Patrice Rushen – Prelusion (1974) with Joe Henderson

Patrice Rushen – Prelusion
Prestige VICJ-41866
Series: 1000 Jazz (Japan)
Released: 21 Feb 2007
Original release 1974 – Prestige (P 10089)

1 Shortie’s Portion 8:42
2 7/73 12:42
3 Haw-Right Now 8:00
4 Traverse 10:53
5 Puttered Bopcorn 4:15

All songs composed and arranged by Patrice Rushen

Acoustic and electric piano – Patrice Rushen
Bass – Tony Dumas
Drums – Ndugu
Flute, Alto Flute, Soprano Saxophone – Hadley Caliman
Percussion – Kenneth Nash
Tenor Saxophone – Joe Henderson
Trombone – George Bohanon
Trumpet – Oscar Brashear

Art Direction – Phil Carroll
Recording engineer – Eddie Harris, Skip Shimmin
Photography By – Bruce Talamon
Producer – Reggie Andrews

A few months ago I posted an extended 12″ single of one of Patrice Rushen’s early 80’s jams, and promised to come back and delve into her discography a little for the benefit of folks who were unfamiliar with her rewarding body of work.  I am finally getting around to it now.

So, there she is, smiling and lovely, standing barely higher than her grand piano – Patrice Rushen on her debut album.  Barely 20 years old when it was released, she stands on the shoulders of giants here (sorry, I couldn’t help myself), with assistance from the great Joe Henderson on tenor and Leon “Ndugu” Chancler driving the drum kit.  This record was produced by Rushen’s high-school mentor, Reggie Anderson.  Since Joe Henderson had settled in San Francisco in the early 70’s and was working as a jazz educator at the time, I am presuming it was Williams who recruited Henderson to add some “draw” to this session for his former prodigy student, who I believe was in college at USC in Los Angeles at the time this was made.  This is pure speculation on my part, but Patrice had not yet become the ubiquitous, in-demand session player she was soon to become, so it seems as likely a scenario as any.  Presumably she was finding time for live performance and establishing her name in jazz circles that way, but I imagine some intervention and negotiation by Williams and/or Henderson was needed to persuade the mighty Prestige label to sign the relatively unknown Rushen to a three record contract.  In fact the only other album credit that I can find for Patrice before the release of this album is a super obscure Afrocentric spiritual-jazz record called “Msingi Workshop”, made by a bunch of Watts high school students and also produced and arranged by Reggie Anderson.  Anderson also founded the group Karma later in the decade, as well as producing, arranging and co-writing (with Ndugu) the quintessential Dazz Band single ‘Let It Whip.’ The Msingi Workshop album, a rare private-press collectible, also featured future members of Roy Ayer’s Ubiquity, Les McCann’s group, and Rick James’ Stone City Band, among other credits.  That must have been one intense group of kids…

“Prelusion” seems determined to establish Patrice’s jazz bona-fides right away with the cutely titled “Shortie’s Portion” providing some fairly mundane but thoroughly pleasant straight-up jazz, with a standard solo/chorus/solo/chorus arrangement that has Henderson and trombonist George Bohanon putting in solid performances.  The second track, 7/73, begins with some loose percussion and vaguely Asian flute melodies from Hadley Calimen,  tape-delayed electric piano (Roland Space Echo?) that hints at a cosmic Hancock-style exploration of the nether regions, with the group reaching a minor crescendo broken up by a brief drum solo that is really more of a cymbal solo.  The group pulls back to a relaxed , almost-funky, almost-spiritual piece that makes me.  Behind Calimen and Bohanon’s solos, Patrice plays some chord inversions on the Rhodes that evoke a hipper trolley gliding through Mr. Rogers neighborhood.   For her own solo she switches to acoustic piano for a kind of nebulous ending.  If this were an LP you’d be flipping it over shortly to hear “Haw-right Now,” on which Tony Dumas lays down some of the funkiest upright acoustic bass playing you’re likely to hear.  After a strident and brassy statement of the main theme, the groups settles into a pressure-cooker of a groove and lets Joe Henderson take a blistering solo, pushing notes through that steam valve, making you check that the lid is locked down tight so you don’t have an accident.  Patrice reduces the heat with a simmering turn at her solo…. Okay, I’m really sorry folks, I was cooking black beans while listening to this earlier.  I will set aside that metaphor (and let stand for five minutes before serving).  The next track, “Traverse”, bounces along like a fairly standard, finger-snapping post-bop number until about three-quarters the way through its 10-minute length, at which point the ensemble effortlessly morphs the whole thing into jazz samba.  Amazing work by Ndugu and Kenneth Nash on the percussive side of things here, and Patrice develops her own understated solo as the song fades out.  Makes me want to hear the unedited cut, and also to peruse through a snapshot of Patrice’s record collection as a young lady to see if she was deep into the 60’s jazz-samba-bossa combo permutations of the day or just absorbing these grooves second-hand through the oodles of American-Brazilian collaboration and ‘crossover’ albums.   Was the title “Traverse” itself an homage to Milton Nascimento’s “Travessia,” a favorite among American jazzers of the early 70s?  Please ask Professor Rushen next  time you see her for me.  The final track, Puttered Bopcorn, foreshadows the jazz-funk-fusion of her next Prestige effort, with Much Moog and Copious Clavinet™.  Apparently this short but tasty track was left off a 2-on-1 CD repackaging of her first two albums because of its cholesterol content, with the official FDA justification given as “time considerations.”  So as of the time of this post, the only way to hear the entire album without tracking down the vinyl is to get hold of this out-of-print Japanese pressing, which has the kind of stellar, dynamic sound you expect from out-of-print Japanese pressings.

TL;DR – Perhaps not a debut to blow your top over, “Preclusion” is a very solid jazz outing for a young Patrice Rushen, full of enough eclectic surprises to keep this listener engaged, and  enough jazzy jazz to make the purists wring their hands and agonize over the inevitable “what if she hadn’t turned to (gasp!) R&B later in her career?!” question.  Which is of course a very silly question.  Her R&B stuff is brilliant.  As we’ll see when I continue these slow and occasional installments in exploring her discography.

password: vibes