Album Review: Soul Junction

Soul_Junction

“Red Garland has the sublime virtue of swing and a solid, deep groove.”~ Ralph J. Gleason

Early in his career, Red Garland played with legends like Lester Young, Charlie Parker, and Coleman Hawkins. He made his name though in the mid-1950s when he began playing with Miles Davis and John Coltrane in the Miles Davis Quintet (1955 to 1958).

His piano was an important part of recordings from that period. Doug Ramsey wrote of Garland’s style:

“The hallmarks are locked chords, lightning single-note lines, rhapsodic out-of-tempo introductions, isolated bell-like notes. Garland generates the hard-edged excitement of bop, yet retains the smooth, swinging, melodic flow common to so many jazzmen from the Southwest.”

Soul Junction was recorded in 1957 in the middle of his time with Davis and Coltrane, and Coltrane is a significant contributor to the album. Indeed researching the album, critics seem to concur that Coltrane contributes most of the highlights on the album. But I am not so sure I agree.

Coltrane and his “sheets of sound” are great, yes. But the under-rated Garland is pretty damn good too. Especially on Ellington’s “I Got it Bad (And That Ain’t Good),” and the wonderful title track, “Soul Junction.”

“I Got it Bad (And That Ain’t Good)” is one of the great jazz standards of all time, and Red and company do it proud. Garland sets things up with some bluesy chords then Donald Byrd takes over. Byrd’s beautiful sound is a perfect transition to Coltrane’s excellent soloing.

The best track by far though is the title one. Garland’s long piano solo (over 8 minutes) at the beginning of “Soul Junction” is pure magic… and then Coltrane comes in. Wow! Over the week I spent more time listening to this track than to any of the others. It got better with each listening. The sure sign of great artistry. On a set of good headphones, it was even better.

Tracks

1 Soul Junction 15:31
2 Woody ‘N’ You 6:53
3 Birk’s Works 7:36
4 I’ve Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good) 6:16
5 Hallelujah 6:29

Credits

  • Tenor Saxophone – John Coltrane
  • Piano – Red Garland
  • Trumpet – Donald Byrd
  • Bass – George Joyner
  • Drums – Arthur Taylor*
  • Engineer [Recording] – Rudy Van Gelder
  • Mastered By [Digital Remastering] – Phil De Lancie
  • Producer [Supervision] – Bob Weinstock

Notes

Recorded in Hackensack, New Jersey, November 15th 1957.Digitally remastered in 1990.

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