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The Complete Blue Note Fifties Sessions

4.6 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Blue Note raids the back of its vaults for all four of Melle's long out of print 10" LPs, plus the 12" Patterns in Jazz, in order to place back in circulation a musician who had been nearly invisible to the jazz world for a good three decades. Though Melle's entertaining self-penned liner notes may be outrageously self-aggrandizing, this collection leaves little doubt that he was (and remains) a marvelous saxophonist and an intriguing composer who hasn't been given his due. On the early sides, Melle plays an erudite, relaxed, always musical tenor sax, and "Transition" marks his recorded debut on baritone, which he uses in a thoughtful, even quizzical manner for the remainder of the set. As a composer, Melle was very much the uncompromising cool bopper, but was also equipped with a fascinating mind of his own. His first session is also the most startling: "Four Moons" is brilliant in its Kentonian harmonic way, with vibraphone striking the chords; so is his most famous jazz composition "The Gears," with its Monica Dell scat vocal lead doubled by vibraphone. Further on in the set, Melle does away with the piano in the cool tradition, but gives the lineup an unorthodox twist by using a guitarist (Tal Farlow, Lou Mecca, or Joe Cinderella) in the keyboard role, and a trombonist (Eddie Bert or the swinging, vastly underrated Urbie Green) or even a tuba (Don Butterfield) on the front line. He also employs consistently first-class rhythm sections, with Max Roach and a young Joe Morello among the drummers. For those super-collectors who may have the extremely rare originals (now worth hundreds of dollars each), there is one unreleased track, "The Nearness of You"; the digitally remastered sound, flaws in the master tapes aside, is excellent.

Product Details

  • Audio CD
  • ASIN: B001MGO1G0
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,028,551 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
I actually learned of Gil Melle from a book on jazz album cover art. It seems he was an accomplished artist and photographer whose often uncredited work graced numerous albums on Blue Note and Prestige. He was also one of the more daring jazz innovators of the first half of the 50's. His lineups might include guitar, trombone, french horn, or even tuba. The music in this double CD brings together some 5 or 6 early Blue Note LPs. You can hear some Birth of the Cool in here, some MJQ, some Mulligan, some classical. My favorites from this collection are those from the first LP, with their Astronomy theme, female voice, vibes, and general surreal ambience. They sort of presaged Melle's later work in electronics and weird sound (he scored "Rod Serling's Night Gallery" and some sci-fi films).
My only problems with this great item are non-musical. First, I would have liked one of Melle's early original art covers; this would have made it a knockout. Also, I think someone other than Melle himself could have done the liner notes. He seems a little too eager to tell us what a Renaissance man he is (some of his claims are a tad dubious anyway), and to urge us to forget the old stuff (like what's contained here). Still, to hear the music is to forgive all.
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Format: Audio CD
This 2-CD set compiles the late Gil Mellé's various early- to mid-1950s sessions for Blue Note, which feature some fascinating lineups (the personnel include George Wallington, Joe Cinderella, Eddie Bert, Max Roach, Joe Morello, Tal Farlow, Ed Thigpen, Red Mitchell, Don Butterfield, Oscar Pettiford......) & Mellé's adventurous compositions. Though the recordings were made in Van Gelder's New Jersey studio (some of the earliest ones he did), the sound is rather West Coastish--you're likely to be reminded of Gerry Mulligan's work, because the leader sticks to baritone for most of the sessions, favours partnerships with trombonists and soft, tasteful brushwork from the drummer, & except for the session with Wallington avoids pianists: mostly the harmonies are filled in by guitar, & on occasion the guitarist simply lays out. Despite Mellé's overtly "experimental" streak, these tracks have a slinky, low-key vibe that prevents them from really seeming all that angular. Mellé is exceedingly boastful about his own genius in the liner notes--among other things, taking credit for "every innovation in electronic music" in the past century, for introducing Alfred Lion to Rudy Van Gelder, for introducing the idea of guitar-based rather than piano-based jazz (& thus inventing "the very basis of rock music"), &c &c--a display of egotism the likes of which I've never seen before (he makes Keith Jarrett sound modest). That's too much weight to place on the album--it's good, but not THAT good.
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Format: Audio CD
So what the heck do I mean by a nice substitute? Did you read the product description closely? It says, "This product is manufactured on demand using CD-R recordable media." This item has long since been out of print so when I suddenly saw this item become available again (other than from sellers here asking ridiculous prices) I had to take a look. I was impressed with the completeness and the quality of the liners and tray insert. The disc labels look a little different than the standard Blue Note CD issues, but other than that and a close inspection of the "shiny side" you might convince someone that this is the real deal. The sound quality is as good as a regular CD and it's great to finally hear this music. I'm just sorry I missed this limited edition when it was out there.
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By A Customer on May 15, 1999
Format: Audio CD
This is a great CD set, Enjoyed the eclectic choice of musicians that are in the variety of songs and I especially enjoy Gil Melle's talent for creative music. I loved the "Ballade for Guitar" played by Lou Mecca - Guitarist & I enjoyed the soul put in the song: titled "Lover Man" with Tal Farlow on Guitar and Gil on Tenor Sax. Enjoyed Joe Cinderella's playing on "Long Ago and Far Away" I really enjoyed all the Guitarist and Gil Melle's playing along with Billy Phillips on Bass, because I know all these talented muscians and I enjoy listening to them playing whenever I can.
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By A Customer on October 19, 2000
Format: Audio CD
This is extremely interesting music. It reminds me of Miles' "Birth of the Cool" in that much of it has a chamber music sound, with unexpected passages and twists. Gil Melle has a fascinating mind. The music is swinging, pleasant and totally accessible, while also being fresh, exotic and representing a unique approach to jazz. Why is it that a unique approach to jazz seemed more possible in the early 1950s than it does now? In any event, this is an important and enjoyable album, a revelation to anyone who has not heard Gil Melle's music.
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Format: Audio CD
I am writing in a rush....
I resent the acclaim Gil receives and disagree with the criticisms. He should not be known only for his soundtrack work and his work with electronic instruments and neither for his chops (which in my opinion were understated, inventive and cool.)
These albums will prove to the casual listener that he was ahead of his time in a few aspects. (And a decent baritone saxophonist too: warm, slightly metallic and very fluent, relying heavily on the constantly changing themes in his compositions to carry him... not unlike most west coasters at the time. He swung harder though, as shown on Timepiece he even gets a bit Dexter Gordon-y.) From a pop music aspect... catchy hooks, melodic lines, accesibility in his eclecticism, easily-grasped and simple though carefully built structures.
I recommend this for all fans of jazz who do not rely on hearing spontaneous and hard 'swinging' (surely we are past 'swinging' in 2009??) improvisation and are ready to hear the sounds of the 'bland' West Coast 'jazzed up'... if you will forgive my terminology. Fans of compositional writing from Charles Mingus to Frank Zappa to Modern Jazz Quartet will be best pleased.
Tal Farlow is also brilliant here.
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