Gary Bartz – The Shadow Do (1975)

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Gary Bartz
The Shadow Do
Original release Prestige P-10092
Japanese reissue


Winding Roads     3:18
Mother Nature     6:27
Love Tones     5:11
Gentle Smiles (Saxy)     4:21
Make Me Feel Better     4:41
Sea Gypsy     6:18
For My Baby     4:57
Incident     2:56

    Bass – Michael Henderson
    Congas, Percussion – Mtume

    Drums, Synthesizer – Howard King
    Guitar – Reggie Lucas
    Piano, Clavinet, Synthesizer – Hubert Eaves
    Alto and soprano saxophone, synthesizer, lead and backing vocals – Gary Bartz
    Synthesizer – Larry Mizell
    Producer, Backing Vocals – Larry And Fonce Mizell
    Engineer (Fantasy) – Eddie Bill Harris
    Engineer (Sound Factory) – Jim Nipar, Val Christian Garay

    Mastered By – Mike Reese, Ron Hitchcock
    Mixed By – Dave Hassinger
    Photography – Vicki Bartz

I had not really planned to post about this album, but since my planned posts are not yet ready, I figured I might as well build on the other Bartz/Mizzells contribution from two weeks ago.  My life coach tells me that it is important to keep my BRAND visible in the public eye at all times or else people will forget that I’m here.  It’s the same reason why I call the police to report imaginary criminals lurking around my house at least once a month.  It’s important to be remembered.

I was somewhat dismissive about this record in the last post, wondering if long-time Bartz fans  in the mid-70s thought he had made a mistake by throwing his lot in with the Mizells.  That may seem a bit harsh because this is in fact a pretty solid record.  But artistically it is less fully-realized than Music Is My Sanctuary.  I think my problem with The Shadow Do is that it is a better Mizell Brothers record than it is a Gary Bartz record, but I’m not sure I’m up to explaining what I mean by that so you will just have to trust me.

There are some really great tunes on this.  Bartz is not the greatest singer, but as far as singing instrumentalists in jazz you could do much worse.  His voice is plain and unadorned, and he doesn’t overextend himself.  The song Mother Nature is actually catchy enough to have kept me awake at night (I list “earworms” as one of my regular maladies when filling out paperwork at a new doctor’s office).

A nice surprise is a rhythm section that includes the presence of both Mtume on drums and Michael Henderson on bass.  Henderson is of course most famous for the record ‘Slingshot’, which took its title from the Speedos he wore on the front cover.

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 Gary sings a lot about playing his saxophone on this album.  In fact sometimes he sings about playing it more than he actually plays it.  It’s a little odd.

You have to admit that most of the vocal tunes here are really tuneful, even without the benefit of a stand-out vocalist.  “Gentle Smiles”, one of those tunes where Gary keeps reminding us what instrument he plays, is light and playful.  He also accomplishes something that even tops Roland Kirk – he manages to sing an entire verse while playing the melody line on his saxophone AT THE SAME TIME.  Well, I also heard that the Mizell Brothers were hip to a recording technique called “overdubbing”, so maybe we shouldn’t get too excited.  The sustain-less tic-tack bass from Henderson on this track is the glue that holds this together for me.  Or maybe the glue gun that applies the blue and silver sequins around the fringe.

“Make Me Feel Better” sounds like the Ohio Players on sedatives.

“Sea Gypsy” is an instrumental and maybe this best illustrates the Achilles Heel of the record.  Replace the lead instrument with another and this could be interchangeable with almost any other Mizell production:  give it a trumpet and you could be listening to Donald Byrd, flute and you could be listening to Bobbi Humphrey’s “Fancy Dancer.”  There’s very little space for Bartz’s own personality to come through here.  Even though he works out some great riffs, he sounds hemmed in by the tight arrangement.

Back on track, “For My Baby” is pretty damn soulful for an album that, once again – let’s say it together – doesn’t have a strong singer on it.  It’s sweet and makes you want to cuddle, and the arrangement manages to surprise us a little by going all modal in the coda.

The closer, “Incident”, shows that Gary passed the funkateer audition on ‘Make Me Feel Better’ with honors (it was only a clerical error that led to him having to audition again anyway, as he had obviously earned his funk stripes before this record).  It is also vaguely sociopolitical and possibly autobiographical, recounting some experiences in Baltimore, Mr. Bartz’s hometown.

So all in all, yes I suppose this qualifies as the proverbial “unfairly overlooked” long-player record.  Even without the added help of Syreeta on vocals or Enrico “Macaroni” Manchewitz Tagglione twiddling knobs, it’s a gratifying listen.  But “Music Is My Sanctuary” is still it’s rightful successor.

Some technical yammering:  I don’t typically share things on this blog when I can’t 100% vouch for their lineage in terms of  pressing, and this title was not my own rip nor any of my friends.  However I can say with certainty that it is a Japanese CD pressing, because it has not yet been issued anywhere else in that format.  I believe this to be the 2007 pressing (there have been three different reissues of this over there).  One thing that is certain is that I am going to voice one of those “positive stereotypes” about a whole nation of people, and reiterate how the Japanese really valorize audio quality – this thing sounds really nice indeed.

{edit} – A reader has pointed out the I egregiously failed to mention that Reggie Lucas plays on this record.  He’s right!  Hey everybody, Reggie Lucas plays on this record!  Lucas and Mtume (and Michael Henderson) had also played with Miles Davis, and Lucas/Mtume would produce a more straight-up soul record for Bartz in 1980.

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7 Comments

  1. Excelente post de una rareza en cd de este maravilloso musico! Jazz-Funk de primera linea! Gracias Flabber!

  2. That Henderson album cover just ruined my day. Thanks.

  3. Thanks for putting up another Bartz record. I had never heard of the guy except here on F-Vibes. I like the more funky stuff over the love song stuff but it's quality top to bottom. Thank you!

  4. After reading that Bartz was a member of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers and some of his other credits, I'm sure I've heard him but just didn't know it.

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