Recorded at Van Gelder’s studio (where else!) in November 1965, organist Larry Young’s Unity featuring Woody Shaw on trumpet, Joe Henderson on tenor saxophone and drummer Elvin Jones was released in the summer of 1966 and has just been reissued on 180 gram vinyl as part of the celebration of Blue Note Records 75th anniversary.
“The combination of organist Larry Young, Woody Shaw on trumpet, Joe Henderson, tenor sax, and drummer Elvin Jones should make this a sure shot for jazz fans. Blue Note’s got a solid seller here.” Billboard, 27 August 1966
The thing that grabs you the first time you hear this album is the empathy – the unity – between Larry Young and Elvin Jones in particular. Yes, we’re talking rhythm section, but Jones’s drumming and Young’s oh-so-cool organ sound seamless, like the product of one mind. In the liner notes Young says, ‘Although everybody on the date was very much an individualist, they were all in the same frame of mood. It was evident from the start that everything was fitting together.’ All of which informed Young in his decision to call the album Unity.
Young is no songwriter, as the credits of the album show. Shaw contributes half the tunes with Henderson bringing, ‘If’ to the date along with ‘Monk’s Dream’ and ‘Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise’, the Hammerstein/Romberg tune from the 1920s operetta, The New Moon. For many, the stand-out track is Shaw’s ‘Moontrane’, written when the trumpeter was just 18 and dedicated to John Coltrane; the superb harmonic cycles are redolent of his most accomplished work.
While Young is one among four talented players, his contribution is immense and there is no doubting that Unity is his album. ‘Monk’s Dream’ is a dialogue between just drums and organ, and it is one of the most satisfying covers of a Monk tune that dates from the early 1950s, when the pianist was recording for Prestige. The Hammond seems to embrace Monk’s imaginings, its cycles wrapping themselves around the listener’s ears in a way that brings fresh ideas to such a well known piece – something that’s not to be underestimated when confronting a Monk tune.
And then there’s the cover art by Reid Miles. His prodigious talent is there for all to see on this simple but perfectly conceived sleeve – conceived without the aid of a Wolff photograph for once. The four orange dots inside the U are all that’s needed to communicate Young’s own description of the session, ‘that everything was fitting together’.