Donald Byrd - Slow Drag LP
More than a dozen albums into his Blue Note tenure, Donald Byrd's 1967 date Slow Drag would be one of the last pure hard bop sessions that the reliably brilliant trumpeter would cut before his music began evolving towards fusion. Byrd flies high on this highly gratifying set that finds it's groove across a variety of feels fueled by the tremendous drumming of Billy Higgins. The quintet is rounded out by alto saxophonist Sonny Red, pianist Cedar Walton, and bassist Walter Booker, each of whom contribute original compositions to the set list. The album opens with Byrd's loose-limbed titled track, an endlessly entertaining 10-minute groovefest that features Higgins' scene-stealing adlibbed vocals. "Secret Love," a 1950s hit for Doris Day, becomes a modal jazz vehicle that shifts easily into a bright swing before Booker and Walton's "Book's Bossa" introduces a bossa nova flavor to the proceedings. Red's upbeat boogaloo number "Jelly Roll" lifts the energy at the start of Side 2 followed by Walton's soulful jazz waltz "The Loner." The album comes to a close with a showstopping performance of the ballad "My Ideal" that's a showcase for Byrd's dazzling melodicism.
Blue Note Records' acclaimed Tone Poet Audiophile Vinyl Reissue Series continues in 2023. Launched in 2019 in honor of the label's 80th Anniversary, the Tone Poet series is produced by audiophile legend Joe Harley and features all-analog, 180g audiophile vinyl reissues that are mastered from the original master tapes by Kevin Gray of Cohearent Audio. Tone Poet vinyl is manufactured at RTI in Camarillo, CA, and packaged in deluxe Stoughton Printing "Old Style" gatefold Tip-On jackets. The titles were once again handpicked by Harley and cover the crème de la crème of the Blue Note catalog along with underrated classics, modern era standouts, and albums from other labels under the Blue Note umbrella including Pacific Jazz and United Artists Records. Every aspect of these Blue Note/Tone Poet releases is done to the highest-possible standard. It means that you will never find a superior version.
"The LPs are mastered directly from the original analog master tapes by Kevin at his incredible facility called Cohearent Mastering. We go about it in the exact same way that we did for so many years for the Music Matters Blue Note reissues. We do not roll off the low end, boost the top or do any limiting of any kind. We allow the full glory of the original Blue Note masters to come though unimpeded! Short of having an actual time machine, this is as close as you can get to going back and being a fly on the wall for an original Blue Note recording session."
- Joe Harley