September 28, 2017

Booker Little - Booker Little (1960)

Booker Little has got to be one of the five best trumpet players ever recorded. I first fell in love with his playing on Eric Dolphy's Five Spot collection where he is the multi-instrumentalist's only horn accompaniment. The two trade off brilliantly and I think that his early death and subsequent absence from Out To Lunch is the only thing holding that album back--just to show how much of a game changer I see him in Dolphy's music. Little's album Out Front is mentioned more often than this self-titled session, but I prefer hearing him operate in an even smaller group. I don't have a lot of favorite trumpet performances since the instrument is hard to seamlessly squeeze into small band arrangements, but Little always bends perfect melodies with his direct yet soft tone. I'm no expert and can't say exactly why Little sounds a few steps further into the avant garde than other trumpeters, but listen for those more daring note leaps, cascading phrases, and little bits of glissando. The rest of the band is no stranger to post-bop styles either. Scott LaFaro is the next most dominant musician of the session and helps Little melodically and tonally drive the simple trumpet quartet--on some tracks sounding a lot like how he would play with Ornette Coleman. The pianists, whether Tommy Flanagan or Wynton Kelly, carefully dose out their chord backdrops, as if they're playing with Miles Davis and trying to coast with negative space. Trumpet quartets are rare and even more rarely make up substantial albums, but between Little's expertise and an equally tasteful band, this session finds itself among the best of its kind.