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Sweet Honey Bee by Duke Pearson

One of my favorite recordings is The Right Touch, a 1967 Duke Pearson masterpiece. Sweet Honey Bee, released the year previously is nearly its equal. Also on board here are Freddie Hubbard and alto and flute genius James Spalding and the incredible Joe Henderson plays tenor rather than Stanley Turrentine who took the honor on the '67 date. The absence of Garnett Brown’s trombone gives a somewhat less hard edge. Still, a superb set. The 7-song program leads with the sweet title tune, a flute-lead bossa piece that might have worked as a movie theme. The following "Sudel" is a stronger piece set in a challenging meter that features the saxophonists and trumpeter in beautiful tandem and solo flights. Hubbard is tantalizing and Pearson is a delight. The beautiful and elegiac "After The Rain," not to be confused with Coltrane’s similarly titled composition, is a quiet, introspective showcase for flute and piano and the following "Gaslight" brings the mood up only slightly with the addition of lushly orchestrated horns. Henderson is particularly interesting on this lovely composition. One of the standout pieces on the set, "Big Bertha" is a lively jaunt on which the young Freddie Hubbard soars in flights of darting lines over the solid piano and rhythm of Ron Carter (bass) and Mickey Roker (drums). Henderson and Spalding are both inventive and captivating, as is the clever pianist. The closing few bars feature a wonderful unison line that speak to Pearson’s brilliance as a composer. "Empathy," the balladic centerpiece of the album, features uniquely voiced lines from which Spalding’s flute emerges as a flowering. Hubbard’s muted solo is followed in turn by a circular and warm Henderson solo that leads in turn to Pearson’s own turn at center stage. The closing ""Ready Rudy," a piece written for recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder, is jaunty in an almost Quincy Jones style. Again Hubbard’s inventive and creative solo is a stunner and the fire that Henderson brings is subdued and simmering. Like all that precedes it, it is a melodic and soulful piece performed by a sextet of brilliant musicians. Highly recommended

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Duke Pearson
  • CD Title: Sweet Honey Bee
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2004
  • Reissue Original Release: 1966
  • Record Label: Blue Note
  • Rating: Five Stars
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