Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers – The Witch Doctor 2021 Blue Note Tone Poet | Original release 1967
This is a fantastic 1961 session (not issued until ’67) with Lee Morgan, Wayne Shorter, and Bobby Timmons, but man the drum solos are recorded horribly. Seems really odd, seeing as it was the drummer’s group… Nice Tone Poet pressing though, in general. One of my pandemic pleasures has been buying up lots of these Blue Note reissues of titles that have generally been beyond my reach; under Don Was’s stewardship of the catalog, they have been doing a first-rate job at making them available to people who are not willing or able to pay the ‘trophy hunter’ prices of the collectors market. There are occasional blips and hiccups in quality control — I returned a Paul Chambers release last summer which had very noticeable distortion which, according to a little research, seemed to afflict a whole bunch of copies in that pressing run. But by and large I have no complaints. Or at least few.
George Freeman – New Improved Funk
1974 Groove Merchant GM 519 Vinyl rip in 24 bit 192 khz | Art at 300 dpi
Soul Jazz – Hard bop – Jazz
24-bit 192 khz – 1.55GB | 24 bit 96 khz – 902 MB | 238 MB 16-bit 44.1 khz
12 Days of Christmas – Day 1: Except for the opening title track (all two minutes of it), this is a lot more of a straight soul-jazz album than the title would imply. It’s good stuff though, with great tenor playing by the late Von Freeman throughout the whole endeavor. Bobby Blevins on the organ chugging along like a mad lorry driver (“crazy trucker”). George’s guitar playing can switch back and forth from Albert King-like, single-note runs laden with vibrato to angular scronking ala Sonny Sharrock within the same tune (Exhibit A: “Big Finish”, which closes out the first side of the LP….. Continue reading
Trumpet, flugelhorn – Randy Brecker (tracks: 1,3,6)
Vibraphone – David Friedman (tracks: 2,5,6,7)
Producer – George Butler
Recorded By – Rudy Van Gelder
Critics have often blasted Blue Note Records’ output during the 1970s, and not without reason, for inconsistency and an overeager desire to flirt with a more commercial sound than during their classic 50s and 60s heyday. Horace Silver’s own wonderfully “far out,” genre-bending, and delightful three-part series of LPs from 1970-72, subtitled “The United States of Mind” , was probably a case in point for purist curmudgeons. Although he was certainly no stranger to commercial success or soul-jazz crossovers (he did write the song “Doodlin'”, after all), the sprawling eclecticism of the three “phases” of the US of M project must have had some Blue Note fans worried that they’d lost old Horace for good. So I can’t help hearing 1972’s “In Pursuit of the 27th Man” as a kind of deliberate return to form. That’s not to imply that it was a reaction to critics: perhaps Silver just felt like it was time to make a good solid hard bop album again after his recent experimentation.
And that’s what he did here, while retaining a lot of the same players from those other records. The Latin jazz opener, Liberated Brother (written by Weldon Irvine), is of the same high caliber as anything on his Cape Verdean Blues from 1966. Recorded during two sessions with slightly different lineups, half the tracks feature the Brecker Brothers on brass and the other half showcase David Friedman on vibes, which is a first for Silver’s bands. On the titular track, we get both at the same time. The interplay between Silver’s piano and the vibes on this song is marvelous, fabulous, and stupendous. The album also features one tune (Kathy) by the great Moacir Santos, then living in the US and who – as Silver mentions in the notes – was just about to make his first Blue Note LP.
This is a very worthwhile offering in the vast discography of one of my favorite jazz pianists and composers, so do give it a listen.
The ambiance of the record as a whole is an adept mixture of taxi fumes and sunlight, as captured by the breezy “Summer in Central Park.”
Hey let’s take a look at Silver’s charming liner notes now. They include lyrics to one track that are, in fact, not present anywhere on the actual recording. So read them and memorize them to recite along at the proper moment.
Note: the remastering engineer is not named in the credits, as it oddly the case for many of these TOCJ Blue Note CDs from Japan, but like all the others I have heard, this sounds stellar.
James Moody THE BLUES AND OTHER COLORS Original release 1969 (Milestone MSP 9023) OJC Reissue 1997
1. Main Stem 2. Everyone Needs It 3. Savannah Calling 4. A Statement 5. Gone Are The Days 6. Feeling Low 7. You Got To Pay 8. Old Folks —————–
Tracks 1, 4, and 8
James Moody: flute, soprano sax Johnny Coles: trumpet, flugelhorn Tom McIntosh: trombone Joe Farrel; alto flute, oboe, alto sax Cecil Payne: baritone sax Kenny Barron: piano Ron Carter: bass Freddy Waits: drums
Tracks 2 and 3 add Sam Brown – electric guitar, Ben Tucker (acoustic and electric bass) replaces Ron Carter
James Moody: flute Britt Woodman: trombone Jim Buffington: french horn Linda November: voice Alfred Brown: viola Charles McCracken: cello Kermit Moore: cello Dick Katz: piano Ron Carter: bass Connie Kay: drums
Recorded August 14, 1968; January 3, 1969, and February 11, 1969
—————– Produced by Dick Katz and Orrin Keepnews. Recording engineer – George Sawtelle Digitally remastered by Kirk Felton (1997, Fantasy Sound Studios, Berkeley, California).
Well this is an odd little record. James Moody’s body of work is kind of all over the place but somewhere between Dizzy Gillespie, his Argo albums, and his Perception Records albums, he found time to make a handful of records for the Milestone label. This one, recorded with two entirely different ensembles (except for Ron Carter, who is the common denominator of all jazz equations, apparently*). It runs the gamut from modern jazz, hard bop, and toe-tapping soul jazz. A lot of it is the sound of a small band playing big band arrangements courtesy of trombonist Tom McIntosh, who dropped out of jazz shortly after these sessions. And the arrangements here are always interesting. The dissonant soul treatment of Ellington’s “Main Stem” is a gem The summer stroll through a city park that is “Everybody Needs It” is lovely. The jazz combo + chamber ensemble idea works well on this record, better than his Moody With Strings album on Argo, for example. And considering that the album is culled from two sessions separated by six months, it holds together as a long player. About the only weak spot for me is “Gone Are The Days,” a deconstruction of Stephen Foster that was probably intended as sociomusical critique but ends up being just kind of forced. (I was somewhat surprised to see that it scored so favorably on the liner notes, both of the reissue and the original release). Maybe it doesn’t work for me because it seems to be trying so hard to make a statement, and pales before the previous track, ironically titled “A Statement,” which is truly breathtaking.
The presence of frequent collaborator Johnny Coles is welcome here, as is Cecil Payne. Kenny Baron plays capably. Holding down the drum throne are future M’Boom member Freddie Waits and MJQ stalwart Connie Kay.
The last batch of compositions feature wordless vocals by one Linda November. Her calendar-girl name sounded vaguely familiar but I couldn’t place it, so I looked her up. Alongside her credits as a pop backup singer, she more famous as the anonymous voice of TV jingles like the Meow Mix song and the “I’d Like To Give The World A Coke” song. I have no idea how she ended up on this record. Even when it’s awkward it still works, though, like on the McIntosh composition “You Got To Pay,” which I happened to have played recently on one of my freeform radio hours. The one fact that might legitimately scare some people off is that Moody eschews alto and tenor sax for soprano for the first half and stays on flute for all of the second half. I happen to love jazz flute but it drives some people crazy for reasons I refuse to comprehend so don’t even bother trying to explain it to me.
* There is an equation for predicting the probability of Ron Carter appearing on any given album. Take the year of release, add the catalog number (substituting numerological values for any letters), divide by the number of tracks, and multiply by 100.