cratedigger

Henry Franklin ‘The Skipper’

High energy modal/spiritual grooves driven by the formidable bass playing of Henry Franklin and electric piano of Bill Henderson. I dig the frequent nods to early electric Miles and Return to Forever, though I wouldn’t classify this as a fusion record. I’m reminded in places of Eddie Henderson’s sides for Capricorn and Joe Farrell’s CTI records as there’s a similar vibe. The brass frontline—Oscar Brashear on trumpet/flugelhorn & Charles Owens on tenor/soprano sax—wails, swings, duels and soars as Franklin and Henderson scurry busily in, under and around them. There’s some heavy duty yet intricate three-headed beats from drummer Mike Carvin who’s flanked by percussionists Fred Lido and Tip Jones, while guitarist Kenny Climax rears his head only occasionally, but when he does he makes he presence known. “Beauty and the Electric Tub” lays down a groove so deep you wonder how they’re ever gonna find their way out. They do, but they take the scenic route. Tough to find on vinyl, available if you look on CD, but seemingly absent from the usual streaming services other than YouTube. Obscure but worth searching for, as are most of the albums on the Black Jazz label. Franklin recorded a follow-up, the equally scarce ‘The Skipper at Home’, a favorite, particularly after a couple of tracks were sampled by A Tribe Called Quest. Franklin has an extensive discography with more than a dozen sessions as a leader, and sideman credits on over 100 records ranging from Stevie Wonder to Ornette Coleman. He’s still out there playing and recording…more power to you Mr. Franklin

Charles Tolliver’s Music Inc.

Full-contact jazz that challenges every big band cliché. Way beyond one giant swing-a-long, you’ve got a core quartet of Charles Tolliver (trumpet) Stanley Cowell (piano) Cecil McBee (bass) and Jimmy Hopps (drums) going toe-to-toe with a thirteen-piece brass section. The core four handle the majority of the solos while the big band summon a tsunami of sound, sometimes supporting and sometimes challenging the quartet in a battle of groove. Props to bassist Cecil McBee, who to my ears is the hero of the session, laying down sinewy, elastic bass lines that are a masterclass in soulful inspiration. This record sounds modern, fresh and HUGE. Music Inc. was recently reissued by @purepleasurerecords. The original was the debut release on Strata East, Tolliver/Cowell’s artist-oriented label of the 1970s. Brilliant stuff. The big band: Jimmy Heath, Clifford Jordan, Bobby Brown, Wilbur Brown (saxes); Richard Williams, Virgil Jones, Larry Greenwich, Danny Moore (trumpets); Garnett Brown, Curtis Fuller, John Gordon, Dick Griffin (trombones); Howard Johnson (tuba, baritone sax

Horace Silver ‘Serenade to a Soul Sister’

Silver’s flair for melody, funky style, and inspired choice of bandmates results in another classic. While ’The Jody Grind’ remains my favorite Horace Silver-led session, this one has raced up the charts quickly into second place. If the opening track doesn’t put a smile on your face, inspire you to get into the groove and boogie, you need a drink. Or therapy. Or both. Certainly one of the happier jazz records one can reach for, and overall a great listen. It features a who’s who of talent, including Charles Tolliver (trumpet), Bennie Maupin (sax), Stanley Turrentine (tenor sax), Bob Cranshaw (bass), Mickey Roker (drums) and Billy Cobham (drums). Terrific soundtrack to a beautiful NYC morning

Duke Pearson Phantom

Duke Pearson ‘The Phantom’

The psychedelic-tinged title track is one of Duke Pearson’s greatest works. I love the way it unfolds with an air of mystery. The rest of the LP doesn’t quite raise my drawbridge to the same level. This may be an issue of timing—the tropical vibes that permeate the other tracks are inconsistent with this cold, winter New York day. I’ll spin it again come summertime and perhaps it’ll hit me differently. For the most part, once you move past the depth of the title track (which may take several listens…it’s *THAT* good) the album veers from post-bop, late night grooves to tropical excursions underscored by Brazilian rhythms (and occasional nods to the avant-garde) as the multi-talented Pearson leads a small combo on this 1968 outing. The band: Duke Pearson (piano), Jerry Dodgion (flute/alto flute—side note, it’s his flute that graces the well-known theme from ’Shaft’), Bobby Hutcherson (vibes), Sam Brown & Alexander Gafa (guitars), Bob Cranshaw (bass), Mickey Roker (drums), Carlos “Patato” Valdes & Victor Pantoja (congas/guiro). Pearson wore a lot of hats at Blue Note, arranging sessions for other artists, composing, performing and he was also an executive in an A&R capacity. His albums—particularly this one—demonstrate the breadth and scope of his abilities, particularly his preternatural understanding of which instruments in what combos played by which musicians would deliver the goods. Perhaps it’s too cold at the moment for me to appreciate the album as a whole, but I just spun the title track again and it blew my mind. This is first pressing BST 84293, stereo, VAN GELDER in the deadwax