I recently listened to an obscure Prestige album from 1957 called After Hours. It is a group blowing session without a true leader but with a stellar lineup: Thad Jones (trumpet), Frank Wess (flute and tenor sax), Kenny Burrell (guitar), Mal Waldron (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), and Arthur Taylor (drums). (In the record store, it will probably be filed under Thad Jones, as his name is first on the cover.) This is a wonderful collection of blues, from fast to slow, all composed by pianist Waldron and with terrific playing from everyone involved.
It starts out with a tune called “Steamin’,” a cooker to open the album featuring flute and trumpet. “Blue Jelly,” the second number, is a medium-tempo, shimmering tune, with Jones opening on a muted trumpet, then Burrell announcing the melody, followed by Wess on flute. Jones, Burrell, and Wess have a playful three-way conversation that repeats throughout the song.
My favorite tune is “Count One,” a Basie-inspired blues that opens, appropriately, with an extended solo by Waldron on piano. Wess has a terrific tenor solo followed by Jones and Burrell. Both Wess and Jones are veterans of the Count Basie Orchestra. The final number is “Empty Street,” a slow twelve-minute moody piece that really evokes that “after hours” feeling. Burrell sets the low-down tone, followed by Wess on obligato flute and Jones on the muted trumpet. You can definitely hear the bluesy influence of the Detroit contingent - Burrell, Jones (Pontiac, Michigan), and Chambers.
All in all, After Hours is not your typical blowing session. Waldron’s tunes hold this talented group of musicians together for a memorable album of blues.