Al Grey Quintet
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World class trombonist, composer, arranger and educator, Al "Golden Trombone" Grey, is a consummate musician and an original stylist. Born Albert Thornton Grey in 1925 in Aldie, Virginia, he grew up in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, and says, "I remember hearing my father practice when I was only three or four years old. I just loved the sound so much that I wanted to touch it." And touch it, he has! Grey has been doing it for a half-century, since he landed his first important job with Benny Carter’s big band in 1946. From the outset, there was a timeless quality in Grey’s playing, up-to-date as might be expected from someone with firsthand knowledge of the latest innovations, yet still reflecting the classic verities of the music he drew inspiration from as a student musician. This modern/mainstream balance made Grey an ideal sideman over the next three decades for veteran big-band leaders like Carter, Lionel Hampton and Count Basie, as well as Dizzy Gillespie (who featured the trombonist in his glorious ‘50s orchestra). It also made Grey an ideal front-man for small groups, from the sextet he co-led with Billy Mitchell in the early ‘60s to a later trombone-tenor partnership with Jimmy Forrest and a more recent two-trombone effort that featured his son Mike. The present session is the latest chapter in Grey’s small-band discography. The beautiful blend of trombone and tenor in the front line recalls earlier efforts with Mitchell, Forrest and guitarist Joe Cohn’s dad Al; while the featured guest supplies a trombone-organ texture that Grey has previously explored with Wild Bill Davis and Jimmy McGriff. Choosing Jack McDuff as the primary partner in this effort was inspired, for like his host McDuff is a survivor (one year younger than Grey) who ignores the potential for grandstanding offered by his instrument and concentrates instead on music. McDuff waited out the organ’s eclipse during the fusion years of the ‘70s and early ‘80s, and was poised to act as a prime mover in the Hammond B-3 revival. Now his own recording career is back in overdrive, and musicians are lined up to collaborate with him on special projects.
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