Vintage satisfaction



Detroit mysterian Wilbur Harden — a velvet voice on flügelhorn and trumpet, sometime colleague of Yusef Lateef — didn't record a vault-load of material during his brief, late-'50s stay in the spotlight, but what he did produce was special. This two-CD set compiles all the sessions that he recorded with John Coltrane, in the company of sidemen mostly from back home — among them Curtis Fuller (trombone), Tommy Flanagan (piano), Doug Watkins (bass) and Louis Hayes or Ali Jackson (drums). Harden sounded sweet like Kenny Dorham and held-back like Miles, though he also had a touch of Lee Morgan's sassy brassiness. Any sextet including both Coltrane and Fuller is bound to be compared with Trane's classic Blue Train, but the compositions here are mellower and more Afrocentric, with a relaxed darkness to the melodies that feels like gliding in cool shade (hear, in particular, Harden's "E.F.F.P.H." and "Dial Africa," and Fuller's "Gold Coast" and "Tanganyika Strut"). Coltrane's playing finds him at the height of his Davis Quintet period, having expanded bop phrasing to the breaking point with wave upon wave of sexy, cascading runs. Harden makes the most of these rare moments at the summit, always playing with utter emotional savvy and VSOP-smooth articulation, joining the ranks of such elegant flügelhornists as Miles and Art Farmer. In fact, everybody on these lovely, loping dates is in memorable form.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.