Fine & Mellow Swingin'


For decades, Julian Priester was the first trombone sideman called, was even featured in ensembles led by Max Roach, Duke Ellington and other jazz royalty, yet he recorded precious few titles as a leader. Priester recorded his first, Keep Swingin', now in Concord's digital-only catalog, upon leaving Roach's band in 1960. Except for one more solo title that same year, he didn't lead a recording session for another 14 years.

This solo debut features Priester with pianist Tommy Flanagan, bassist Sam Jones and drummer Elvin Jones, polished into producer Orrin Keepnews' classic warm, refined jazz sound. Priester's trombone rings with a cool, sadly happy tone that's perfect for both strolling and moaning the blues. Dig the slow-rolling and well-lubricated, timeless groove of his funky "Bob T's Blues" or how his trombone lays down the melody to "1239A" and then runs away with it. "Once In A While" spotlights Priester's velvety ballad touch, beautifully enhanced by Flanagan's softly brilliant piano.

Elvin Jones generally plays with uncharacteristic restraint, gliding along with the rest of the rhythm in "Just Friends" and quicksilver "Under The Surface." Even so, he locks up and kicks out the rhythm to "24-Hour Leave" hard, hotly swings the Latin beat in Priester's "The End," and in his torrid, explosive breaks to Priester's closing "Julian's Tune," Elvin eventually sounds like himself. It seems a shame that Julian Priester hasn't taken more opportunities to sound like himself, too.

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