Charles Earland – Odyssey (1976)

CHARLES EARLAND
ODYSSEY
Released 1976
Mercury SRM-1-1049

After the phenomenal double-LP ‘Leaving This Planet’, which featured Freddie Hubbard and Joe Henderson as rocket fuel, Earland continued in a similarly cosmic-jazz direction.  He made one more LP for Prestige, a live album of new material called Kharma, and then began a new phase at Mercury Records with this jazz-funk-latin-disco-rock fusion called Odyssey, which also became the name of his spaceship, I mean vehicle, for releasing this kind of thing for the next few years.  This album has never ever been issued on CD.  Meet you after the jump to continue the voyage.. Continue reading

Walter Bishop, Jr – Coral Keys (1971) (Black Jazz BJ/2)

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“Coral Keys”
Walter Bishop, Jr.
Released on Black Jazz 1971 (BJ/2)
Japanese Reissue 2005 Black Jazz/P-Vine

Coral Keys 6:20
Waltz For Zweetie 5:08
Track Down 4:51
Soul Turn Around 7:18
Our November 4:10
Three Loves 5:00
Freedom Suite 7:50

All songs composedand arranged by Walter Bishop
Produced and engineered by Gene Russell Continue reading

Gene Russell – New Direction (1972) (Black Jazz BJ/1)

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Gene Russell
New Direction
1972 Black Jazz BJ/1
2003 CD Reissue Black Jazz BJ/1

1     Black Orchid     3:13
2     Hitting The Jug     4:42
3     Willow Weep For Me     4:48
4     Listen Here     3:15
5     On Green Dolphin Street     5:02
6     Silver’s Serenade     4:54
7     My Cherie Amour     3:01
8     Making Bread     3:21

Bass – Henry Franklin
Electric bass – Larry Gates (tracks: 1, 8)
Congas – Tony William
Drums – Steve Clover
Piano – Gene Russell

Producer – Gene Russell


“New Direction” is maybe the misnomer of the year as far as jazz records released in 1972.  This album looks squarely to the past golden age of acoustic piano-led soul jazz for its inspiration.  There is nothing unpleasant here, by any means, but these are sounds you could find  executed with more panache and variety on  any given Junior Mance, Ahmad Jamal or Ramsey Lewis record.   Mostly this album is of historic interest because Gene Russell was the founder and executive producer of the Black Jazz Records label, which has since developed quite a cult following for its stunning recordings that explored adventurous (but accessible) pathways into modal, spiritual, and ‘conscious’ jazz, like the masterful entries from Doug and Jean Carn.  The history of the label and its reissues is something of a mess, with its master tapes even being sold on eBay at one point.   None of the songwriters are credited on this sketchy CD pressing from the early 00’s, for example, and none of them are originals.  Most casual jazz fans will recognize that a few of them are standards.  This label debut opens up with the Latin jazz of Neil Hefti’s “Black Orchid”, and serves up a memorable groover in Eddie Harris’ “Listen Here.”  I’m not sure Russell has the chops or the vision to make “On Green Dolphin Street” or “Silver’s Serenade” good for much more than background music.  By the time the rather pointless rendition of “My Cherie Amour” comes around, I’m afraid the idea of this record is firmly established: this is solid dinner jazz with which to take your seat and order a cocktail and a small appetizer, while you await the main act to come on stage — in this case, the main act being THE REST OF THE BLACK JAZZ CATALOG.  He closes with Gene Harris ‘”Making Bread,” which seems like a fitting conclusion for all this.  Harris, whether with The Three Sounds or his wonderful records on his own, was the Master Chef who, along with an entourage of other culinary alchemists, made possible the sonic kitchen that would be the playground for the great music to issue forth from the Black Jazz imprint.  So now with the hors d’oeuvres out of the way, the real menu is ready to be rolled out.

Perhaps “New Direction” was designed as a deliberate look back to how we got “here” (‘here’ being soul jazz in 1972), in which case we can hear it as a reverent homage and statement of purpose.  In all other respects, though, I won’t hesitate in saying that this is the least interesting entry in the entire Black Jazz discography.  But since it is my intention to follow through on a promise made long ago about sharing a bunch of that music here at Flabbergasted Vibes, we might as well start with BJ/1.   Rusell gave us a mildly more interesting and considerably more funky record in 1973’s “Talk To My Lady,” which we’ll get to soon enough.


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A word:  times are tough all over, and I’m reinventing myself for the third or fourth time in life to adjust to our New Reality.  I am trying to save some money so that I can relocate to a place where there are actual jobs for people with my kinds of skills.  I’m stuck in a rut, y’all, and it’s been hell getting out. If you enjoy reading these posts, consider making a donation using one of the buttons on the sidebar to help offset the costs of getting this blog online.  Any amounts are welcome.  Thanks!

Shirley Scott – Blue Seven (1961)

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Shirley Scott
BLUE SEVEN
with Oliver Nelson and Joe Newman
1961 Prestige  PR 7376
OJC Reissue OJCCD 1050-2, 2001

1. Blue Seven
2. How Sweet
3. Don’t Worry ‘Bout It Baby, Here I Am
4. Nancy (With The Laughing Face)
5. Wagon Wheels
6. Give Me The Simple Life

Recorded at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey on August 22, 1961.

