(Hip-O Select)
April 19, 2011

“The New Wave Of Jazz Is On Impulse!” reads one of the opening pages of the liner notes on this new limited edition set. Indeed, it was a new wave, and it started as simply and brilliantly with that logo. This collection celebrates six albums during a short period of time, 1960-1961, that launched the lauded label. Creed Taylor existed before Impulse!, certainly, but after paying dues with ABC/Paramount, he got his shot to present his vision of how to run a label devoted to a single genre.

With his background as a musician (trumpeter), he knew his way around the studio and obviously knew a great record or sound when he heard it. He also had an ability to draw talent to the label to record for him. Gil Evans, who had worked heavily with Miles Davis, signed on. It didn’t hurt that Ray Charles got on board and had been an instant hitmaker for ABC after jumping ship from Atlantic. Another Atlantic refugee, John Coltrane, also another Miles collaborator, became the label’s fiercest force and not to mention one of jazz’s all-time greats. There were less heralded names such as Oliver Nelson and Kai Winding in the fold as well, but their compositions and playing were just as exuberant.

Those artists were the headliners to front these represented albums included in the collection:

J.J. Johnson and Kai Winding: The Great Kai & J.J.
Kai Winding: The Incredible Kai Winding Trombones
Ray Charles: Genius + Soul = Jazz
Gil Evans Orchestra: Out Of The Cool
Oliver Nelson: Blues And The Abstract Truth
The John Coltrane Quartet: Africa/Brass

Many of these albums have been presented in CD format previously and even been expanded upon (most notably the Ray Charles album, which just got an expanded edition last year). One of the real gems is that there are 10 bonus tracks, all included on the final (fourth) disc of the set and are mostly Coltrane-centric, that give a sense of the rehearsals for sessions or alternate versions, all of which are ear-opening. Most notable is a track presented for the first time (digitally): the mono mix of the classic “One Mint Julep,” which is an absolute treat to listen to in headphones and removes the burden of trying to find an original 45.

Taylor went on to other successful endeavors shortly after Impulse! really took off, with Verve and CTI the most exceptional of those. There is something especially intriguing about listening to the albums he produced in one sitting. Moreover, the notes compiled by noted jazz authority Ashley Kahn and the stunning photography including album covers and studio shots make this an exceptional memento.

Kai Winding’s “Impulse” could perhaps stand as a statement for the label. There’s something very exciting with how it opens with those opening few bars of drums and piano, filled with life and vigor. It’s a movement you want to be a part of. It is an ushering in of a new sound. Ultimately, Impulse! widened jazz’s audience as evidenced by considerable sales figures, as Kahn dutifully notes. Sales alone don’t (and shouldn’t) tell the entire story. It’s an enduring legacy, and we get to experience its birth all over again.

The Revivalist has teamed up with Hip-O Select/Impulse! for a trivia contest to give away the box set. Enter for your chance to win this fantastic prize here.

Words by Eric Luecking


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