THE JAZZ WORD

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Ronnie Foster lgLike every Hammond organ player, Ronnie Foster owes a debt to Jimmy Smith, but on his first recording session as a leader he takes the instrument into new areas on this funky soul-meets-R & B-meets-jazz album. Foster had made his Blue Note debut when he was just 18 years of age on Grant Green’s Alive album. Two Headed Freap was recorded on 20 & 21 January 1972 at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio in Englewood Cliffs, so you know it’s going to sound great.

Like so many of the records released by Blue Note in this period, it fails to excite the traditional fans of the label but Two-Headed Freap, like a number of other albums from the early 1970s, laid the foundations for the acid-jazz movement. At the time of its release Jazz Journal said, “It is sad that a label with the reputation of Blue Note should be reduced to recording the casual meanderings of background pop music.” What utter tosh!

Foster composed five of the eight tracks and the others are skilfully selected covers; of these, Al Green’s ‘Let’s Stay Together’ shows just why Foster was so respected and in such demand as a sideman, and not just for jazz artists. *George Benson was an admirer and Foster later played on his Breezin’ album, contributing the exquisite ballad, ‘Lady’.

On his own debut, the best of Foster’s compositions are the laid-back ‘Summer Song’, which features Gene Bertoncini’s Benson-like guitar, and a track that clearly demonstrates the difference between Foster and Jimmy Smith, ‘Mystic Brew’. Foster’s playing is more sustained, there’s less attack and he plays along the melody line in a more fluid way – which is not to say he’s better; just different. ‘Mystic Brew’ has been frequently sampled by artists such as A Tribe Called Quest, and by DJ Madlib on his 2003 Blue Note album, Shades of Blue.

Like many other jazz albums from this era, Two-Headed Freap has the feel of a Blaxploitation movie about it, and that’s not a criticism. The album is very definitely of its time and should be appreciated as such. The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD reviewer is of the same opinion as the critic from Jazz Journal and ignores the album, which says a lot about how the jazz police see this era. Don’t let them brainwash you!

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John Lodge April 3rd at 9:40am

A great album from a great era for music in general. FOR ME the 70's was, and remains, the most creative all round. I love the 60's too, but was probably just too young to have appreciated it, especially the early 60's jazz scene.

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“The greatest of us all is, unquestionably Wes Montgomery.” ­ – Barney Kessel

Is ‘Bumpin’’ the coolest opening to an album ever? Well if it isn’t, it’s very close, as Wes Montgomery’s trademark melodic riffing creates a mood that is enhanced by Don Sebesky’s subtle string arrangements. It was on 16 March 1965 that Wes Montgomery recorded the first couple of tracks (‘Here’s That Rainy Day’ and ‘Musty’) for the album that would eventually be called Bumpin’It’s the kind of music that gave ‘Late Night Jazz’ a good name, before it became an over-used euphemism. Montgomery, wrote three of the tracks, including the title song (along with ‘Tear It Down’ and ‘Mi Cosa’) and his choice of covers is inspired, Dizzy Gillespie’s ‘Con Alma’ and Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke’s ‘Here’s That Rainy Day’ in particular

This was Montgomery’s first album to make the Billboard chart, albeit a lowly No.116; it’s a fact that belies its brilliance. The album’s been called “serene and enchanting”, and it’s the perfect way to sum up this gem of a record.

Is it his best? Of his Verve studio albums it’s arguably a yes, but from his earlier career maybe So Much Guitar or Far Wes may be marginally better.  Have you a favourite Wes Montgomery album or is it too close to call…

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trueballs March 16th at 2:52pm

The Incredible Jazz Guitar is probably my favorite. Barney Kessel said it best

Patrick Floyd March 16th at 6:05pm

Bumpin' is in my top three favorite jazz albums ever, along with Coltrane's My favorite things and Miles' In a silent way. Bumpin' is hands down my favorite track from Wes. I have it on vinyl, nothing sounds better.

Jazzbuff March 16th at 7:17pm

My favorite Wes albums are: Moving Wes - (the best guitar version of Caravan I've every heard.) Smoking at the Half Note and the Dynamic Duo - Wes. & Jimmy Smith.

