CD REVIEW: Larry Young: Larry Young In Paris: the ORTF Recordings

Larry Young: Larry Young In Paris: the ORTF Recordings
(Resonance HCD-2022. CD Review by Peter Jones).

Exciting though they were, it is well-known that the Sixties were not the best years for making a living from jazz in America. Like so many of his contemporaries, the 23-year-old Larry Young made the Atlantic crossing and was living in Paris in 1964-5, when these never-before-released recordings were made, most of them at the studios of the Office de Radiodiffusion Télévision Française (ORTF). And after they’d been broadcast, that’s where they stayed, hidden away and perfectly preserved, until excavated in 2012 by Resonance Records producer Zev Feldman.

There are some great musicians on this double CD release, notably the 19-year- old Woody Shaw on trumpet, plus Nathan Davis on tenor and Billy Brooks on drums. In fact, despite Young being credited in the title of the collection, it wasn’t his band – it was the Nathan Davis Quartet, and they are featured on Trane of Thought and Beyond All Limits, plus extended live versions of Wayne Shorter’s Black Nile and Shaw’s joyous Zoltan.

Most of the other tracks are credited to the octet known as the Jazz Aux Champs- Elysées All-Stars: Sonny Grey joins Shaw on trumpet, Jean-Claude Fohrenbach joins Davis on tenor, with Young on organ, Jack Diéval on piano, Franco Manzecchi on drums and Jacky Bamboo on conga. Finally there are also a couple of tracks featuring Young in a trio setting – his own Luny Tune, with Manzecchi and Bamboo, and Larry’s Blues, with Young on piano, Manzecchi on drums and Jacques B. Hess on bass.

It has to be said straight away that, aside from the magnificence and authority of the blowing, the audio quality of these tracks is stunning: they sound as if they were recorded yesterday. Style-wise, it’s a fascinating transition from straight- ahead post-bop to the more groove-based sound we associate with the Sixties.

The voluminous and well-illustrated booklet supplied with the CD set makes much of Young’s once-removed connection with European classical modernism in the shape of Béla Bartók, who taught Young’s own piano teacher, the remarkable Olga Von Till, who was also tutored by Erno Dohnányi and Zoltan Kodály. This largely explains Young’s characteristic stacking of fourths to create a distinctive harmonic style, plus his pentatonic melodies.

The music rewards careful and repeated listening. Most of it is great, some of it a little below par (they could have dispensed with the over-long trudging blues Discothèque) but all of it is fascinating and a credit to the tireless archaeological efforts of Feldman.

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