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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Exploring the Future




So Nice

Angel Eyes

Into The Orbit


Race for Space

Someone to Watch over Me

Exploring the Future

The Coutdown

Bonus Tracks


Chasing the Bird

Move (unedited version)

Head Gear (AKA The Countdown – unedited version)

Curtis Counce (bass); Rolf Ericson (trumpet): Harold Land (tenor sax): Elmo Hope (piano) Frank Butler (drums)

Recorded 1958



This is one of Curtis Counce’s last albums. It’s also one of his first. That tells the story of the short-lived Counce (1926-63), a swinging West Coast titan of the bass who worked with some of the best sidemen around – Carl Perkins was in his band in 1956 and Jack Sheldon held the trumpet chair. By the time of Exploring the Future, Sheldon had left and Perkins was dead. Despite the modish title the results, as enshrined in the eight track LP, are hard bop West Coast style.

Drafted in to replace Sheldon is Rolf Ericson, and the new pianist is Elmo Hope, hugely admired, perhaps in retrospect more so even than he was alive. Whether chauvinistically or not – I’m not going to hazard a guess – the original sleeve note placed Ericson at the bottom of the personnel listing: Too Swedish? Too white? In any case Boplicity compounds this foolishness and reprises it. I’ve seldom ever seen a personnel listing where the trumpeter is listed after the drummer. Still, let’s get to the music.

Ericson seems to be fractionally too near the microphone but his playing is bubbling, eager and full of strong drive. Hope’s uncanny control over tempi – slowing up or speeding up at will – is shown at its best and most creative in Angel Eyes. Drummer Frank Butler gets the honours in a two-and-a-half minute solo on Move. Counce shows his finest chops, strong toned, splendidly solid, when he starts up Someone to Watch over Me whereupon Hope takes up the theme. Harold Land’s best moments come during his authoritative bop licks on the album’s title track, Exploring the Future, where he is strongly driven on by the rhythm section of Hope, Counce and Butler.

There are some bonus tracks, Move and The Countdown - retitled Head Gear – are heard in their unedited forms. Move is now a four-minute drum solo and – for all Butler’s skill - therefore twice as boring as before. Chasing the Bird comes from the same group and Hope, heard on the left channel, exchanges finely with his colleagues; Ericson and Land also exchange ideas to mutual advantage.

There are some nice photos in the booklet with a good run-down of Counce’s brief recording career. Nowhere though does it state definitively when this album was recorded, which seems strange. Otherwise if you’re missing this, the bonus tracks may be of interest as two of them (Chasing the Bird and Move) come from a 1959 Bel Canto LP.

Jonathan Woolf

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