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  1. Booker Little

    The first Booker Little I heard was his composition "Man of Words" a beautiful and haunting piece on this compilation (the other tracks are also well worth a listen by the way). I'm very grateful that I stumbled across this (inexplicably) not very well known trumpeter. I then bought his self-titled quartet LP which I adore and if you haven't heard it you really ought to! To me the album has a melancholy yet hopeful mood (five out of six of the pieces on the album are originals and all of them are in minor keys). Wynton Kelly's is enlisted for the minor blues "Bee Tee's Minor Plea" and also "Life's A Little Blue" but Tommy Flanagan's unassuming, elegant playing on the rest of the album has really grown on me also. Scott LaFaro and Roy Haynes complete the rhythm section but unfortunately the recording doesn't do Roy Hayne's crisp touch justice and Scott LaFaro's bass sounds somewhat distant and boomy (his playing, typically free and melodic, is great though). The last track is a gorgeous rendition of a lesser known ballad "Who Can I Turn To?" by Alec Wilder and William Engvick. I've heard a few tracks from his other albums as a sideman or leader and, although I think the quartet album will remain my favorite, he seems to have been experimenting with dissonance and close harmonies in his own compositions. To me he had it all: brilliant range but with no sacrafice to his pure and sensitive tone, astonishing facility on the instrument but the emotional element was always there also, he (like Eric Dolphy) was stretching the vocabulary of bebop and played a lot of tensions and spiky lines which I think made him sound more modern than Freddie Hubbard or Lee Morgan, great compositions and arrangements which were also pushing the boundaries and he died at 23 years old! He was not a drug addict or alchoholic and by all accounts he was a beautiful and kind person but he suffered from uremia and died of kidney failure in 1961. Luckily for us he left a substantial recorded legacy but as with all great talents who died before their time we can only wonder at what musical directions he would have taken had he lived longer. A really nice page on Booker Little with a discography and lots of other interesting information can be found here (by Alan Saul). I'd love to hear any thought's anyone has on Booker Little and any recommendations on which albums of his to get (I already have Dolphy's "Far Cry" which I like very much but the quartet album still takes the top spot for me).