Harold Land (1928-2001) was one of the major hard-bop stylists to be based on the West Coast. His tenor playing was always underrated but an asset on the many sessions on which he appeared.
Born in Houston, Land grew up in San Diego where he started playing tenor when he was 16. His first recordings were in 1949 but Land gained his initial fame as a member of the Clifford Brown/Max Roach Quintet during 1954-1955. Land’s smooth, hard tone fit in quite well with this pacesetting group. Due to a family problem, he left in late 1955 but worked steadily in Los Angeles with Curtis Counce during 1956-1958.
Land had the opportunity to lead albums for Contemporary, HiFiJazz and Jazzland during 1958-1960. Harold in the Land of Jazz, a quintet outing with trumpeter Rolf Ericson and pianist Carl Perkins, is notable for introducing Perkins’s “Grooveyard” and for showing that not all West Coast jazz was of the cool vareity. The Fox is on the same level, teaming Land with trumpeter Dupree Bolton and pianist Elmo Hope, performing songs by Hope and Land. West Coast Blues matches Land with guitarist Wes Montgomery (who wrote the title cut) and trumpeter Joe Gordon for some state-of-the-art hard bop from 1960. Eastward Ho! was recorded during a visit to New York and has Land blending in well with trumpeter Kenny Dorham.
Land teamed up with bassist Red Mitchell, worked with the Gerald Wilson Orchestra, and co-led bands with vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson (1968-1971) and trumpeter Blue Mitchell (1975-1978). 1977’s Maponzi, recorded for Concord, documents the group with Mitchell and keyboardist Kirk Lightsey, consisting of advanced but swinging originals.
Harold Land, who was influenced by John Coltrane in later years, remained a major force in the Los Angeles area up until the time of his 2001 death.