City Paper is not for tourists
Too frequently omitted from discussions of lyrical jazz trumpeters—Clifford Brown’s children—is Florida native Richard “Blue” Mitchell, whose sublime melodic gifts graced the ensembles of, among others, Ray Charles, Horace Silver, and British bluesman John Mayall. While Mitchell’s talents were best displayed on his own dates, which encompassed both straight-ahead jazz and, toward the end of his career, dalliances with fusion, perhaps none is as impressive a showcase as this thankfully reissued 1960-’61 date, which features a large aggregation and the arrangements of Benny Golson and the late Tadd Dameron. Dameron was incarcerated during the recording session, but his sweeping, witty, and romantic string-and-brass treatments of standards such as “But Beautiful” and the shamefully underrecorded title track (a Dameron original) give Mitchell ample space for his ruminations; Mitchell also benefits from the now-sensitive, now-swinging drum and cymbal work of frequent Dameron associate Philly Joe Jones, as on “The Best Things in Life Are Free.” (Golson, probably best known for jazz standards such as “Along Came Betty,” “I Remember Clifford,” and “Killer Joe,” is equally sensitive to the trumpeter’s pensive nature; his arrangements of Horace Silver’s “Peace” and the standard “For All We Know” flirt with the brand of tasteful melancholy that permeates a good deal of Smooth. Still, it is Dameron’s arrangement of another Silver classic, “Strollin’,” that best showcases the ensemble and its soloist. Its alternately brisk and passive string-and-brass voicings, coupled with Mitchell’s brassy beauty, make for the kind of performance that reminds you (and crusty critics like me) why you fell so deeply in love with music in the first place.