I was fortunate to have heard Wes in person numerous times. Wes did "impossible" stuff on the guitar in person. He was in a league all my himself!

All of his stuff is good.

Jazzbuff March 16th at 7:21pm

http://youtu.be/ImkD-yXkE1k

jazzlabels March 16th at 8:34pm

Fabulous!

Darrell March 17th at 1:25am

According to the Verve CD reissue, recording began on MAY 16 and not MARCH 16. Which is it?

jazzlabels March 17th at 6:49am

Hi Darrell, it's March 16th according to all the discographies. Looks like someone in writing the notes read MAR as MAY.

Wes Montgomery With Don Sebesky Orchestra
Arnold Eidus, Lewis Eley, Paul Gershman, Louis Haber, Julius Held, Harry Lookofsky, Jos Malignaggi, Gene Orloff, Sol Shapiro (violin) Harold Coletta, Dave Schwartz (viola) Charles McCracken, George Ricci (cello) Margaret Ross (harp) Roger Kellaway (piano) Wes Montgomery (guitar) Bob Cranshaw (bass) Grady Tate (drums) Candido (bongos, congas) Don Sebesky (arranger, conductor)

Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, March 16, 1965

65VK307 Musty Verve V/V6 8625, 2V6S 8813, V3HB 8839
65VK308 Just Walkin' Verve V6 8804, 314 539 062-2
- Just Walkin' (alt. take) Verve 314 539 062-2
65VK309 Here's That Rainy Day Verve V/V6 8625, 2V6S 8813, V3HB 8839

robertm2000 January 27th at 6:51pm

ANYTHING that Wes recorded is fantastic! I happen to like well-arranged and performed orchestral music, coming from a classical music background, so the work of Don Sebeskey is well-known to me, and to hear Wes atop that lovely orchestral backing is nothing short of marvelous. Some of the Creed Taylor things are a bit much, but I can enjoy anything Wes did, even the things with big orchestra, simply because Wes Montgomery was a musical genius.

Maiden Voyage_edited-1On 11 March 1965 Freddie Hubbard (trumpet), George Coleman (tenor saxophone), Ron Carter (bass) and Stu Martin (drums) along with Herbie Hancock were at Rudy Van Gelder’d Studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey with producer Alfred Lion to record the pianist’s new Blue Note album. The first song they put down was ‘Maiden Voyage, followed by ‘Little One’ and ‘Dolphin’s Dance’, but in the final analysis these tracks were rejected as unsuitable.

Six days later on 17 March Hancock was back in the same studio and this time he cut not just a defining album in his career, but a defining album for Blue Note Records and jazz. Whereas there was something missing at that first day’s recording nothing was missing, not a note, not a nuance, there was simply perfection. For their second attempt at recording Herbie’s five compositions it was Tony Williams rather than Stu Martin (Sonny Rollins’s drummer at the time) that was behind the drum kit.

Maiden Voyage is Hancock’s follow-up to Empyrean Isles, and is an album that is totally different in form and feel, aside from the obvious addition of tenor saxophonist George Coleman who, like most of the others, had been playing in Miles Davis’s band for the previous two years. Departing from the hard bop of Hancock’s 1964 album Maiden Voyage is more mellow, with gentle composition that have more of a chamber-jazz vibe – it has even has been called a sound sculpture. But do not for a minute think this makes it in any way less exciting; this is innovative musical exploration of the highest order. Hancock’s time with Miles Davis comes across in his playing, but in no way is this simply a pastiche of Miles’s music. Just listen to the closing crescendo on ‘Survival of the Fittest’: it owes more to Rachmaninoff than Miles Davis.

The album’s title track was originally titled ‘TV jingle’ until Jean Hancock, Herbie’s sister, renamed it, and it sets the tone and the theme for the album. Ironically, many years later, the track was used in a TV commercial by Fabergé sometime later. It is a composition that many artists have covered, including Dianne Reeves who recorded an interesting vocal version in 1996, and pianist Robert Gasper whose fabulous interpretation is on his 2007 Blue Note album, In My Element.

