Alice Clark

Strength. Despair. Longing. Determination. Heartache. Redemption. You’ll hear all this and more in this OUTSTANDING soul/jazz blend. Watch out though—Alice Clark’s voice delivers tales of world-weariness and heartbreak with such authenticity you may find yourself calling your fifth grade crush and spilling your guts before the echo of the song leaves the room. This Mainstream Records cult classic has had an underground following for awhile, kicked up a notch in the early 90s as acid jazz DJs embraced the track “Don’t You Care” which became a dancefloor favorite. The original LP is mega-rare and its credits didn’t reveal much, so this Record Store Day release courtesy of the revived label (tip o’ the hat to comedian/filmmaker Judd Apatow whose grandfather Bob Shad was the original label head and producer of this session) is most welcome. What we now know is that a bunch of Aretha Franklin’s backing band (including Cornell Dupree & Ear Dunbar-guitar, Ernie Hayes & Paul Griffin-organ/Rhodes/piano, Bernard Purdie-drums, Gordon Edwards-bass, Joe Newman & Sonny Cohn-trumpet and additional unknown/uncredited horn players) gathered for a two-day session under the supervision of Shad and conductor Ernie Wilkins as Clark worked her magic, nailing this one LP and a handful of other tracks before disappearing from the music scene entirely. It’s difficult not to love this album—one look at the cover alone and you can tell that Clark speaks the truth. Her voice is sheer emotive power—I love the fact that even though she falters once or twice it’s in the service of the heartfelt message, not the perfection of the take. It only adds to the raw emotion that’s written all over her face on the cover photo. Furthermore, these are real jazz cats backing her up…you won’t find any half-assed arrangements or cheesy cliches that turn this into a syrupy, sappy, adult-contemporary mess. This is a jazz-infused, soul-powered, love-gone-bad album for the ages, and I can’t get enough of it. Highest recommendation

Pete Yellin ‘It’s the Right Thing’

Obscurity can be a badge of honor in the world of jazz, but let’s take a moment to explore why it’s kinda weird that that Yellin isn’t better known. Abandoning basketball at the University of Denver to study saxophone at Juilliard after finding inspiration in the music of Art Pepper, Yellin found work and camaraderie with a variety of jazz luminaries, from Joe Henderson to Chick Corea. He worked extensively during the 60s & 70s in a variety of small and large combos (including Tito Puente, as well as the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Big Band) until releasing the first of two recordings as a leader on Bob Shad’s Mainstream label in 1973, ‘It’s the Right Thing’. Yellin steps out fiercely on both alto sax and flute, leading a mid-sized combo that includes Hal Galper (Electric Piano), Jack Wilkins & Roland Prince (Guitar), Mario Rivera (Flute, Tenor/Soprano/Baritone Sax), Barry Rogers (Trombone), Clint Houston (Bass), Darryl Washington & David Lee Jr. (Drums), Lawrence Killian & Angel Allende (Percussion/Congas). Yellin contributes a couple of originals, and there’s a fine rendition of “Softly As A Morning Sunrise” and an unexpectedly groovy take on Stevie Wonder’s “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life”. Jazz snobs who turn their noses up at electricity and a willingness to take on “commercial” tunes like the aforementioned Stevie Wonder cover are missing out on a fine jazz record—there’s some tremendous playing here. Yellin SHREDS. Good stuff