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.
"Smart arrangements by the leader, a well-drilled big band and a very capable solo team give Leroy’s band lots of character. It’s distinguished by a melodic and mellow altoist, an agile trombone player and a hard-working tenor, Bob Brown – all presumably, like Leroy, from Philadelphia. The trumpeter, often with Nance touches, tries very hard and his bebop has its hair combed. The excellent drummer, Butch Ballard, is from New York, and by this time he’d made his name with Ellington, Basie and a few other name bands.
There’s an almost Luncefordian discipline to the sections and this reflects well on Lovett, who must have been almost Mulliganesque in his pursuit of perfection. Most of us have known him only from his work with the Hodges small band of 1951, but the range of talents that he displays in this album suggests that he was unfairly neglected. As were his sidemen, whose names are obviously lost to us forever.
While Jazz Dance Party is aimed at dancers, it’s only in titles like I’ve Grown Accustomed, where Leroy rhapsodises, that the music is lost to us, and most of the tracks have a strong mainstream jazz element. The final band track, True Blues, featuring most of the solo team, is one of the best.
On Lee+3 Bob Brown adds himself to the piano trio, playing boppish alto on three tracks and tenor on Plum Street. He wails nicely on alto for his own ABC Hop. Leroy’s habitual locked chords come into their own on the trio sides, and he indulges in some sparkling piano runs. The long dance routine entry makes My Ship sound upright, which is not the adjective one would want to use for this beautiful tune, and even when he breaks free of it Leroy doesn’t relax into it. But I wouldn’t let this view of the trios spoil my opinion of what is an unexpectedly admirable CD."
Steve Voce (October 13, 2019)
"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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