While side 2 opens with the album’s most experimental piece, ‘Survival of the Fittest’ that perfectly reflects the album’s concept – an evocation of ‘oceanic atmospheres’. ‘Dolphin Dance’ is the other classic, deservedly so given Hancock’s skilful writing and equally skilful playing throughout. It’s a tune that offers subtle shifts and changes in both key and the interplay between the soloists. Maiden Voyage is as perfect as an album gets.

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Somethin' else

Of course he had a little help from Miles Davis.

“Here’s one of the outstanding jazz sets released in the past few months and perhaps one of the best of the year. It features some truly fine, sensitive trumpet work by Miles Davis, and at times, some of the best work yet waxed by Cannonball Adderley. Both ‘Autumn Leaves’ and ‘Love for Sale’ are handed superb treatments by Davis, and Adderley shines with his solo on ‘Dancing in the Dark.’ An album that will be important to all jazz fans.” Billboard 20 October 1958 

Almost four years to the day since he last recorded for Blue Note, Miles Davis was back in the studio to cut another album for the label, but not as a leader. The band was led by twenty-nine-year-old Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderley – and what a band it is. Adderley was a member of Davis’s Sextet at the time of this recording, and the following year the saxophonist appeared on the seminal Kind of Blue. The feel of this album is something akin to a dry-run for what followed, and everyone with a love of jazz should own it.

The principal difference between this album and Kind of Blue is that Somethin’ Else has three tracks that are re-workings of standards – apparently chosen by Davis – which enhances the feeling of extreme comfort that each and every track exudes. Of the two original numbers, Miles composed the title track while ‘One For Daddy-O’ was a joint creation by pianist Jones and Adderley’s cornet-playing brother, Nat.

Throughout much of the album, Adderley and Davis seem to be engaged in their own private conversation, a conversation we are privileged to eavesdrop on. The stand-out track for most listeners is ‘Autumn Leaves’ and what’s so gratifying about this number and ‘Love For Sale’, is that neither song sounds like a straight rehash. It has been said that there is not ‘a rote moment’ on the album and both tracks prove the point. If you want to know what makes Adderley such a master, just listen to ‘Dancing In The Dark’; all it needs are strings and you’d swear it was Charlie Parker.

“For those not familiar with the latest in terminology, that the title number of the Miles Davis original, which also provided the name for this album, is a phrase of praise. And if I may add my personal evaluation, I should like to emphasize that Cannonball and Miles and the whole rhythm section and, indeed, the entire album certainly can be described emphatically as ‘somethin’ else’.” – Leonard Feather, original album liner notes

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Ruud March 9th at 3:04pm

One of the best!

“Calling the music made by drummer Blade’s assemblage ‘jazz’ is like calling Lady Liberty a statue – it is, and so much more. Drawing from jazz, rock, country, folk, and pretty much every musical idiom either indigenous to or nurtured in America, ‘Perceptual’ is a melting pot of sound that wordlessly speaks of the conflicts and triumphs of the human experience.” Billboard July 2000

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When the opening track of any album is the title track there’s a sense of anticipation, a sense of what to expect from the rest of the package – and Perceptual does not disappoint. The song-writing credits are split between Blade and keyboard player (and Fellowship co-founder) Jon Cowherd, giving a feeling of cohesion to the record that is totally satisfying.

Blade made his Blue Note debut age twenty-four on Kevin Hayes’s, Seventh Sense in 1994. Five years later when he made this, his second Blue Note album as a leader, he had already done a string of sessions for the label and played on other artists’ recordings for other companies.

Some of the textures are Methenyesque and every track is more a soundscape than simply a song. Kurt Rosenwinkel’s guitar shines throughout, lending an ethereal feel to most every track, and when added to the dynamic piano playing of Cowherd, the musicians create fabulous melodies, rich textures, and deep-felt drama.

Highlights, aside from the title track, are the anthemic ‘Crooked Creek’ and the monumental, ‘Steadfast’, featuring a haunting vocal from Joni Mitchell that harks back to her Hejira album of nearly three decades earlier. Captured in Oxnard, California a month after the principal recording, Mitchell’s performance is outstanding.

