LARRY YOUNG — Unity (review)

LARRY YOUNG — Unity album cover Album · 1965 · Post Bop Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
With the release of Unity in 1965, Larry Young finally leaves behind his blues/jazz roots and pushes his music into new territories only hinted at on previous albums, and he brings the Hammond B-3 organ into new and more progressive areas as well. The Hammond was originally invented for home and church use, Jimmie Smith shocked the jazz world in the early 50s when he began playing a blues-based hard bop jazz style with the B-3 as the lead instrument. This bluesy approach to the Hammond became a classic sound that continues to this day in metropolitan clubs around the world under the moniker acid jazz. As a committed B-3 player, the young Larry had started out playing in the traditional Jimmie Smith style, but by the time he had signed with Blue Note he began to show a restless explorative side that was trying out new sounds and styles on the Hammond. Unity is Young's first fully realized and original album and it features a style of post-bop that has some similarities to the classic Miles Davis Quintet and some of Herbie Hancock's mid 60s solo work. This style uses the rough no-nonsense melodies of 60s RnB and then moves into improvisations that are abstract, esoteric and based somewhat on the harmonies of early 20th century composers. The difference in the case of Larry Young is that he is using a B-3 instead of a piano, which brings a whole new sound to the world of post bop jazz.

This is a very good jazz album and it gets rave reviews from most critics, but this isn't my favorite Larry Young album. I miss some of the off-kilter quirkiness that is so appealing on many of his other albums. In some ways, as a long time Larry Young fan, I almost think this album is a little too professional, but maybe that is just me.

Throughout this album Larry burns up the keys on his B-3 and shows once again that he may still be the best Hammond player ever. You can also hear the quartal voicings and scale runs that influenced British prog-rockers like Brian Auger and Keith Emerson. Larry's band mates on here are also impressive, especially drummer Elvin Jones. The Monk inspired Monk's Dream features Elvin and Larry in a duet setting, and what a crazy roller coaster of rhythm and angular scale runs this one turns out to be. Young and Jones seem to be having a blast as they practically deconstruct the song into scattered shards of what it started out to be and use sly humor to cleverly re-structure it's content.

If you like that style of dry intellectual post-bop favored by the likes of Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, or if you are interested in the roots of jazz fusion and the first stepping stones towards the use of the B-3 in early progressive rock, then you might enjoy this fine set by the great Larry Young.
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Abraxas wrote:
more than 2 years ago
Great review! Especially the introduction, great piece of info concerning the history of the B3.
Although I do really like it, I agree with it being more cerebral post-bop than anything, but Larry's playing alongside Elvin and Shaw's trumpet is fascinating. Henderson is great, of course.


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