Legends of Acid Jazz Vol 2
Rusty Bryant
(Prestige)

Two of the greatest and most sought-after anthems of the acid jazz craze are the title tracks to the two LPs compiled on this one CD. The tough, Gene Ammons-influenced tenor Rusty Bryant (1929-91) recorded eight records for Prestige Records between 1969 and 1974. All are worth hearing. But the two from 1971 featured here in their entirety, Fire Eater and Wildfire, are undoubtedly the best.

Bryant rarely played outside of his Columbus, Ohio, home, traveling to New York only occasionally to record. That probably explains why he’s not better known today. But the music contained in Legends of Acid Jazz: Rusty Bryant: Vol. 2 is the cornerstone of his musical legacy.

From Columbus, Bryant brought bandmates Bill Mason on organ and guitarist Wilbert Longmire for these sessions, adding rhythm kingpin Idris Muhammad to the magical brew. All contribute mightily to the heavy-hitting funk of the disc’s best tracks: the raw and rampaging "Fire Eater," the smoldering blues groove of "Free at Last" and the stampeding funk of "Wildfire" (based on Sly Stone’s "Thank You").

Organist Leon Spencer replaces Mason for two original blues, "The Hooker" and "Mister S," both perfectly suited to Bryant’s full-blooded bar-honking style. And Bryant rarely strays from his strengths, though the ballad "It’s Impossible" and a silly cover of "Riders on the Storm" give the listener a brief reprieve from the high-voltage music elsewhere.

But it’s "Fire Eater" and "Wildfire" that make Legends of Acid Jazz: Rusty Bryant: Vol. 2 required listening and, thus far, the best in Prestige’s Acid Jazz series.

Songs: Fire Eater; Free At Last; The Hooker’ Mister S.; Wildfire; It’s Impossible; Riders on the Storm; The Alobamo Kid; If You Really Love Me’ All That I’ve Got.

Players: Rusty Bryant: tenor saxophone; Bill Mason, Leon Spencer: organ; Wilbert Longmire, Jimmy Ponder, Ernest Reed: guitar; Idris Muhammad: drums; Buddy Caldwell: conga.


Legends of Acid Jazz
Trudy Pitts/Pat Martino
(Prestige)

Organist Trudy Pitts, who still lives and plays in Philadelphia, is a classically trained pianist whose lounge-jazz organ style was captured on four Prestige albums during 1967-68. Legends of Acid Jazz: Trudy Pitts/Pat Martino collects the first two of these, Introducing the Fabulous Trudy Pitts and These Blues of Mine.

Like Shirley Scott and Gloria Coleman, two other women organists in jazz, Pitts brings an appealing sensitivity to her clunky, domineering instrument. But, unlike Scott and Coleman, Pitts tends to take her church pipe-organ warmth toward an easy-going sound often heard in hotel bars and ritzy lounges.

That isn’t meant to detract from the solid strength that makes her truly interesting as a player. Listen to her choices on drummer/husband Bill Carney’s interesting originals: the moody "Steppin’ in Minor," the Latin funk of "Fiddlin" or the lively bop of "Organology." Or, check out Pitts’ interesting, daring arrangements of "Take Five," "What The World Needs Now" and the otherwise awful "It Was A Very Good Year."

Her lounge-singer vocals on "Something Wonderful," "Matchmaker, Matchmaker," "The House of the Rising Sun," "Eleanor Rigby," "These Blues of Mine" and "A White Shade of Pale" are not bad, but they’re an acquired taste

Guitartist Pat Martino, who gets equal billing on the CD’s cover, is allowed little more than rhythm accompaniment throughout. His occasionally brief solos amount to little more than licks. But, as expected, Martino is a supportive associate, and he never seems intent on grabbing the spotlight (Pitts returned the favor by playing on Martino’s 1967 solo debut, El Hombre).

Songs: Steppin’ In Minor; The Spanish Flea; Something Wonderful; Take Five; It Was A Very Good Year; Siete; Night Song; Fiddlin’; Matchmaker, Matchmaker; Organology; The House of the Rising Sun; Just Us Two; Eleanor Rigby; Count Nine; Man and A Woman; A Whiter Shade of Pale; Teddy Makes Three; These Blues of Mine; What The World Needs Now.

Players: Trudy Pitts: organ, vocals; Pat Martino: guitar; Bill Carney: drums; Abdu Johnson: conga.


Legends of Acid Jazz Vol. 2
Sonny Stitt/Don Patterson
(Prestige)

Legends of Acid Jazz: Sonny Stitt/Don Patterson Vol. 2 is misnamed for at least a couple of reasons. Sax man Sonny Stitt (1924-82) and organist Don Patterson (1936-88) both had earlier releases in Prestige’s Acid Jazz series…but not together. And the two albums from September 1968 reproduced here in their entirety, have nothing whatsoever to do with what has come to be known acid jazz. They’re not really even soul jazz. Worse, they’re not very memorable either.