Billboard got it absolutely right, but what they didn’t say is that this is one of THE jazz albums of the modern era – it really is that good. How Brian Blade is not even better known remains a mystery; but maybe not for too much longer.

“Blade remains one of his generation’s most creative and dynamic percussionists, cradling his band’s music with empathetic waves of rhythmic sound while propelling it ever forward toward unchartered waters.” Billboard July 2000

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Don Cherry
Christmas Eve isn’t the obvious date for a Blue Note recording session but it was the night before Christmas in 1965 when Don Cherry, Gato Barbieri on tenor saxophone, Henry Grimes on bass and Edward Blackwell were at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio in Englewood Cliffs to record Complete Communion.

It marked cornettist Don Cherry’s debut for Blue Note – the first of three albums Cherry cut for the label in less than 12 months. The 29 year-old had already recorded extensively with Ornette Coleman’s group and led a couple of sessions for other labels, but this was his personal breakthrough and something of a breakthrough for the whole free-jazz movement.

Each side of the original long-playing record is a suite composed by Cherry and each suite was recorded in a single take, although not the first in either case: side one, ‘Complete Communion’ was take two and side two, ‘Elephantasy’ was take three.

‘Volatile’, ‘intense’, and ‘crackling’ have been used by critics to describe this record and the words are completely apposite. This is jazz for the homes of the brave, music that many non-musicians will find challenging, but those up for the challenge will ultimately be richly rewarded. As Billboard said in their obituary of Cherry in 1995, “By mid-decade, Cherry’s association with Gato Barbieri begot Complete Communion for the Blue Note label. It’s one of jazz’s best examples of confluence, a brash, persuasive blend of expressionism and orthodoxy.”

As themes are explored in the pieces, whether by the whole group or individual soloists, they often sound like conversations between the various players; the dialogue between Cherry and Barbieri, who had met while the latter was living in Rome, is particularly striking. The Argentinian tenor saxophonist style has been likened, during this period, to that of Cherry’s former boss, Ornette Coleman, and that no doubt was part of his appeal. But Cherry is most definitely a man with his own ideas, which is evident from his later recordings as a bandleader.

Grimes and Blackwell – the rhythm section – were, like the other two musicians, both new to the label, making this a unique recording for Blue Note. This album reflects the changing face of jazz during the mid-1960s, and its free-jazz style would become the norm as the decade wore on.

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Empyrean isles lg
When Herbie Hancock, Freddie Hubbard, Ron Carter and Tony Williams entered Rudy Van Gelder’s Englewood Cliffs studio on 17 June 1964 it represented a step change in every respect. This was two years after Herbie’s Blue Note debut, the aptly named Takin’ Off, and the album they recorded in the summer of 1964, together with the follow-up, Maiden Voyage, should certainly be in every jazz fan’s collection.

Herbie’s first recording for Blue Note was with Donald Byrd in 1961, when the pianist was twenty-one, and at the time he was flirting with both Latin-flavoured material and a big-band setting. Empyrean Isles marks Herbie Hancock’s return to some serious hard bop. As with all his work, there is an element of the unconventional, with the pianist happy to go against the tide of musical expectations.

When he made this album, Herbie was twenty-four and his fellow musicians were similarly youthful – Hubbard was twenty-six, Carter twenty-seven, and Tony Williams just nineteen. It’s their spirit of adventure that makes this record such a joy, but this is not simply youthful exuberance: there is no less talent on display despite their collective inexperience. Herbie, Carter, and Williams were already playing together in Miles Davis’s group and their empathy is clear in every bar and beat.

All four tunes are original compositions from Herbie and both ‘One Finger Snap’ and ‘Cantaloupe Island’ have become classics. The album was later sampled by hip-hop band Us3. On ‘One Finger Snap’, its opening track, Hubbard is definitely in the driving seat, his soaring cornet full of twists and turns, yet always melodic. From the hard-bop heaven of the opener to the addictive ‘Cantaloupe’, the range of the band is remarkable – this is funky stuff that has rightly become a jazz standard.

