Every one of Francis Wolff's iconic album covers for the Blue Note label is a stunner. There have been times where I've wanted to like the music inside more than I did because I loved the cover so much. But not every Blue Note session is worth a second spin. Occasionally, sessions did not click or cook, regardless of how lovely the album looked.
Ike Quebec's 1961 session, released in 1962 as "Blue & Sentimental" is every bit as stunning on the inside as it is on the outside and it is without question, one of my ten favorite jazz records of all time.
First let me say to those who claim to get lost listening to hard bop, "Blue & Sentimental" will find you. There are both standards and originals with distinct melodies to steer you straight, and the session remains focused throughout. There is no skronking or squeaking. The soloing isn't extended for any unreasonable period of time. No haphazard animal-like drum bashing or showoffy cymbal tricks to try your patience.
I follow DJPari on Instagram, who is a wealth of jazz info and I'd like to hand it over to him for a minute. Here is what he has to say about "Blue & Sentimental."
This is likely Quebec's most celebrated album, and it pairs his smokey-blues infused sax work with a sensational support band featuring guitarist Grant Green, bassist Paul Chambers and drummer Philly Joe Jones. It can't be stated enough how magical this session is. This is an album that respectfully demands your utmost patience and attention. Nothing here feels too rushed or loud, and without the accompaniment of a piano, there is more time for Quebec to stretch out and move about at his lazy leisure, and in place of it is the gentle strumming of Green, whose guitar work is relaxed, perfectly judged, and never competes for space. All the ingredients here are well balanced, showcasing Quebec's status as a master at sustaining the blue tinted mood of a seemingly endless night.
This record is, in a word, gorgeous. Some melodies will be familiar, while others, soaked in atmosphere, will remind you of your favorite noir film, or magically transport you to a special moonlight walk with someone you love or once loved. This is jazz music, but not the jazz music that scares you away. DJPari mentions how it "respectfully demands your utmost patience and attention." I don't completely agree. The vibe of "Blue & Sentimental" will surround you almost immediately. I would say the opposite of DJPari, "Blue & Sentimental" is one of the easiest sessions to grab onto. It's music at its finest and classiest. And for fans of the guitar, this is every bit of a showcase for Grant Green as it is for Ike Quebec.
"Blue & Sentimental" might not turn you into a jazz aficiando or even change your overall feeling towards the genre. But if you are of the mind that jazz is "just not for me," ask yourself, "Is music for me?"
This is music and it's out there, just for you.