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'Unity' is generally considered to be Larry Young's best recording as a leader in a purely jazz context. The personnel are first-rate and the compositions - three originals by Woody Shaw, one by Henderson, a Monk tune and a standard - are an interesting mix.

The recording kicks off with Shaw's 'Zoltan', which apart from its march-like intro is typical of the three Shaw originals which I find to be the strongest material here. Then Young takes an immediate step sideways (and backwards, into boppish territory) with a duo take on 'Monk's Mood' with Elvin Jones. It's a competent but unremarkable performance, and for me it temporarily breaks the mood. Ironically, the duo format allows one to hear Young's playing clearly as nowhere else. The Henderson original 'If' and the Shaw tune 'The Moontrane' get the session back on track, but the mood is then broken briefly by the corny melody of the only standard - 'Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise' - fortunately abandoned almost immediately for spirited improvisation. Shaw's closer, 'Beyond All Limits' is well up to the standard of his earlier contributions and ends the record on a high.

Aficionados of Young's playing represent him as the premier post-Jimmy Smith jazz organist, but to be frank that makes him number one in a field of one. What this recording does is to point up the sheer difficulty of integrating the Hammond sound into a modern acoustic jazz ensemble. Your take on this album may well depend on your liking for Young's comping sound, which is forward in the mix and shows the characteristic warm, soft Hammond attack that makes it so different from the piano in the performance of the accompanist's role. Young is not a greedy or bullying player - his comping is quite spare - but his presence is unavoidable on this record even when he isn't soloing, and he takes very little advantage of the organ's variety of sounds.

The natural tendency of the Hammond to dominate its setting is the reason why organists are so often soloists, and why successful organ-led groups have tended to be trios. The absence of the distinctive voice of the bass player is in my view not compensated for by the organ's bass pedals. 'Unity' integrates the organ into an acoustic group about as well as one can imagine; but the session indirectly supplies evidence for why it was to be the Rhodes electric piano and not the Hammond that became the characteristic electric keyboard in late-'sixties and early 'seventies jazz.

Nonetheless this is an interesting recording, made at a transitional point in the evolution of jazz from hard bop to post-bop and from fully acoustic to at least partly electric. Young would continue to push forward on that front. His recordings with Lifetime show why the Hammond found its more natural home in rock, where electric bass and guitar could give it a run for its money. In some ways the later 'Lawrence of Newark', for all its faults, gives a better idea of what the fuss was about, and why Young's early death was so lamented. But on 'Unity' he demonstrated that he could hold his own with the best in contemporary jazz. Rather than exaggerating its claims, 'Unity' is best appreciated not as an unsurpassable pinnacle of mid-'sixties jazz - it wasn't - but as a fine Blue Note session of the period featuring committed performances from four important musicians.
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on 25 August 2007
This is surely one of the very greatest Blue Note albums and also one of the most over looked. Recorded at the end of 1965 it features Larry Young on Hammond organ, Woody Shaw on trumpet, Joe Henderson on tenor and Elvin Jones on drums.

On this album Larry Young really moved the organ forward as a Jazz instrument. As much as anyone recording in this period he understood and assimilated the ideas which John Coltrane was pursuing. Young and Coltrane also play their instruments in the same way: with power, emotion and freedom.

Henderson, who writes one tune, and Shaw, who writes three, are both excellent, the tenor man in particular, and add to the power of the album. Elvin Jones plays just as well as he'd been doing for the previous 5 years in Coltrane's band.

I don't think that the great recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder ever captured any instrument's sound as well as the swirling attack of the organ: sometimes pointed and precise, at other times there's a warmth which seems to envelope you.

This reissue is part of the Van Gelder Editions which means that the great man has done the excellent remastering and there are new liner notes.