On ‘Oliloqui Valley’ Hubbard is playing in Miles Davis’s territory and it is a beauty. The album’s closer, ‘The Egg’ is a fourteen-minute hard-bop meets free-jazz experiment featuring Carter’s pulsing bass and Williams’s march-like rolls. To get into the track requires a little more effort than what went before, but it just serves to highlight what an adventure this high-summer session turned out to be.

As Nora Kelly wrote on the original album liner notes “Empyrean Isles, four glittering jewels, beyond the dreams of men….Myth and legend clothe these Isles in mystery, for they are elusive and said to vanish at the approach of ordinary mortals….”

“They may be my tunes, but the music belongs to the guys in the band. They all make the music, it’s not just my thing.” Herbie Hancock

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Richard Olsen January 29th at 12:31am

Your SPOTIFY is impoosible!

Have tried many times to sign on ..........impossible.

Richard Olsen

Recorded over three days on, 6 and 9 February, and 20 May, 1963 in New York City this classic album was released the following year and immediately caused controversy. It’s title comes from the idea that Bill Evans played three separate tracks and over-dubbed himself to build up the complex arrangements.

There were some that thought this sacrilege and an impure art as it was impossible to recreate in concert. It is with the passing of time acknowledged as a masterpiece by a genius. Producers David Foster and Tommy LiPuma both cite this album as an inspiration; many others agree and 1964 it won the Grammy for Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group.

Evans played Glen Gould’s piano, CD 318 on the recording that was created out of a ‘conversation’ between the first two takes with subtle embelishments added on the third take. As it says on the liner notes of the album regarding ‘Bill three’, “He was their Greek chorus, and sometimes he had the best lines.” If you have any doubts just listen to ‘Stella By Starlight’ it is shows off Evans’s genius in all its glory

The cover photography is by the celebrated photographer, Roy DeCarava

 “Those hands were thrust in the slash side pockets of his windbreaker and he was all hunched up with the bitter cold. I thought: So that’s what genius looks like.” – Gene Lees on the liner notes of the album.

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Steve Grathwohl February 26th at 5:43pm

Yes, an undoubted masterpiece. The closest analog I can think of is Hume's "Dialogues concerning natural religion"---a remarkable mind in conversation with itself.

mindfulkettle February 26th at 5:51pm

Reblogged this on The Mindful Kettle.

Luiz Roberto February 26th at 7:29pm

..."There were some that thought this sacrilege and an impure art as it was impossible to recreate in concert"...sacrilege for me is saying it's not a masterpiece...and who said that art would be impure if it couldn't be recreated live in concert ?...

Gib Veconi February 26th at 8:51pm

This recording represented a groundbreaking concept in 1964, and few if any other pianists could have pulled it off. Bill later recorded "Further Conversations with Myself," and "New Conversations." The breathtaking arrangements and playing on the latter make it my personal favorite.

CommunicateAsia February 26th at 10:54pm

Reblogged this on CommunicateAsia and commented:
I vote yes, a true masterpiece.

Jedd Carby February 27th at 12:30am

While I am a huge Bill Evans fan, I had a hard time with repeated listens to this album. I found it too busy and often times cluttered. That being said, there were some great moments here. I think that I will persist with it, as I like the concept and feel I haven't tapped into how good this really is yet.

JoYcelyn Avery February 27th at 1:45am

Don be doin' so much sloggin' in the bl0ggin'; rather open your ears as well as you can and take great apportionments of time tolisten listen listen! If this is a bit much and even if not give "Left to Right " a go. Unique, I believe.

Jedd Carby February 27th at 7:49am

It is a great album, rather, I just have not been able to Enjoy it with as much ease as some of the other Bill Evans albums. Thanks for your suggestions!

Craig Lawless January 21st at 8:17pm

Little-known fact: the song "NYC's No Lark" is an anagram of and tribute by Evans to Sonny Clark, who had recently died. It's a great album to listen to with headphones on...the intricacies of the 3 voices become less "busy" when they are immediately within your head through headphones. I first heard the album on headphones in the library at SUNY Potsdam in the Fall of 1976. The fact that I remember when, where and how I first heard it should indicate the artistic weight this album carries with me to this day.

