Pete La Roca: Basra is an essential Blue Note Jazz recording

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Pete La Roca: Basra  is an essential Blue Note Jazz recording

I was bawled over when I first heard this music on the Music Matters Jazz 45 RPM reissue of this classic Blue Note in 2012.  The opening track – Malaguena – immobilized me with a dropped jaw and a smile. It immediately reminded me of the North African sounds that were so marvellously captured by Camille Saint-Saens, the French classical music composer, in his Piano Concerto No. 5 in F Major, op. 103. Very Spanish. 


The music on this LP is almost unique in the Blue Notes that I am familiar with. Malaguena, Basra and Lazy Afternoon are standouts in this excellent program. The quartet is in top form throughout. They serve a rhythm-rich set of tunes that cover a wide range of styles and influences.  


Basra, the title tune, is the centrepiece of the album. Henderson’s tenor sax sings beautifully, cheered on by La Roca’s steadfast drumming and Steve Swallow’s stately bass. Steve Kuhn supplies piano comping with an economy that turns this track into a beautiful conversation.  The whole LP is a masterful performance that is my kind of music. 


An original pressing of this LP costs hundreds of dollars. Fortunately, we have the Music Matters Jazz 45 RPM reissue (2012) and the Blue Note 80th Anniversary 33 1/3 reissue (2020) which are excellent options. The Music Matters Jazz reissue is sonically superior – more open, with a deeper soundstage, clearer instruments, deeper bass and so on. However, the Blue Note 80 is a very good reissue and costs less money.  Both are highly recommended.  


Pete La Roca: Basra 

Blue Note ST-84205

Recorded May 19, 1965

Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, USA


Joe Henderson – Tenor saxophone

Stephen Kuhn – Piano

Steve Swallow – Bass

Pete La Roca – Drums


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