Joe Newman (tp) Oliver Nelson (ts) Shirley Scott (org) George Tucker (b) Roy Brooks (d)

So I was listening to one of James Brown’s early instrumental records from the 60s a few days ago, and it left me wanting to listen to somebody who could actually play the organ.  I ended up reaching for this record, a mellow little number from Shirley Scott.  Usually she played with a leaner ensemble, and this has a nice, fleshed-out sound to it with warm trumpet and sax work from Joe Newman and Oliver Nelson.  Newman’s long muted trumpet solo on Wagon Wheels is an excellent companion on a rainy day like I am having today.  The title track, a Sonny Rollins tune, sets the relaxed blues tone for the rest of the set.  I like Roy Brooks but on this session his touch seems a little indelicate at times: even his hi-hat somehow sounds “heavy” and plodding, even on the ballad Nancy (With The Laughing Face).  On this tune Shirley’s organ sounds so wonderful I feel like I am sitting right next to it watching the tubes glow; it’s redundant to compliment Van Gelder on his recording prowess, but there it is.

A short and sweet blog post for a short and sweet album.

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Jimmy McGriff – Countdown (1983)

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Jimmy McGriff
“Countdown”
1983, Milestone  (M-9116)


1. I’m Walkin’ (Domino and Bartholomew)
2. Holly (Jimmy Mcgriff)
3. Down For The Count (Frank Foster)
4. Blow Your Horn (Benny Green)
5. Since I Fell For You (Buddy Johnson)
6. Shiny Stockings (Frank Foster)


Clifford Adams, Jr – trombone
Marshall Keys – alto sax
Arnold Sterling – alto and tenor sax
Jimmy McGriff – organ
Melvin Sparks – guitar
Vance James – drums


Produced by Bob Porter
Engineer – Rudy Van Gelder
Recorded on April 27 and 28, 1983

Vinyl ; Pro-Ject RM-5SE turntable (with Sumiko Blue Point 2 cartridge, Speedbox power supply); Creek Audio OBH-15; M-Audio Audiophile 192 Soundcard ; Adobe Audition at 32-bit float 192khz; Click Repair light settings; individual clicks and pops taken out with Adobe Audition 3.0 – resampled (and dithered for 16-bit) using iZotope RX Advanced. Tags done with Foobar 2000 and Tag and Rename.
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Organ combos are often a whipping-boy for jazz purists.  Seated behind an instrument with limited emotional range, organists were perhaps in the forefront of artists who extended the jazz tradition of dipping into the “great tradition of popular song” of Cole Porter or Gershwin and looking to the contemporary hit parade to produce jazzed up versions of Carol King, Burt Bacharach, Ray Charles or funkier fare like Sly Stone and Motown, earning the ire of critics who lambasting this ‘pandering’ to commercial trends.  By the nineteen-seventies the funky soul-jazz record was so ubiquitous that it seemed like a handful or artists were able to crank them out quicker than hotcakes from a griddle and with about as much variety.  Even if I personally love most of this stuff, I acknowledge that, as one of my friends Stumpy McFinn (a pseudonym) put it regarding his own feelings for these records, “A little goes a long way.”

So as the golden age of soul-jazz and jazz-funk faded away, where did it leave some of the people who made a healthy livelihood from it and left us some great records like “The Worm,” “Electric Funk,” and “Groove Grease”?   With a recording date of 1983, I braced myself for lower expectations when I picked up this record cheap as dirt, and instead found myself liking it quite a bit.   Relieved not to find McGriff trading in his Hammond for a Fairlight synth or strutting around the stage with a “keytar,” he instead retrenches his roots more than he’d done since his days on Sue Records.  The repertoire is anything but contemporary, leading off with a New Orleans stroll by way of Fats Domino’s hit “I’m Walkin'”, whose vamp outro might be the funkiest thing on the record.  The album embraces a big band sound with small group arrangements, written in a way to create aural illusions that, as McGriff said to the Newark Star-Ledger reporter whose story comprises the liner notes, uses “close harmonies and voicings to make you hear some things that aren’t really there.”  Two selections are Frank Foster tunes from the songbook of the Count Basie Orchestra, “Down For the Count” and “Shiny Stockings,” and the slow blues “Since I Fell For You” has me wanting to burst out into the lyrics —

You made me leave my happy home
You took my love, and now you’re gone
Since I fell for you 

The sideman on this date all hold their own but the potential show stealers are guitarist Melvin Sparks and trombonist Clifford Adams (member of Kool & The Gang and a presence on some of my favorite soul-jazz efforts from the likes of Charles Earland and Lonnie Liston Smith).  Adams gets to trade riffs with saxophonists Marhsall Keys and Arnold Sterling on “Blow Your Horn,” the most driving tune here which also happens to have been written by legendary trombonist Bennie Green.  Drummer Vance James is a no-frills player who holds down the shuffles and the swing with aplomb; he also played on records by frequent McGriff collaborator Hank Crawford during the 80s and 90s.  The sound on this record is wonderfully full-bodied, with Rudy Van Gelder behind the board, and “production” limited to a splash of reverb on the horns.  There may be no surprises or blinding flights of inspiration on this album, but there are no gimmicks either.  A solid low-key listen for a lazy Sunday like today.

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