The more interesting of the two, organist Don Patterson’s ironically-titled Funk You!, is a straight bop date featuring Stitt’s alto or tenor combined with Charles McPherson’s alto, Pat Martino’s guitar and Billy James’s drums ("Want funk?" they seem to be asking. "Too bad."). They cover Sonny Rollins’s "Airegin," a standard, three originals by Patterson and one by Stitt.

Stitt’s Soul Electricity! was recorded the very next day with a similar group without McPherson and Billy Bulter in place of Pat Martino. Here, Stitt plugs in his Varitone saxes and performs some of the most boring and lugubrious covers of done-to-death standards like "Stella by Starlight," "Bye Bye Blackbird," "Over the Rainbow" and "Strike up the Band." Stitt, who could never transform the Varitone the way Eddie Harris did, actually sounds sickly here – as if the music is dying on its way to the listener.

Both Stitt and Patterson have sounded far more enthused and interesting elsewhere.

Songs: Ratio and Proportion; Airegin; Little Angie; My Man String; Funk in ; It’s You Or No One; All The Things You Are; Lover Man (Oh, Where Can You Be?); P.S. I Love You; Stella By Starlight; Bye Bye Blackbird; Over The Rainbow; Candy; Strike Up the Band.

Players: Sonny Stitt: alto, tenor and Varitone saxes; Don Patterson: organ; Charles McPherson: alto sax; Pat Martino, Billy Butler: guitar; Billy James: drums.


The Usual Suspects
Ryan Kisor
(Fable)

Trumpeter Ryan Kisor is only 25 but The Usual Suspects is already his fourth album as a leader. He’s paid his dues with the Mingus Big Band, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Pat Metheny and Gerry Mulligan and he holds his own with other such so-called young lions as Wallace Roney, Roy Hargrove and Nicholas Payton, Kisor. But for his estimable talents, he’s a bit too devoted to the sounds of the past.

Despite its solid, straight-ahead swing, the "usual suspects" of the title are Blue Note trumpet stars Freddie Hubbard, Donald Byrd and, most especially, Lee Morgan. Kisor’s clean phrasing and well-thought patterns add a more contemporary polish, though, and he boasts a sound that matches his good looks: romantic, intelligent and sophisticated; a sort of GQ jazz.

Kisor breezes easily through the familiar Blue Note style program of catchy post-bop ("The Usual Suspects," "Hoofin"), swinging waltz themes ("Sheeryn’s Waltz") and romantic standards ("Never Let Me Go," "I’ve Never Been In Love Before"). His rhythm section includes Peter Zak (equal parts Wynton Kelly, Herbie Hancock and Harold Mabern), the worth-watching Fable Records house bassist John Webber and young drummer Willie Jones III.

They sound tight with each other, comfortable with their program and producer Don Mikkelsen’s sterling production captures it beautifully. Alfred Lion would probably have had these four loosen their ties and play in the dirt a little more. But Ryan Kisor can probably do whatever he wants and still sound good. The Usual Suspects sounds pretty good too, but it promises even more.

Players: Ryan Kisor: trumpet; Peter Zak: piano; John Webber: bass; Willie Jones III: drums.

Songs: The Usual Suspects; Sheeryn’s Waltz; Nobody Else But Me; M.H.D.; Never Let Me Go; Hoofin’ Below The rim; I’ve Never Been In Love Before.


First Light
Pat Martino
(32 Jazz)

Guitar and fusion fans will surely welcome this excellent 32 Jazz set featuring all of Joyous Lake and Starbright, guitarist Pat Martino’s two 1976 Warner Brothers albums. Martino left Muse Records in 1976 with the promise of mega-giant Warner’s clout to reach a wider audience. Usually that spells concession to popular tunes or sellable formulas. And while this music is often more fusion-oriented than anything Martino had recorded up to this point, there’s no sell out.

Joyous Lake catches Martino with keyboardist Delmar Brown and Kenwood Dennard, who reunited with the guitarist on last year’s similar Stone Blue (also featuring Martino’s delightful "Joyous Lake," which prefigures the music of Pat Metheny by nearly a decade). Here, electric bassist Delmar Brown also helps the quartet move around several flavors of funky fusion that recall then-sounds of Magical Shepherd-era Miroslav Vitous and Allan Holdsworth with nods toward Headhunter funk ("M’Wandishi")and Eleventh House rock ("Song Bird").

