The title of Duke Pearson’s 1967 release, The Right Touch, is aptly named. Throughout his prolific tenure at Blue Note Records during the 60s, the Atlanta native helped to shape the sound of the label as pianist, composer, and producer. As a pianist he appeared on dozens of recordings as leader and dependable sideman. As a composer he penned classic tunes like "Cristo Redentor," a hit for Donald Byrd, and the now standard "Jeannine." The Right Touch is a well crafted showcase for Pearson’s dynamic musical range. The entire set, written and arranged by the leader of the octet, features all-star soloists Freddie Hubbard (trumpet), Stanley Turrentine (tenor sax), and James Spaulding (alto sax).
"Chili Peppers," a funky Latin groove bearing an uncanny resemblance to the Kenny Dorham chestnut "Una Mas," opens the session in a toe-tapping, feel-good manner. Pearson takes charge of the medium swinging "Make it Good" with light touched piano noodling and economical ensemble passages; unashamedly bringing the influence of Count Basie out into the open. "My Love Waits (O Meu Amor Espera)," a dreamy bossa-nova, is the kind of tune Hubbard was born to play; he takes every advantage of the lush harmony to create a sensual melodic design. Turrentine spreads the grease thick on "Scrap Iron," a deep-fried blues dirge. "Los Malos Hombres" is a flurry of tight unison lines with a minor blues solo section that leaves plenty of room for the front line to flex their creative muscles (an alternate version is also included.) "Rotary" has a happy-go-lucky flavor with a twist of angularity.
With first rate soloists like Hubbard, Turrentine, and Spaulding, The Right Touch is truly a star studded affair. It’s Pearson’s polished writing, however, that shines brightest on this session; his diverse, lyrical melodies are colorfully arranged and highly logical. Pearson possessed the rare ability to create challenging music that could be easily appreciated by the casual listener. He indeed had the right touch.