Cool Struttin'
Blue Note Record’s first session of 1958 was this week in 1958, on 5 January to be precise. Unsurprisingly it was at Rudy Van Gelder’s Hackensack studio, the one in the living room of his parent’s house and it was a quintet led by pianist, Sonny Clark that featured Art Farmer (trumpet), Jackie McLean (alto saxophone), Paul Chambers (bass), and Philly Joe Jones (drums). The title of the album was Cool Struttin‘… and strut they certainly did, and cool they very definitely are. As Art Farmer said, “A primary quality in Sonny Clark’s playing is that there’s no strain in it. Some people sound like they are trying to swing, Sonny just flows naturally along.”

The title derives from the opening track and it establishes the mood perfectly. The entire album exudes cool and both ‘Cool Struttin’’ and ‘Blue Minor’ are stand-outs on an album with not a single bad moment. The latter track, featuring Clark’s Monkesque styling, had been in the pianist’s repertoire for some time before he recorded it; he was waiting to get the right group of players around him first.

Clark had met Farmer in Pasadena, Los Angeles, where both men were living, and immediately liked the trumpeter’s playing – check out his solo on Miles Davis’s ‘Slippin’ At Bells’ on which Farmer proves that he’s very much his own man. Clark had already recorded extensively for Blue Note as a sideman to Hank Mobley, Curtis Fuller, John Jenkins and Cliff Jordan, as well as a band leader during the previous 12 months.

Clark’s love of the blues is evident throughout the album and ‘this hard bop classic’, according to The New York Times, is far from one-dimensional. Clark’s swing credentials are nowhere better displayed than on ‘Deep Night’ a song co-written by pre-war crooner Rudy Vallee, on which his piano playing comes over effortlessly as Art Farmer testifies. Likewise, Jackie McLean, still just twenty-six years old when this record was made, plays long, smooth and beguilingly.

And finally there’s the cover. Far from a typical Reid Miles design but that is what in part made him such a genius. Miles captures the mood of the music superbly. The legs on the cover belong to Blue Note founder, Alfred Lion’s wife, Ruth.

This is sophisticated New York jazz of the finest kind. Listen to it on Spotify

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Kenny Burrell and John Coltrane
A sometimes overlooked album by both Coltrane aficionados and fans of Kenny Burrell, this record, from 7 March 1958 was first released in 1967 and given that it was cut Rudy Van Gelder’s studio it has all the hallmark’s of his recording technique. Aside from ‘Trane and Burrell it features Paul Chambers (bass), Jimmy Cobb (drums), and Tommy Flanagan (piano). It was originally released as Kenny Burrell Quintet With John Coltrane on Prestige it was reissued on Original Jazz Classics as Kenny Burrell and John Coltrane.

The five cuts are excellent and include two Flanagan compositions, two standards from the Great American Songbook, and a Kenny Burrell original. Flanagan’s ‘Freight Trane’ opens things up with Coltrane and Burrell immediately to the fore as you would expect. Burrell, especially, is on top form and both Chambers and Coltane respond in kind; interestingly two halves of this track were released on a Prestige 45 – the heady days of jazz singles.

The Gus Kahn and Ted Fio Rito standard ‘I Never Knew’ has Burrell’s fingers working over time with his playing more closely following the melody of the original before Coltrane takes things further afield. Burrell’s ‘Lyresto’ starts with Coltrane before moving to Burrell and then Flanagan takes over as the lead player. It’s a track chock full of ideas; it is one of the standout numbers on the album.

The beautiful, ‘Why Was I Born’ is sublime with Burrell and Coltrane creating an intimate reading of Hammerstein and Kern’s exquisite composition, made more so by the fact that the saxophone and guitar duet alone. It is perfection itself.

The absolute highlight of this recording is the fourteen minute long Flanagan tune, ‘Big Paul.’ Flanagan’s trademark stylish playing on the long intro sets the scene accompanied by Chambers and Cobb.

If this has passed you by, give it a listen; it will be 37 minutes well spent.

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