Gene Shaw Quintet ‘Breakthrough’ (Dusty Groove) 4/5

Detroit born and based trumpeter Gene Shaw does not count among the best known practitioners of the instrument, such was the competition that reigned during the 1950s and 1960s. However, this rare debut album for the jazz outlet of Chess, Argo, is a fine example of Shaw’s compositional and musical talents. Argo scored some major successes with pianists Ahmed Jamal and Ramsey Lewis, yet Shaw went largely unnoticed. Previous to this recording Shaw played on the epochal Mingus album ‘Tijuana Moods’, but thereafter largely disappeared from the jazz scene before re-surfacing as a leader with this album. As a whole the recording combines modal grooves with a more restrained take on the hard bop format. Taken at a slower tempo, but with a similar feel to ‘Milestones’ is ‘Autumn Walk’ with tenorist Sherman Morrison emphasizing the beat. In the latter post-bop is ‘A.D. Blues’ with its distinctly Jazz Messengers inspired theme and understated soloing from Shaw and Morrsion. Indeed this piece has a distinctly Blue Note feel and alongside the omnipresent Miles Davis, Blue Mitchell was clearly an influence upon Shaw’s playing. The Latin-bossa intro to ‘Marj’ leads into a nice duet of trumpet and saxophone playing off one another while ‘Six Bits’ is a waltz-like piece with Shaw taking the lead with a reflective piano solo from Morrison. It is surprising that the album did not enable Shaw to join the premier league of jazz trumpeters, but is remains as an overlooked document of his unquestionable prowess.

Tim Stenhouse