Easily Young’s most famous record, Unity tears apart all stereotypes about the Hammond Organ. Far from its blues roots or the then-popular Soul Jazz, Unity tips the chilled vibe of the Hammond on its head, entering into a frantic post-bop excursion. Young didn’t go alone either; with trumpeter Woody Shaw, who composed half the tunes, stalwart tenor Joe Henderson and the beyond-enthusiastic Elvin Jones on drums, this album was bound to be excellent.

And excellent it is, right from the top. The initial marching-style introduction leads into the Latin venture of “Zoltan” (above), with Young’s haunting bass line and rhythmic middle-register chords creating a compelling sense of paranoia, which propels both Henderson and Shaw before Young takes the lead with his angular, staccato soloing style. It’s difficult to describe in words; like a guitarist almost, Young integrates both chords and lines, firing intermittently at a rapid pace, far removed from the drenched, wet sound of Jimmy Smith. Which isn’t to say Young isn’t pleasant to listen to, but this isn’t armchair music.

Special mention particularly must go to Elvin, who, in the middle of his tenure with the John Coltrane Quartet, is at the peak of his career here. While not so abstract as Tony Williams was to become, Elvin demonstrates his very loose definition of time, simultaneously keeping the soloists on their toes and laying down complex, syncopated grooves. This is particularly evident in the duet,  “Monk’s Dream” (below); even in his solo, Elvin is creative, melodic and full of groove, much like the leader; as a pair they would continue to collaborate, often with Grant Green. Their interplay permeates the album, which includes a roaring take on the old chestnut “Softly as in a Morning Sunrise”.

Unity isn’t particularly easy music; not that it’s inaccessible, in fact it’s one of the most appealing jazz albums out there, but that it’s very easy to let it wash over you without appreciating the complexities which make the music so enjoyable, as a sum greater than the whole of its parts. As Young himself 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.”  Very much like Herbie Hancock, while Larry Young would go on to do bigger and better things, most notably forming part of the groups of jazz fusion pioneers Tony Williams and Miles Davis, it’s a testament to his  ability that so early on his career he was producing such fantastic albums as this.

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