

Horace Silver Quintet – The Tokyo Blues – Blue Note/ Analogue Productions

Hard bop with a faux Japanese influence….

Published on June 7, 2010

Horace Silver Quintet – The Tokyo Blues – Blue Note/ Analogue Productions

Horace Silver Quintet – The Tokyo Blues – Blue Note/ Analogue Productions stereo-only SACD CBNJ 84110SA – 1962, 40:03 (Distr. by Harmonia mundi) ****:

(Horace Silver, piano; Blue Mitchell, trumpet; Junior Cook, tenor sax; Gene Taylor, bass; Joe Harris, drums)

Although the album cover and song titles would lead you to believe that Horace Silver’s The Tokyo Blues, would be an amalgam of Japanese motifs mixed with American hard bop, a review of the actual album shows this to be a bit misleading. Horace had spent late 1961 with his group in Japan. Song titles such as “Sayonara Blues”, “Ah So”, and “Too Much Sake” show his mind may have been on Japan but his heart was still in inner city USA, when this album bore fruition in mid-1962.

Once again Analogue Productions has made a wise choice issuing Tokyo Blues in SACD stereo format as this version of Silver’s quintet was arguably the best contingent he fronted in the 1960s. Blue Mitchell was one of the most lyrical trumpeters that ever recorded for Blue Note and Junior Cook was a perfect foil for Mitchell, so much so that the two recorded together when they left for solo careers.

“Too Much Sake” gets the proceedings off to a swinging start. Cook’s opening solo has a sweetness that matches the Latin beat laid down by Joe Harris. Horace as usual comps behind the horns laying down piano lines to the tick-tick of the drummer’s cymbals. Good stuff…

“Sayonara Blues” is classic Silver material with horn blend, piano trills, and matching swinging solos by tenor and trumpet. At over twelve minutes it’s lots of fun to have the groove continue as the quintet can stretch out while we luxuriate in acoustic bliss. “Tokyo Blues” has a bit of a Japanese influence as the track opens with some Taiko type drumming before Junior Cook digs into the blues. “Cherry Blossom” is the sole ballad here and Horace plays some contemplative chords on the only composition here that he did not write. The horns sit out as this is the boss’ turn to shine. “Ah So” closes out our faux visit to Japan with another intro that teases with a mini Oriental cymbal opening before the horns kick in to tell us we haven’t left hard bop territory. One final tease, however, is made in the out chorus when again we get the “tong, tong, tong” of Japanese style cymbals as our arm chair visit to the world’s most expensive city comes to a close.

Mastering engineers Kevin Gray and Steve Hoffman have hit another home run with The Tokyo Blues as the acoustics exceed any other issue of this album I have even heard. I have a hard time agreeing that the first issue virgin vinyl can compete in sound quality. Stereo sound does not get any better than found here. It’s almost like the session was re-recorded with present day state of the art equipment. Kind of nice to also not have to fuss with LP maintenance…

Now, if we could all retire our well worn classic Blue Note LPs and get Analogue Productions to reissue the entire Blue Note catalog. First though, we’d have to wait till our inheritance kicks in…

TrackList:
Too Much Sake, Sayonara Blues, The Tokyo Blues, Cherry Blossom, Ah So

- Jeff Krow




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