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

larry-youngThis is a fine example of the digital era being used creatively. Search through the four hundred plus hours of archives at the French National Audio-Visual Institute (INA) and select the very best for re-issue on a de-luxe gatefold sleeve and lavish inner booklet of some sixty-eight pages which would be impressive for a box set, let alone a double CD. Such was the joint enterprise of Californian independent label Resonance and INA, ably assisted by French Jazzmag journalist Pascal Rozat who also happens to work permanently for INA. The first result of these endeavours is a two CD set of live performances by Hammond organist Larry Young who was always on the avant-garde side of his favoured instrument and, as well as recording some thrilling albums for Blue Note, also found himself participating on the controversial best selling Miles ‘Bitches Brew’ set. He was just twenty-three years of age at the time of these recordings in the mid-1960s and, tragically, died at the age of only thirty-eight in 1978.
A major bonus is that as well as shedding light on the musicians activities in Paris in 1965, the re-issue as a whole serves as a mini-guide to the Paris jazz scene at the time and that includes some of the key media actors. One such figure is André Francis who, for some forty-nine years, worked for French national radio as its principal jazz commentator and, while now retired, is still going strong at the venerable age of ninety. Born in Paris in 1925, Francis belongs to the generation that discovered jazz during the German occupation and were instrumental in the development and expansion of jazz festivals in the post-WWII period. It is his voice that introduces the official recording of Miles Davis and his band at the Antibes Juan-Les-Pins performance in 1963, recorded on Columbia, and on the 1965 live performance of ‘A Love Supreme’ by the John Coltrane quintet at the same venue, recently re-issued as part of the fiftieth anniversary edition of the original album and supplementary versions.

As for the music itself, it is divided into two separate live sessions recorded at the French national radio recording studios in Paris, one with an all-American band, while the second is with a mainly French ensemble. Interestingly, it is the latter that impresses most with a sizzling near fourteen minute interpretation of Wayne Shorter’s ‘Black Nile’ and wonders why Young did not record this on record at the time. It is ideally suited to his sound. Young cut a seminal album for the Blue Note label in ‘Unity’ and from this ‘Zoltan’ is heard here in an epic twenty minute extravaganza. There is fine interplay between the brass players and this live performance breathes new life into the original that graced the Blue Note album with one of the most iconic Reid Miles covers. The first CD focuses on some of his earlier pieces for Blue Note, of which a tribute to Coltrane is the pick of the bunch on, ‘Talkin’ about J.C.’, and on the original Coltrane alumni Elvin Jones was the featured drummer while ‘Larry’s Blues’ is an impromptu number that organically emerged from the live sessions.

Rounding off matters in fine style is the highly informative and lengthy booklet. This features insightful interviews with major figures from the jazz world including Michael Cuscuna, André Francis among other notable observers and participants as well as a testimony from the son of late Woody Shaw, a musician who was an integral part of Larry Young’s studio band. This is unquestionably an exemplary re-issue that sets new standards of excellence in its informative use of notes and interviews, plus iconic black and white photos of the musicians in performance by Jean-Pierre Leloir and Francis Wolff. One awaits with great anticipation which of the cornucopia of live performances Resonance and the INA may come up with next. A selected number of tracks from this set can equally be purchased via a US only 10″ vinyl.

Tim Stenhouse