52 Jazz Tracks for 2021 (15. ‘Down San Diego Way’, Arthur Blythe, 1979)

The fifteenth of Jon Turney’s weekly selections (series introduced HERE), shows off Arthur Blythe in his pomp.

Arthur Blythe’s magnificent early major label release had plenty of love from the critics, but disappeared for quite a while in pre-internet days. But the way the music burst out at first listening kept it in my mind even more effectively than the classic 12 inch by 12 artwork.

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Down San Diego Way is a determinedly good-humoured introduction, a taste of instant sunshine. James Newton’s liquid flute is heard first, after the initial bass statement from Cecil McBee, then Blythe competes with him to occupy the upper register. The contrast between Newton’s tone and Blythe’s huge, rich alto sound is one thing that makes the session.

On other tracks the sax and drum dialogue between Blythe and Jack deJohnette has a rare ferocity. Bob Stewart’s tuba gets some fully-realised solos. James “Blood” Ulmer contributes wild harmolodically-flavoured guitar. Nowadays I’d point to hints of Henry Threadgill’s sound world, but really the style Blythe fashioned in his years on the West Coast before he made the move to New York is all his own. And here it takes glorious flight.

LINKS: Listen on Spotify
More on this recording on Jon’s Bristol Jazz Log

Read Jon’s introduction to the ’52 tracks’ series

Week Fourteen, My Ship, Andrew Cyrille

Spotify playlist for the series.

Categories: Feature/Interview

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