Personnel: Pepper Adams (baritone saxophone); Donald Byrd (trumpet); Bobby Timmons (piano); Doug Watkins (acoustic bass); Elvin Jones (drums).
Recorded in April 1958.
In 1958, Pepper Adams and Donald Byrd were pivotal members of a sextet led by Chicago tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin. They also formed their own quintet with fellow Detroiters Doug Watkins and Elvin Jones, and the then-rising star Bobby Timmons as the fifth wheel. This album, one of the first club dates recorded for the Riverside label, may have presented logistic problems with the acoustics, mic placements, and reel to reel tape technology, but there were no such issues with the extraordinary music contained on this effort. A tight, in tune and exciting ensemble, Adams and Byrd laid it all out for this single 39-minute set of modern jazz at the Five Spot Caf‚ in New York City. The symmetry between the witty and raw baritone sax of Adams and Byrd's stirring and sometimes strained trumpet is the stuff of legends, and the hallmark of the bop to hard bop era. Contained on this album are two definitive all-time great selections -- "The Long Two/Four" and especially "Hastings Street Bounce" -- the former with a march intro from Jones setting up a sharp staccato hard line melody with trumpet fills and the precise comping of Timmons, the latter a definitive groovy soul strut shuffle with one of the more hummable and memorable melodies ever, both pieces featuring rousing solos, and both tracks over ten minutes of jam power. Their theme "'Tis" penned by Thad Jones is a short, clipped unison bop which is a bit off minor, and showcases the unique instrumental voices of the frontmen. "Yourna," written by Byrd, and the standard "You're My Thrill" are the ballads tossed in for good measure and they showcase a yearning trumpet or somber pining baritone respectively. There's a palpable sense of democracy, shared values, and above all, balance in this band of expert modern jazz pioneers. It's a keeper, and one of the best recordings of any band in this era. The liner notes written by producer Orrin Keepnews suggests this was a "full night's work," perhaps for him and the band, as the "10 to 4" represents their time on the bandstand -- with breaks -- from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. This gig reportedly lasted for nearly two months during the spring of 1958, so isn't there anything else in the can to supplement what is here? ~ Michael G. Nastos