1. The More I See You
2. Lotus Blossom
3. Quiet as It's Kept
4. As Long as You're Living
5. To Lady
7. Speak Low
8. Never Let Me Go
9. Come Rain or Come Shine
10. Namely You
11. Moon Faced, Starry Eyed
12. Wild Is the Wind
13. You're Mine You
14. You're My Thrill
1. I Concentrate on You
2. Never Leave Me
3. Afro Blue
4. Let Up
5. Laugh, Clown, Laugh
6. Long As You're Living
9. Petit dejeuner
10. Un nouveau complet
11. Parisian Sketches: The Tower/The Champs/The Caves/The Left Bank/The Arch
Max Roach - Drums
Tommy Turrentne - Trumpet (tracks I/2-6, 9, 14, II/1-11)
Stanley Turrentine - Tenor sax (tracks I/1-6, 10, 13, II/1-11)
Julian Priester - Trombone (tracks I/2-6, 8, 12, II/1-11)
Bob Boswell - Bass
Ray Bryant - Piano (tracks I/7-14, II/1, 2)
Cedar Walton - Piano (tracks II/3-6)
Abbey Lincoln - Vocals (tracks II/1-6)
The legend on the front cover of this double album "Max Roach + Four" could be confusing, as Max Roach released an album called "Max Roach Plus Four" in 1956. It was the first recording released by Roach after the tragic death of Clifford Brown and Richie Powell - two of the key members of one of his finest quintets. Max seemed determined to forge ahead after the disastrous loss of two excellent musicians, and he formed various groups mainly consisting of young musicians.
After disbanding a quintet containing George Coleman and Booker Little, Max assembled a pianoless group featuring two brothers: trumpeter Tommy Turrentine and tenorist Stanley Turrentine. With trombonist Julian Priester, these formed the front line of a group which recorded all the tracks collected on this double CD. These are the complete studio recordings of Max Roach's band from July 1959 to March 1960, except for an album released under the name of Tommy Turrentine.
The collection starts with a tune you might not expect from a hard bop group: The More I See You, best remembered as a 1966 pop hit for Chris Montez. Stanley Turrentine monopolises this track, playing with sturdy soul. Lotus Blossom is entirely different, with the whole quintet blowing hard in bebop mode and the two Turrentines soloing brilliantly at a fast tempo, with Julian Priester following. A well-judged drum solo by Max Roach rounds off the track. This is the set-up for many of the tunes on these CDs. A different side to the group is found in To Lady, a soulful ballad with introspective solos, underpinned by Bob Boswell's solid bass.
The group was not always pianoless. Speak Low introduces pianist Ray Bryant who plays with just bass and drums on this track. The sextet continues to be slimmed down for Julian Priester accompanied simply by the rhythm section in Never Let Me Go. These tracks remind me of the ballad medleys that Norman Granz introduced into Jazz at the Philharmonic, as the next two tracks feature Tommy Turrentine and then Stanley Turrentine soloing with the rhythm section.
Things take a wrong turn with the second CD, which spotlights the voice of Abbey Lincoln. Nobody sleeps when she's on, as her ear-piercing vocals demand attention if not appreciation. I find that her singing here lacks subtlety, and we have to put up with her for the first six cuts of this CD. Some tracks are redeemed by some fine trumpet work from Tommy Turrentine, an underrated musician.
The last five tracks come from an album called Parisian Sketches which Max's quintet recorded in Paris in 1960. It consists of four punchy tunes performed with gusto by the quintet, and the long title-track composed by Max Roach to portray various aspects of Paris. This last item reminds me of some compositions by Charles Mingus, with a similar ability to play with time signatures and turn discords into harmony.
These recordings represent a significant period in Max Roach's career. His vitality would make him move on to many other experiments.