Larry Young ‘Mother Ship’ LP (Blue Note) 4/5

Born in 1940 in Newark, New Jersey, Larry Young trained in classical and jazz piano as a child with early influences coming from the blues and classical composers such as Bartok. His early career saw him feature alongside Jimmy Forrest, Kenny Dorham, Hank Mobley and many other artists that were prominent on the east coast scene around the late 1950s.

After his early recording period for the Prestige record label, organist Larry Young recorded a number of progressive jazz albums for Blue Note, developing a modal approach to the Hammond B-3 which was loosely likened to that of what John Coltrane was doing on the Saxophone, culminating in a very different approach to such luminaries as Jack Mcduff and Jimmy Smith. Larry Young’s sound became increasingly more progressive leading up to the early 1970s and collaborations with leading innovators on the burgeoning avant-garde and jazz fusion scene began to unfold. Larry Young was the first choice jazz organist, with Tony Williams, John Mclaughlin and Miles Davis.

The ‘Mother Ship’ album was actually recorded in 1969 for Blue Note Records but the release was delayed and eventually came out over 10 years later. If you listen to his earlier soul-jazz albums such as ‘Testifying’ on Prestige and then listen to this ‘Mother Ship’ album, there’s a marked departure from the former. Blue Note’s policy allowed Larry Young to experiment and develop his own sound through a diverse range of influences which led up to this album.

On all five of his compositions, organist Larry Young is joined by legendary trumpeter Lee Morgan, Herbert Morgan on tenor sax and drummer Eddie Gladden.
The highly charged track ‘Mother Ship’ is propelled by Eddie Gladdon’s excellent drumming, full of flair and rapid shifting patterns allowing both Lee Morgan [trumpet] and Herbert Morgan [tenor saxophone] space for inventive phrasing before the latter part of the composition opens out into a wide field for both Larry Young and the drummer to explore. It’s really the drummer that makes this track and his polyrhythmic strides add colourful textures for Larry Young’s sparse probing accents.

The swinging memorable composition, ‘Love Drops’, sees Larry Young at the forefront alongside the impressionable tones of both Herbert Morgan and Lee Morgan. Yet again the subtle rhythmic gestures provided by drummer Eddie Gladdon add a special touch and an enquiring invitation for Larry Young and co. to create something special, as they do.

Another highlight is the 13-minute recording of ‘Trip Merchant’ which, of all the tracks, allows the most space and freedom for each musician to explore. It best represents the leader’s transition towards a new phase in his career. A classic album that should have been released at the time of the recording and thankfully was released alongside many other superb albums from the Blue Note catalogue which had been held back.

Mark Jones

Read also: Larry Young ‘Selections From Paris – The ORTF Recordings’ 2CD (Resonance/INA) 4/5