Leroy Lovett (p), Sam Reed, Kent Pope (as, cl), Bob Brown (as, ts, bs), Al Hall (b), George 'Butch' Ballard (d)
Reference: FSRCD 981
Bar code: 8427328609814
It would be impossible to include all the accomplishments of Leroy “Lee” Lovett (1919-2013) in a short synopsis, but suffice it to say that he was the epitome of talent. However, and despite his long and successful career as a pianist and arranger-composer, the two albums on this CD are the only ones Leroy recorded under his own name, both in 1959.
The first one, “Jazz Dance Party,” includes mainly rocking and slow selections that allow him to show all his versatility and trademark dexterity as a big band jazz arranger. Each section works its way up to some splendid demonstrations of exciting shouting, on which the so-called rhythm and blues players moved toward the rich wellspring of Ellington jazz. Improvisations are melodic, vividly swinging and loaded with wit. But perhaps the most remarkable aspect of these deeply moving performances is the great vitality with which the soloists are backed by the rest of the band in ensemble riffs—after they play their part, the band starts working on an introduction for the next solo, delivering some well-organized ensemble passages, with the Al Hall and “Butch” Ballard team swinging like mad all the way.
“Lee + 3” finds Leroy leading a cohesive and versatile quartet session that swings from the get go. His piano playing, too often neglected, is forceful and passionate in the up-tempoes, and subtle, rewarding and full of subdued emotion on the trio ballads. Saxophonist Bob Brown blows hard on tenor, with the phrasing, intonation and attack of a rooted blues player, and his work on alto is an exercise in eloquence. The roles of Hall and Ballard are thus boldly revealed in this stimulating set.
"The late 50s and early 60s had a surfeit of jazz pianists. This is one that had his moment of sunshine, have drifted into under-served obscurity and have resurfaced thanks to the painstaking detective work of Fresh Sound Records.
Philadelphia’s Leroy Lovett (1919-2013) is best known for his stint as a sideman for Johnny Hodges, Cootie Williams and Cat Anderson, but he also had time to put out some impressive material on his own. This single disc has two sessions, both from 1959. Nine tunes with a 12 piece “Orchestra” has clever horn arrangements that have a hint of Ellingtonia in them, such as “Blob’s Burning” and “What’s Buzzin’.” The Quartet format with Bob Brown/as-ts, Al Hall/b and George “Butch” Ballard from the first outing includes a rich “Angel Eyes” and a “Misty” that gives hint of Errol Garner, with some smoky sax blowing on “ABC Hop.” The team sounds like a working unit, kind of a bop version of vintage John Kirby. This one will surprise you!
This reissue includes original liner notes, session notes, artist personnel and some background to the musicians."
George W. Harris (August 19, 2019)
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