Fifty years old and as timeless as the a speech by Winston Churchill, this 1963 (from Columbia Records, no less) session lead by flute player Jeremy Steig has been hiding for decades, and undeservedly so. You probably haven’t heard of this guy, but way back when he actually cut some sessions with Bill Evans and Denny Zeitlin (who’s the pianist on this reissue), and essentially dropped out of the straightahead scene for work with the likes of Jimi Hendrix, then did a bit of fusion, and even had a sample of his work on a Beastie Boys tune!. Who knows all that happened between then and now, but if this album with Ben Riley/dr, Ben Tucker/dr and Zeitlin is any portend, we missed out on a great catalogue of music. This thing is just unbelievable.
The format is simple: classic hard bop standards with guys who played with Monk, Getz and Gordon who let the creative juices flow. Steig does some creative overblowing on a highly hip take of “Oleo” that would have made Roland Kirk green with envy. His work on a gorgeously languid “Lover Man” will make you cry when it’s over, while a couple takes of “What Is This Thing Called Love?” snap and sizzle like snow peas. And, if you want to know what Zeitlin sounded like before becoming a psychiatrist, get a load of his work on a cooking and feisty reading of “So What” that has him bring in hints of Coltrane’s “Impressions” without missing a step. His solo on a sweeping “Blue Seven” is delightfully fervent as well, and all throughout Tucker and Riley are creating hard bop heaven with rivulets of energy that get deeper and deeper with each chorus. Playful on Monk’s “Well, You Needn’t” and ruminating on “Willow Weep for Me” Steig and the band create an album that brims over with delight. If you miss out on this one, don’t blame me for your shallow life!