Blue's Moods
(JVC XRCD / Riverside)

BLUE MITCHELL: Blue's Moods (JVC XRCD / Riverside)One of the biggest challenges for a musician is to front a quartet. There's no one to hide behind. For Richard "Blue" Mitchell, Blue's Moods was his debut as the lone horn player. In the earlier part of his career, Blue was strongly self-critical, always concerned that he wasn't living up to his (self-perceived) potential. His last effort, Blue Soul was a turning point for him. Three of the cuts on Blue Soul were quartet numbers, giving him the chance to show his newly found musical maturity and confidence. Blue's Moods builds on the same sound heard on Blue Soul, and takes it to the next level.

The songs on this album cover a wide range of feelings and tempos, hence the name Blue's Moods instead of Blue's Mood. Mitchell slips right into the groove on "I'll Close My Eyes." and never looks back. The rhythm section on these sessions--Wynton Kelly (piano), Sam Jones (bass) and Roy Brooks (drums)--is outstanding. As you listen to these tracks, it's readily apparent that this wasn't just a one-off thing. Kelly and Jones both get to stretch out a bit on the lightly swinging "Avars." One of the best cuts here is the superb rendition of Charlie Parker's "Scrapple From the Apple." This may be Blue's date, but the trio really stands out on this one.

Blue played a vintage cornet owned by the album's engineer Ray Fowler on the introspective "Kinda Vague." The sparse arrangement really accentuates the horn's somewhat dry sound. Mitchell displays his penchant for the blues on tracks like "Sir John," and "Sweet Pumpkin." Jones' walking bass line on the latter makes this tune another highlight. Maybe you're looking for something in more of a romantic vein. "When I Fall in Love" is the perfect track to share with your significant other. Light some candles, get a nice bottle of wine and you're set.

But let's face it--your significant other probably doesn't care about sound quality, and since this CD technically falls under the audiophile heading, that's what you really want to know about, right? I'll just say this. As with just about all of the XRCD discs, the extended resolution and definition provided by the 20-bit, K2 mastering process is nothing short of amazing. However this CD does not come with any extensive photobooks or reading material. The OJC version of this CD never sounded bad, but when you compare it to this pressing, it sounds like an AM radio. There's really that much of a difference. To sum things up, Blue's Mood is an instantly enjoyable album by some of jazz' finest musicians; and thanks to the folks at JVC, it never sounded better.

© 2001 Steve Marshall

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