I was listening to a recently released unknown live set from the Duke Pearson Big Band, recorded in 1969, and I was reminded of his small group (rhythm section + horns) jazz albums he recorded for the Blue Note label. But these albums with a trio, "Profile" and "Tender Feelin's" (both from 1959) were his first two albums for that label. Individually these albums are either fairly expensive and/or difficult to find, so having both albums on one CD--in good digitally remastered sound--is a nice surprise. This (77+ minutes) set is actually between 3-4 "stars"--especially if you're a fan of this type of music from this period. The 10 page booklet contains an essay on Pearson, the original album liner notes, plus reproductions of the original album covers, and recording information.
Both albums show Pearson's relaxed, lyrical yet swinging style. The other members of the trio are Lex Humphries on drums, and Gene Taylor on bass. Together they play almost as one mind--very intuitive which is needed (especially) in a trio format. Both albums were recorded in the last months of 1959, and were engineered by Rudy Van Gelder, and are here in their original mono sound.
These two albums are Pearson's only trio dates, and his relaxed, swinging style is evident no matter the tempo. Listen to "I'm A Fool To Want You" and you'll hear what I mean. He was not only a good pianist but was well known as a great arranger. His big band albums (both on Blue Note) are strong evidence of that, plus, listen to the recently discovered live big band set on the Uptown label. Pearson's piano playing was "pretty"--there's no other word for it. Yet there's an undercurrent of the blues that's never far away. He also wrote some good tunes, three of which are on this set. Listen to the moderately up tempo "Gate City Blues" for another fine example of his sensitive style, and how well the trio meshes together. And then listen to another Pearson tune, "Two Mile Run", which is taken at a slightly faster pace. Just before Taylor's bass solo, listen to Pearson's sharp yet lyrical playing. His solos never call attention to themselves, but fit just right into the tune.
At times these trio dates are reminiscent of another good piano based trio (also on Blue Note), Gene Harris And The Three Sounds. If you're familiar with their music you'll have some feel for Pearson's style. Both of Pearson's albums are full of standards like "Like Someone In Love", "Black Coffee", "Witch Craft", "I'm A Fool To Want You", "When Sonny Gets Blue", and others. And Pearson's three compositions show his writing style to good effect. The bottom line is if you enjoy late 50's piano jazz in a trio format, you should check out this edition of Pearson's two earliest efforts. Both albums are full of unassuming relaxed, gently swinging jazz. Very Nice.
And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Pearson's other good/great albums--"Sweet Honey Bee" with Hubbard-trumpet and Henderson-tenor sax, "Wahoo!" with Byrd and Henderson again, "Hush!" with both Byrd and Coles-trumpets, and "The Right Stuff" with Hubbard, Turrentine-tenor sax, and James Spaulding-alto sax among others. All have some fine period small group jazz sides. Check 'em out. And Pearson's big band albums on Blue Note and Uptown are possibly even better than his small group stuff.