Starbright features a larger, all together different Martino group featuring three keyboardists (Gil Goldstein, Warren Bernhardt and Mike Maneri), three percussionists, bass, violin, flute and tabla. There are Martino’s patented ruminations ("Starbright," reminiscent of Al DiMeola/Return to Forever, and "Prelude"), worthy fusion ("Law," "Deeda," "Blue Macaw) and two of Wayne Shorter’s more contemplative ballads from Miles’ 1967 opus Nefertiti ("Fall," "Nefertiti").

As always, Martino remains an engaging technical dazzler – as opposed to all those forgotten 70s guitar heroes who thought speed and sound meant good playing. Martino even experiments with guitar synthesizers and other effects (especially during the Joyous Lake tracks). But the strength of the guitarist’s melodic personality, particularly during signature solos, is never in question.

This is music that can be enjoyed well beyond 1977. Over two decades later, there is substance and sustenance to Pat Martino’s music and First Light is a valuable part of this great guitarist’s ever-enduring legacy.

Players on Joyous Lake: Pat Martino: guitar, EML 101 synthesizer, synthesizer, percussion, flexiglass; Delmar Brown: Fender Rhodes, EML 500 synthesizer, Oberheim polyphonic synthesizer; Mark Leonard: electric bass; Kenwood Dennard: drums, percussion. Players on Starbright: Pat Martino: guitar, synthesizer; Gil Goldstein: keyboards; Warren Bernhardt, Michael Maneri: synthesizers; Will Lee: bass; Charles Collins, Michael Carvin: drums; Alyrio Lima Cova: percussion; Marty Quinn: tablas; Al Regni: flute; Joe D’Onofrio: violin.

Songs: Line Games; Pyramidal Vision; Mardi Gras; M’Wandishi; Song Bird; Joyous Lake; Starbright; Eyes; Law; Fall; Deeda; Starbright Epilogue; Masquerada; Nefertiti; Blue Macaw; City Lights; Prelude; Epilogue.


The Antidote
Marc Cary
(Arabesque)

Any antidote to much of today’s piano jazz is certainly welcome as we grapple with greeting a new millenium. Pianist Marc Cary may just be it. After nearly two decades, jazz has probably had enough of ivory tinklers that do little more than recycle the masters or exhume the past. Thirty-two year old Marc Cary has something new to say on The Antidote, his third album since his 1994 Enja debut. Like Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock or McCoy Tyner a generation before, he’s brimming with exciting ideas and a strong, clear voice to express it all.

The Antidote is a genuinely refreshing musical statement. Dedicated, as Cary puts it, to understanding the cycle of life, it is a work of surprising maturity and thought-provoking stimulation.

Cary, who’s gigged with Betty Carter, Art Taylor, Roy Hargrove and Abbey Lincoln, dresses himself well here. His sartorial partner is the crisp, effervescent sax master Ron Blake, currently with Art Farmer’s group. Blake has a slick knack of pushing borders without going all the way out or too far into quietude. Moreover, he well understands Cary’s musical principles. Their intuition for one another is uncanny (especially during the Tyneresque "Chappaquitic Woman" and the piano-sax duet of "Dedicated To You").

The mood is also heightened significantly by Cary’s deft replacement of a drummer with two percussionists (Yarbrough Charles Laws, Daniel Moreno): an especially appealing addition to the more rhythmic reflections of "The Seven Principles," "Three Wise Men" and the meditative Alice Coltrane-meets-Roland Kirk drone of "The Sage."

But Cary often conveys his best messages solo. Like Ran Blake or Paul Bley, Cary’s solo conversations are brimming with passion and provoking in their stimulating qualities. This is a sign of Cary’s true gift. Note the riveting beauty of Duke Ellington’s "Melancholia" (the sound of someone like Alice Coltrane interpolating something like Bill Evans’s "Peace Piece") and the grace with which Cary explores Satie’s "Gnossienne – 1890," building an intensity toward an almost Hancock-like funk waltz.

There’s a spellbinding alchemy throughout The Antidote -- among the players and even within the sorcery whipped up by pianist Marc Cary all on his own. Check it out and listen for more. The Antidote is easily recommended.

Players: Marc Cary: piano; Ron Blake: soprano, alto and tenor saxophone; John Ormond: bass; Yarbrough Charles Laws, Daniel Moreno: percussion.

Songs: The Seven Principles/Divine Paradox; Three Wise Men; When I Think of You; Melancholia; Gnossienne – 1890; Chappaquitic Woman; Dedicated To You; Mae’tix; The Sage’ The Divine Paradox.


High Heel Sneakers
Doug Lawrence
(Fable)

There’s a joyful spirit to the playing of Texas tenor Doug Lawrence (b. 1956). His energy and bright ideas are contagious. And if High Heel Sneakers, his second Fable Records release following last year’s successful Soul Carnival, is any indication, his music is too. Lawrence, on the scene for two decades and only now getting heard outside of Loren Schoenberg’s big band and the New York City scene, is a craftsman of the first order. He has a solid, passionate personality on his horn and he charts courses, like a good storyteller, worth following.

