Mal Waldron with Jackie McLean, John Coltrane, Idrees Sulieman, Sahib Shihab and Bill Hardman – Mal/2

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Even half a Mal is more greatness than many people out there could take. Mel Waldron was another 1950s master of hard bop jazz and finds himself in illustrious company on his 1957 debut album. John Coltrane and Sahib Shihab are masters of tenor and alto saxophone and jazz freaks break into a sweat of joy when they hear these names. Coltrane alone could be a reason to fall in love with this record. You can always hear his very original kind of playing the tenor. No wonder that first pressings of this gem of an album go for 250 USD and even more in fine conditions. It might be a lesser known participation of the great John Coltrane with another bandleader but as he glows permanently on this album the rest of the musicians do the same. The band goes full throttle when needed but there are also thought provoking slow tunes generating an atmosphere of melancholy when Waldron makes his piano sing a dark ballad while the drummer barely stands out and just backs up the whole composition with a low key beat linked to the equally reluctant bass line. Trumpet and tenor come in play after a while to moan wearily on top of that reduced rhythmical pattern. Dark and smoke filled bars in a nameless American metropolis are exactly, what associate with these haunting melodies. And out of a sudden the band gains pace and the whole atmosphere becomes more and more cheerful. The grooves are swinging and good for a dance or two. The leading instruments alto sax, tenor sax and trumpet chatter frolicsome like a bunch of youngsters on a night out in town. These changes of atmosphere are one of the strong points of this record. Another is the overall tight interplay of all instruments. These cats were hard-nosed veterans of the jazz genre taking the 1940s dance club sounds to another level. Bebop turns into hard bop and this album shows the dignity in such a crystal clear way.