Jackie McLean was a hard-bop alto saxophonist with a fiery tight tone, who recorded extensively in the ‘50s and ‘60s mainly with Blue Note Records. Although his forays with an organ was confined to two albums with Jimmy Smith Open House and Plain Talk, Cory Weeds’ decision to use an organ on this session does not stray off the mark. Condition Blue accomplishes the band’s intention, to acknowledge a saxophonist who had an exploratory vision. In a set list of either McLean originals, or compositions associated with him, this tight-knit band delivers the goods in firm, yet flexible style. The key players in this session in addition, to the cooly effective altoist Weeds, are Mike LeDonne, a B-3 player of energetic disposition, and creative guitarist Peter Bernstein. Also along is drummer Joe Farnsworth who is a propulsive player.
The latest release in Hallé’s award winning series of recordings of works by Elgar couples his last great choral work with a fascinating collection of works which similarly remember the departed. Previous Elgar choral releases of The Dream of Gerontius (CDHLD7520), The Kingdom (HLD7526) and The Apostles (CDHLD7534) were universally acclaimed, winning numerous awards, including a Gramophone Award for each release. The largely overlooked The Spirit of England is arguably Elgar’s last great choral work. Thematically linked to The Dream of Gerontius the work sets texts from WWI poets and was premiered in sections during 1916 and 1917. In tone it is close to the melancholy of the Cello Concerto and Britten referred to its music as displaying “a personal tenderness and grief” as well as “genuine splendour”.