A beautiful album of spiritual soul and Brazilian influenced jazz from Azar Lawrence – and a pretty rare one we're thrilled to have! Lawrence is a stellar sax player with a sound that's a bit like Gary Bartz, which means that he fits in perfectly with the Fantasy-era Prestige Records sound – but the sounds on this set are uncommonly rich and globally influenced. The set's predominantly acoustic, with lots of modal grooves in kind of a Strata East vein – and angular post-Coltrane playing that's very similar to Bartz's work on the Libra album from his early days. Players include Raul De Souza on trombone, Ron Carter on bass, Billy Hart on drums, Dom Salvador, who is really allowed to shine on piano on a few tracks, and drummer & percussionist Guilherme Franco, who brings a world of wonderful percussion on a couple of numbers.
Supremely heavy work from organist Leon Spencer – one of his classic jazz funk sessions for Prestige Records, and a record that shows him opening up his sound a bit more than before! The album has Spencer working in a few different lineups – some with small groups that feature Melvin Sparks on guitar and Idris Muhammad on drums – others with some slightly larger instrumentation and even a bit of strings, used in a sophisticatedly soulful style that reminds us a bit of CTI or Kudu backings of the time!
Sublime Hammond from the amazing Leon Spencer – heard here at the height of his younger years, when he was cooking up as much magic in the studio as Johnny Hammond or Charles Earland – and really stretching things out, in ways that take the jazz organ format much farther than the giants of a decade before! The date's an all-out great one in the Prestige funky jazz mode – with Spencer on organ, Melvin Sparks on guitar, Grover Washington Jr on tenor, and Idris Muhammad on drums – a bit more subtle than before, but still plenty darn funky! Tracks are nice and long – and the record includes the originals "Louisiana Slim", "Our Love Will Never Die", "The Trouble With Love", and a cover of "Mercy Mercy Me".
A totally great set by Cannonball Adderley – one of his funkiest albums ever, recorded live at Operation Breadbasket under the supervision of Jesse Jackson, and a session in which the band is cooking a lot more than on some of their other albums from the time! The set grooves hard with some tight electric piano from Joe Zawinul – amazing snakey lines that not only set the tone for the whole record, but which really make for a strong evolution from the Mercy Mercy Mercy era of the group a few years before. Cannon's alto and soprano work are beautiful – a masterpiece of soul jazz expression – as is the cornet from brother Nat – and the group's completed by bassist Walter Booker and drummer Roy McCurdy. The album's a bucketful of great jazzy sample tunes – and tracks include "Walk Tall", "Country Preacher", "Hummin", and the extended "Afro-Spanish Omlet".
Jimmy McGriff's B-3 sound was always rooted in blues and gospel, and his soloing could be very smooth and polished. But every once in a while, he had to break out of his own soul box and tear it up on a session. The Worm, issued on Solid State Records in 1968, is the very first place he did. This is the first true, all-out funky burner from McGriff, and it sounds very different from most of the other titles on his shelf. Having a band like this helps: trumpeter Blue Mitchell, tenor saxophonist Fats Theus (with Bob Ashton on baritone and Danny Turner on alto), alternating drummers Mel Lewis and Grady Tate, bassist Bob Bushnell, and guitarist Thornel Schwartz were all in their prime in 1968. The title track, written by McGriff, Theus, and producer Sonny Lester, sets the tone for the whole platter.
One of the hardest, heaviest albums that Ray Bryant ever cut – even on the ballads – a monster little record that grabs you from the very first note! Ray did the arrangements for this one himself – working with his core trio that featured Ron Carter on bass and Grady Tate on drums, and adding in a twin-trumpet frontline that cooks the groove over the top with a really righteous sound!
Stunning stuff – and one of the best-ever Latin soul albums of all time! Despite the fact that Eddie Cano's earlier albums are more in a Latin easy mode, this late 60's side for Dunhill is totally smoking – and probably his greatest album ever! Forgive the superlatives, but we're totally serious on this one – as the set's a firey batch of Latin instrumentals, with a slammin' boogaloo groove all the way through – filled with mad percussion, jazzy piano riffs, and a non-stop groove that's totally great. The set was recorded live at PJ's nightclub, and it's a non-stop Latin Soul party that includes massive originals like "Slip Slip", "Brown & Blue", "Miro Como Es", and "Don't Ever Change" – plus smoking covers of "El Pito" and "Louie Louie". The set screams with excitement, and is as great as the album is rare!
A surprisingly righteous little album from Stanley Cowell – a set cut after his more famous music for the Strata East label, but one that still hangs onto a similar vibe! The style's a bit tighter than before, but still filled with soul and spirit – thanks to a lineup that includes Julian Priester on trombone, Eddie Henderson on trumpet, and Pat Patrick on reeds – making a key appearance here away from the Sun Ra Arkestra! Cowell plays both piano and keyboards, and the record has a bit of strings, and a bit of vocals – but all used tastefully, in ways that further enforce the depth of the tunes. Tracks include "El Space-O", "Ask Him", "Island Of Haitoo", and "I'm Tryin To Find A Way".
Stellar reed work from Azar Lawrence – a player who's best known for his acoustic revival in recent years, but who could play with some excellent electric backings during the 70s! The set's less an electric funk outing than it is a spiritual jazz set, with keyboards and guitar in the mix – beautifully put together by the young Skip Scarborough, with a feel that's very similar to Gary Bartz's work with Larry Mizell!
One of the most talented bands of the '70s, Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan is the groups' fourth release in close to three years. Although this effort doesn't have the epiphanies of 1974's Rufusized, Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan has them becoming more established as one of the best bands in R&B and pop. The first track, Gavin Christopher's "Fool's Paradise" displays Khan's skill at screaming notes and making complex ideas sound simple, and vice versa.