If you enjoy this, as you can't fail to do, I'd also recommended Young's appearances, in a more conventional format, on two Blue Notes by guitarist Grant Green: `Talkin' About' and `Street of Dreams`.
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Unity is a perfect name for this pretty much perfect jazz album. As someone who`s new to Larry Young - not having exactly made a beeline for records featuring organ before - I am delighted and excited by this quartet of Young on organ, the always resourceful Joe Henderson on tenor sax, the terrific Woody Shaw on trumpet and Mr Ubiquity himself, the irrepressible Elvin Jones on drums.
The opener Zoltan, composed by Shaw, starts with a bar or two of martial drumming (Jones sounding more like Blackwell or Roach, with their `woody` attack) then the leader`s organ is there in a clear spray of notes and the number is underway. Henderson shines on his solo. A great track.
Next is Monk`s Dream, with organ to the fore form the off. Young isn`t a `funky` organist, and has the smoothest, clearest tone of any I`ve heard, with a lyrical, impressionistic approach which reminds me not a little of one of my favourite musicians, vibist Bobby Hutcherson.
One excellent aspect of this set is that there`s so much room for each musician to breathe. And no bass player! Young and an explosive Jones bop around this Monk tune as a duet, no brass on this one.
Shaw & Henderson, as if impatient to be back in the fray, blast off the tenor`s own number If, a swinging affair which boasts some of Joe`s most Trane-like playing, before Shaw comes in, his trumpet a balm to the ears as he extemporises a fine, treble-heavy solo behind an insistent Young and percussive Jones.
That`s half the album. The rest is just as good. Shaw has two more of his own, The Moontrane, a wonderful track with urgent solos all round, and the closer Beyond All Limits, an apt name for this modest marvel of an record. Softly As In A Morning Sunrise is as exultant as its title, a fast workout which brings a big grin to my face when I hear it.
There are no ballads, which is odd in a way, as one would have loved to have heard these guys in mellower mood. But no matter.
Unlike many in the exemplary Rudy Van Gelder reissues from Blue Note, there are no extra tracks, and what a good thing that turns out to be. After all, we get forty minutes packed with great music beautifully executed, Larry Young`s sensitive playing underpinning nearly every bar of these six well chosen tunes. No need for more. This Nov 1965 recording is as close to impeccable as jazz gets.
I will be playing Unity regularly for a very long time. It`s an addictive, highly `listenable` set, with a quartet so together, their instruments complementing each other so well, and so often unexpectedly, that every note sounds like a discovery, for the players and for us.
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on 8 August 2015
I got this because it was recommended to me I like it it is interesting there is no bass playing on this album which I normally prefer BUT Larry himself does an excellent job of filling in the low end for me and it also gives a unique bass tone for the album and also creates alot of open space too. The drumming on the album is also another highlight :D Spectacular
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VINE VOICEon 19 June 2008
I agree with the other reviewer here - Young was pretty unique in that his approach to the electric organ came from a purer jazz camp, as opposed to the earthier r'n b roots of someone like Jimmy McGriff. I'd recommend this album both to those who, like myself are coming backwards to him after years of listening to him on the Tony Williams Lifetime albums and to headnodders who dig their early to mid '60's jazz and like it tight but cool. There's a fabulous warmth to Young's organ sound on this album, and that integrates perfectly with the ensemble playing throughout. Nicely remastered, nicely priced - check it out !
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on 24 May 2010
I purchased a Toshiba Emi 2008 Japanese import of this album from amazon, but it turned out to be the same 1998 RVG remastering of the 1999 Blue Note release that I didn't like, because it sounds MONO and boxy and cold. I knew this had to be a STEREO recording originally.

I finally found this album "Unity" in a 2005 24 bit remastering, also from Toshiba Emi Japan. Amazon calls it a 2007 import. It is Toshiba TOCJ 6597, and you can find it here on amazon by typing B000AU1NTC in the amazon search window. That's where I bought it, from an excellent amazon marketplace seller "musicjapan". You could also search for TOCJ 6597.

I highly recommend this particular remastering. It is Stereo, spacious, clear, yet full and warm, which is how Hammond organ music should sound. It costs more than the Blue Note release but in this case, in my opinion, it is worth it. It really helped me appreciate the music much better.

For some reason, some of the recent RVG remasters sound Mono, even though he originally recorded the music in Stereo. In fact, the first generation of Blue Note releases with remasterings by Ron McMaster are in Stereo. Some of the new RVG remasters sound great, but with some, I prefer the earlier remasters. One example is the album "Somethin' Else".
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 9 August 2013
Hammond organist Larry Young(1940-1978), aka Khalid Yasin Abdul Aziz, was originally influenced by Jimmy Smith but John Coltrane is the major inspiration on this marvellous quartet album.
It was recorded in New Jersey on November 10, 1965 in the esteemed company of tenorist Joe Henderson, trumpeter Woody Shaw and drummer Elvin Jones.
The six memorable tracks include three originals by Woody Shaw and one by Joe Henderson plus a wonderful Young/Jones duet version of Thelonious Monk's 'Monk's Dream' and the standard 'Softly As In A Morning Sunrise'.
This well-integrated group create some exciting and adventurous music and this RVG Edition of 'Unity' deserves a place in any modern jazz collection.
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on 26 July 2014
The greatest unsung jazz album . A quartet recording - Young on organ with the trumpet of Woody Shaw , tenor sax of Joe Henderson and the explosive Elvin Jones on drums . Jazz virgins might puzzle at the abscence of bass but none is needed since Young plays the bass lines with his feet on the pedals . This cooks from start to finish and never flags . A superb classic .
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on 14 May 2015
As well as having the pleasure of hearing Larry Youngs great skills, Woody Shaw also is a dominant force on this one.
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on 30 October 2014
It took me a bit of time to get into this but it was worth the trouble. Have ordered an LP version for the hifi.
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