Taking a look at three of the most recent releases from Label M, we'll start with the third installment of the "Live At The Left Bank" series. Pianist Cedar Walton's THREE SUNDAYS IN THE SEVENTIES (Label M 5711) comes from several concerts recorded by Baltimore's Left Bank Jazz Society- a trio session with Herbie Lewis and Billy Higgins from 1971, another trio with Sam Jones and Higgins and guest Etta Jones from 1972, and a 1974 date with Clifford Jordan and Bill Hardman added to the Jones/Higgins line-up. Miles and Trane still reign supreme via the inclusion of "Naima" and Shorter's "Pinocchio." Walton's "Plexus" makes a rare appearance outside of the version cut by Freddie Hubbard for a Blue Note date. Etta Jones belts it out without reproach on the down home groove of "Blow Top Blues" and the restrained "Don't Go To Strangers." Sound quality is quite respectable throughout, making this a valuable addition to Walton's scanty catalog as a leader.
Never was there a more idiosyncratic and deliriously lyrical alto man than Paul Desmond, with the possible exception of Johnny Hodges. Apart from his already unforgettable work with Dave Brubeck, Desmond led a number of brilliant sessions of his own for such labels as CTI, RCA, and A&M. Select tracks from all of these companies as assembled on LEMME TELL YA 'BOUT DESMOND (Label M 5715) paint a varied and lucid picture of the altoist as seem from outside the Brubeck fold. "I'm Old Fashioned" and "Skylark" are lifted from the CTI dates PURE DESMOND and SKYLARK respectively, another eight are taken from the RCA years when Desmond worked regularly in a piano-less group featuring guitarist Jim Hall, and then we get a track apiece from BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER and SUMMERTIME. "Samba With Some Barbeque" from the latter album is a prime example of late period Desmond as seen through the production eyes of Creed Taylor, making it a shame that the entire set is not available on disc. No qualms here at all; this one is guaranteed to get you out looking for more Desmond to fill the gaps in your collection.
Finally, we take a look at an alto saxophonist of a different ilk. Hank Crawford first made a name for himself as a strong solo voice among the star studded Ray Charles ensemble of the '50s. Subsequent endeavors included stints with B.B. King, Bobby "Blue" Bland and Junior Parker. It's not surprising then that a decidedly "down home" flavor marks much of Crawford's work. LOW FLAME, HIGH HEAT (Label M 5709) puts to the forefront Crawford's gift as a melodic improviser on a series of ballads culled from his flurry of activity as an Atlantic recording artist during the '60s. Albums sampled include DIG THESE BLUES, FROM THE HEART, THE SOUL CLINIC, TRUE BLUE, MORE SOUL, and MR. BLUES. The charts are hip and the large ensembles include such names as Marcus Belgrave, Phillip Guilbeau, David "Fathead" Newman, and Howard Johnson. More soulful work you couldn't ask for, but I'd feel cheated without all the original albums sitting on my shelf and since they're all available on disc now (except TRUE BLUE) there's no excuse for completists.