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Harold Land - Westward Bound! (Reel to Real)

15 June 2021

For jazz aficionados and saxophone lovers, Harold Land is a name that will elicit a variation on “one of the unsung greats” or “why wasn’t he more famous?” The West Coast jazz avatar actually commanded plenty of respect and adulation during his heyday – it’s only because his competition includes names like Coltrane, Rollins and Shorter that he’s not in the hall of all-time greats (that non-jazz fanatics know).

Westward Bound! is a prime showcase for his talents as a bandleader and improviser. Recorded between 1962 and 1965 at Seattle’s famed jazz hub the Penthouse, the record collects nine top-notch performances that make Land’s mastery of bebop and hard bop styles clear. Joined by high caliber players, including pianists Hampton Hawes and Buddy Montgomery, drummers Jimmy Lovelace and Philly Joe Jones, trumpeter Carmell Jones (who contributes his burner “Beepdurple”) and stalwart bassist Monk Montgomery (brother of Buddy and Wes), Land glides through standards like “Autumn Leaves,” “Who Can I Turn To” and “My Romance” and less well-known but equally worthy tunes like “Vendetta” and Dizzy Gillespie’s “Blue ‘N’ Boogie.” The standout may well be “Happily Dancing/Deep Harmonies Falling,” a master class in swinging in 6/8 time. Land may eschew innovation here, but as far as traditionalist bebop goes, he’s hard to touch.