souljazz

Kenny Burrell ‘Freedom’

Kenny Burrell’s ‘Freedom’ is an under-discussed title in his discography. It combines two different sessions, one from March 1963 with Hank Jones-piano/organ, Seldon Powell-baritone sax/flute, Milt Hinton-bass, & Osie Johnson-drums; and one from Oct 1964 with Stanley Turrentine-tenor sax, Herbie Hancock-piano, Ben Tucker-bass, Bill English-drums, & Ray Barreto-congas. Allegedly, both sessions were difficult, with multiple takes required before achieving satisfactory results, and neither session producing enough material for a full album. So both sessions were shelved, and Burrell—who only did a couple of sessions as a sideman for Blue Note in between those recording dates, including the excellent ‘Hustlin’ LP with Turrentine—wouldn’t record for the label as a leader again until his return to Blue Note in the mid-80s for a couple of live records. ‘Freedom’ made its first appearance in Japan on LP in 1979, and in the US via Music Matters in 2011 (this pressing, 2 X LP @ 45RPM). So far as I know, there is no digital or CD version. Given the differences in session dates and players, the material covers quite a bit of ground, from funky soul-jazz to evening, hard-bop grooves that sound like they could have been outtakes from ‘Midnight Blue.’ A different take on “K Twist” does appear on ‘Midnight Blue,’ but I’ll leave it up to you as to which version you’d like to call the “outtake.” All of the material is strong, and both sessions were very well recorded by the Notorious RVG—I can see why Music Matters chose such relatively obscure sessions for release. The tracks may be individually scattered across compilations, box sets and playlists, though a quick scan of the digital services doesn’t look promising. Too bad…this is great stuff

Freddie Roach Good Move

Freddie Roach ‘Good Move’

Two sessions make up this fantastic Blue Note rarity: a trio session with Freddie Roach (organ), Eddie Wright (guitar) & Clarence Johnston (drums) from 29 Nov 1963, expanded to a quintet with the addition of Blue Mitchell (trumpet) and Hank Mobley (tenor sax) for a second session on 9 Dec. Freddie Roach’s ‘Good Move’ is a cooker, though you’ll rarely hear Roach launch a blitzkrieg attack on the Hammond B-3. He prefers to build a groove that prioritizes blues over bravado, and gospel over grandstanding. Not that Roach doesn’t toss in the occasional flourish to remind you that he’s got the chops, he just doles them out on an as-needed basis. He’s also masterful at leveraging vibrato to underscore a mood. The opening track—an eerie, almost unsettling take on “It Ain’t Necessarily So”—is a great example. While there’s a bit of a dark undercurrent, and a slower, more deliberate tempo than versions I’ve been spinning lately (lookin’ at you Grant Green/Sonny Clark), it still swings pretty hard. As I listen to this trio play it, I keep expecting them to bust into The Animals take on “House of the Rising Sun” at any moment…I’m sure a musicologist among you has an answer for that, particularly in that The Animals didn’t release that until 1964! Moving on…this isn’t all a downtempo affair. The original “Wine, Wine, Wine” is a cooker, with Mobley having himself quite a blast during his time in the spotlight. “When Malindy Sings” is a terrific mid-tempo groover with a really well-executed solo by Blue Mitchell…great vibe. This copy is a 1963 original stereo pressing (BST 84158) with RVG and Plastylite “ear” in the dead wax

Lonnie Smith ‘Think!’

Get yer groove on this Sunday morning with ’Think!’, the latest chapter in @bluenoterecords 80th anniversary celebration. Featuring Lonnie Smith (organ), Lee Morgan (trumpet), David “Fathead” Newman (tenor sax, flute), Melvin Sparks (guitar), Marion Booker, Jr. (drums), Henry (Pucho) Brown (timbales) and the double barrel conga propulsion of Willie Bivins and Noberto Apellaniz, this is an EXCELLENT soul jazz outing. Named for the cover of the Aretha Franklin hit, it’s a mix of Smith originals and a couple of cover tunes all beautifully executed by this fine band. Highlights include Smith’s original “The Call of the Wild” with its patient, slightly eerie, exploratory build to its wild, groovy finish and the opening track, a cover of Hugh Masekela’s “Son of Ice Bag” which—paired with a strong cuppa—will definitely get your blood pumping and head bobbing. Soul jazz isn’t often at the top of my preferred jazz sub-genres but this record is a keeper—great tunes, great playing, and GREAT job on this analog cut by Kevin Gray—this is a really, really terrific sounding record. At about $20 retail, a solid value. I don’t have an original to compare it with, but given many original pressings of Blue Note records from 1968 are either 1) “well-loved” (read: trashed) or 2) “well-cared for” (read: expensive), this newly issued version is recommended without hesitation. This was Smith’s second LP but his first for Blue Note…he’d go on to release quite a few more (including one as recently as last year) and he received the honor of NEA Jazz Master in 2017. More power to you Dr. Lonnie Smith @drlonniesmith @icalledhimmorgan