Here, Lawrence gets down in an organ combo that features young go-getter Adam Scone on the Hammond B-3, everyone’s favorite guitarist, Peter Bernstein (perfect here in his familiar Grant Green-meets-Billy Butler style), John Webber or Dennis Irwin on bass, Willie Jones II on drums, conga legend Potato Valdes and congaman Eddie Bobe. For a studio group, the chemistry is noteworthy. These guys have a warm, smoky, broken-in sound, like they’ve been playing a cozy club for years together.

The group tackles a hefty helping of standards (notably "Get Out Of Town, "High Heel Sneakers," "The Way You Look Tonight" and "The Lamp Is Low") and a few excellent, greasy group originals ("Doug’s Dilemma," "Savoy Blues" and "El Shakey"). The sounds are familiar to anyone who’s ever heard a Blue Note organ record, the kind of thing you’d expect of Lou Donaldson or Ike Quebec with Grant Green and Freddie Roach or John Patton on board.

What’s most notable is the refreshing sincerity lacking in so many of today’s organ-combo reduxes. Lawrence means what he says – and what he says sounds real. He’s neither mining the past nor ironically cashing in on a fad. He’s aided significantly by Bernstein’s sprite guitar and Scone’s enticing organomics (watch out for this guy – he’s already recorded his debut for Fable Records and he’s likely to rival Joey DeFrancesco’s hold on the B-3 revival….wait and see).

High Heel Sneakers is great fun from start to finish and an ideal showcase to discover the finally emerging talents of Doug Lawrence.

Songs: The Lamp Is Low; Get Out Of Town; High Heel Sneakers; Crazy She Calls Me; The Masquerade Is Over; The Moon Was Yellow; Doug’s Dilemma; Savoy Blues; Detour Ahead; El Shakey; The Way You Look Tonight.

Players: Doug Lawrence: tenor saxophone; Peter Bernstein: guitar; Adam Scone: Hammond B-3; Dennis Irwin, John Webber: bass; Willie Jones III: drums; Carlos "Potato" Valdes, Eddie Bobe: conga.


Legends of Acid Jazz Vol. 2
Boogaloo Joe Jones
(Prestige)

In the few years he recorded and performed (roughly from 1966 to 1978), guitarist Ivan "Boogaloo Joe" Jones (b. 1940) never really got his due as an exciting, rapid-fire R & B plecterist. His sound and style clearly derived from blues. But it was a solid understanding of rock that Jones brought to his style of jazz. The result, outlined on a handful of Prestige albums, was a healthy mix of finger-licking funk, sweet-natured soul and infectious blues.

The second of Jones’s Legends of Acid Jazz collections features his prototypical and unappreciated groove from what are probably two of his best records, 1970’s No Way and 1971’s What It Is. His originals go between the boogaloo of "No Way" and the calling-card groove of "Inside Job" to the funky blues of "Holdin’ Back," "What It Is" and "Fadin." The guitarist runs one interesting, meaty line after another. He even covers then-popular hits "I’ll Be There," "Ain’t No Sunshine" and "I Feel the Earth Move" with more groove than you’d think possible, all the while grinding along a variety of smoking patterns. Other highlights include Jimmy Lewis’s "If You Were Mine" and Butch Cornell’s Sunshine Alley" (covered by Stanley Turrentine a few months later on his CTI record, Sugar).

Also prominently featured here is the funky tenor of Grover Washington, Jr., heard here only a few months before he made his own solo debut with Inner City Blues (where he again covers "Ain’t No Sunshine" and Georgia on My Mind"). Today’s Grover Washington fans would hardly recognize the sax man here, despite the fact that he’d already crafted his own distinctive sound at this point. He’s loose and funky, ripping through one thick fatback slab after another with energy and evident excitement.

Legends of Acid Jazz: Boogaloo Joe Jones Vol. Two is a great slice of solid forgotten guitar funk. One can only hope renewed interest in Joe Jones will bring him back onto the scene.

Songs: No Way; If You Were Mine; Georgia on my Mind; Sunshine Alley; I’ll Be There; Holdin’ Back; Ain’t No Sunshine; I Feel The Earth Move; Fadin’; What It Is; Let Them Talk; Inside Job.

Players: Boogaloo Joe Jones: guitar; Grover Washington Jr.: tenor sax; Sonny Phillips: organ, electric piano; Butch Cornell: organ; Jimmy Lewis: Fender Bass; Bernard Purdie: drums; Buddy Caldwell: conga, bongos.

www.dougpayne.com