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"When I moved back to New York City from California in 1963, my agent had already booked me a 16-week tour and I had to put a quartet together. I called Herman Wright, who played double bass in my quartet with that great female piano player, Terry Pollard, from 1953-1957. Herman and Terry were from Detroit. The first thing that Herman said to me was there was another great female piano player from Detroit who was now living in NY. Her name was Alice McLeod. I don’t usually hire anybody I didn’t know her, but because of what Herman told me I set up a little jam session so I could hear how Alice played jazz, and it had to be bebop because that’s what I heard and played in jazz, and I wanted to hear Alice play bebop. I also had a drummer recommended to me by one of my good drummer friends, and so John Dentz, Herman and I went to a studio that I rented at Nola Studios.
How I usually work my songs is that, after I play the melody, the piano player solos first. After Alice played just 8 bars I knew that I was going to hire her. In 1963 Alice was an out an out be-bopper in the style of Bud Powell. Also John Dentz gave me what I was looking for: TIME. The more we played the better Alice sounded, she was a quiet shy lady and she got more aggressive as the jam session went on, you can hear her on this CD fitting in with everything that I was looking for in a piano player. Alice worked in my band for one year until I introduced her to John Coltrane and saw a love affair happen and that was why Alice left. That one year Alice was in my quartet was really fun playing because she was, as I said before, AN OUT AND OUT BE-BOPPER."
—Terry Gibbs (March, 2021)
"Terry Gibbs, who at 96 is with drummer Roy Haynes (who is four months younger) the last of the beboppers, has led a long series of rewarding albums during this career. In 1963 his pianist was an unknown from Detroit, Alice McLeod, who left a year later to join her soon-to-be husband, John Coltrane. The future Alice Coltrane, who appeared live on a French jazz television show as early as 1960 (the clip is on You Tube), was originally very much a bop-oriented pianist inspired by Bud Powell and she was a perfect fit for Gibbs’ hard-swinging quartet.
During 1963, Alice McLeod recorded five albums with the vibraphonist. Plays Terry Gibbs reissues the most elusive of the records (The Family Album) plus the slightly more common El Nutto. On both projects Gibbs wrote all of the songs. The Family Album received its name because each of the originals is dedicated to specific family members and friends. Many of the tunes have catchy melodies (one could imagine “Sunny Girl” becoming a standard), the quartet (with bassist Ernie Farrow and drummer Steve Little) swings hard, and the pianist easily keeps up with Gibbs, playing some ferocious bebop lines on “Up At Logue’s Place” and “El Cheapo.” El Nutto, which has bassist Herman Wright and drummer John Dentz joining Gibbs and McLeod, is just as rewarding. Listen to how the pianist sounds a bit like an aggressive Thelonious Monk on “El Nutto.” Any of these performances would be perfect for a blindfold test for McLeod never hints at her future style.
Terry Gibbs, who contributed a large amount of the liner notes, is heard throughout playing in his exciting and always enthusiastic style. The recordings might be 58 years old but Gibbs (who was already 20 years into his career) sounds as timeless as ever and shows that he was also a talented (if unheralded) songwriter."
—Scott Yanow (August, 2021)
Los Angeles Jazz Scene
"Yes, before she teamed up with her husband John Coltrane and created transcendental jazzitation, Alice McLeod was a bebopping pianist hired as a sideman for swinging vibes man Terry Gibbs. This album, which contains both sessions of the two together from 1963, is impressive on its own merits, but the fact that it includes the future Mrs. Coltrane has you searching for clues for things to come.
What you actually end up with is an impression of McLeod’s bop chops that holds up quite well to the fairly concise tunes on the February ’63 format with Ernie Farrow/b, Steve Little/dr and the leader Gibbs. The two get romantic together on the lithe “Ballad For Barbara” and bluesy for “Sol Right With Me” while piano and vibes snap and crack on the hip reads of “Burton Up Your Lip” and “Henny Time” with McLeod showing a firm grip all throughout. Later on in the year, Gibbs and McLeod team up with Herman Wright/b and John Dentz/b for a modal “El Nutto” that gives hint of Coltrane's famous “Impressions” while the two give kinetic interplay for “Little 'S’” and get soft and nimble for “Sleepy Head Blues”. No harps, no chanting, and no complaints."
—George W. Harris (July 22, 2021)