Les McCann: Talkin' Verve
Les McCann

Perhaps as good as any compilation can get, Les McCann: Talkin’ Verve hardly lives up to its acid-jazz premise or its subject’s real talents. Still, it does rescue some of the lost music pianist/vocalist Les McCann made over six albums for the Limelight label between 1964 and 1967. Seems the folks at Verve were going for a goofy menu of gospel-jazz, pop crap and funky soul to round out an hour of not always choice McCann moments.

As can be expected, the jewels of the collection are the small-group jazz numbers with McCann’s groovin’ gospel piano out front ("Little Freak," "Colonel Rykken’s Southern Fried Chicken" and the first-rate classic "Beaux J. Poo Boo"). Things stay on track when funk gets stirred into the sauce. But here, McCann sits back and lets horns carry the tunes ("Watermelon Man," "Red Top," "La Brea" and "Boo-Go-Loo"). The duds, which unnecessarily weight this collection, are offered when McCann goes into lounge singer mode ("The Great City," "Green, Green Rocky Road," "Sad Little Girl" and an early version of "Compared to What?) and, most regrettably, when he offers up corny pop fare of the day ("Sunny," "Goin’ Out of My Head" and a leaden "Guantanamera").

Les McCann: Talkin’ Verve could have been better (where’s "A Little Three-Four" and "Jack V. Schwartz" from But Not Really or "Les McNasty" and "Bat Man" from Beaux J. Poo Boo?). But like the McCann compilation on Blue Note, it’s the best you can do until the originals come along on CD. But avoid Tom Terrell’s heavy-handed liner notes if you really want to enjoy the music.

Tracks: Watermelon Man; Beaux J. Poo Boo; The Great City; Guantanamera; Sunny Part I; Sunny Part II; Green, Green Rocky Road; Little Freak; Red Top; Compared To What?; My Friends; Sad Little Girl; La Brea; Goin’ Out of My Head; Boo-Go-Loo; Colonel Rykken’s Southern Fried Chicken.

Collective Personnel: Lee Katzman: trumpet; Seldon Powell or Jerome Richardson, Plas Johnson: tenor sax; Les McCann: piano, vocals; Vince Corrao, Jimmy Georgantones, Vinnie Bell or Carl Lynch: guitar; Leroy Vinnegar, Victor Gaskin: bass; Booker T. Robinson, Paul Humphrey, Frank Severino: drums; Lynn Blessing, Warren Chiasson: vibes; Aki Aleong, Joseph Torres, Ron Rich, Ric DeSilva: percussion.

Snake Eyes
The Greg Hatza ORGANization

Here’s a nice soul-jazz date from Baltimore-based organist Greg Hatza that will happily take many back to the smoke filled clubs when organ combos ruled the scene. Some may remember the two nifty trio dates Hatza recorded for Coral in 1967 with guitarist Eric Gale and Grady Tate. If DJs ever happen upon these, they’re sure to become acid-jazz classics. Hatza seems to have vanished from the scene as electronic keyboards and fusion took over jazz and resurfaced only recently, after hearing Joey Defrancesco and being encouraged to return to organ at Defrancesco’s urging.

Naturally, Hatza is well steeped in the blue bop of Jimmy Smith. But, like Defrancesco, he seems to gravitate more toward the rapid-fire soulfulness of Charles Earland and the modal funk of Lonnie Smith (though he avoids the otherworlds of Larry Young that Defrancesco sometimes explores). The result on this set, the third of his Palmetto releases, is a pleasing program of solid riffing on catchy jazz rooted in soul, gospel, funk and blues.

The Hatza Organization is a solid quartet, featuring returning guitarist Paul Bollenbeck (still poised to fulfill his promise, but good even in his Scofield bag), tenor man Ralph Lalama and drummer Dennis Chambers. The best moments are upbeat: the gospel funk of "Stand Up and Be Counted," the soul strut of "Change the World" and the mode supreme of "Trane Station." The remaining half dozen tunes have an attractive appeal that will sound familiar to those who enjoyed Hatza’s previous In The Pocket (thank God, no standards). Snake Eyes won’t change the world. But it’s good (if not essential) contemporary organ combo swing that isn’t as gimmicky or as stiff as most of the stuff coming out today.

Tracks: Stand Up and Be Counted; Snake Eyes; Change the World; One Track Mind; First Your Money Then Your Clothes; Spanish Rice; Every Step I Take; Trane Station; Change the World.

Players: Paul Bollenbeck: guitar; Ralph Lalama: tenor sax; Dennis Chambers: drums; Greg Hatza: Hammond B-3 organ.

Allen Toussaint

Connected offers a generous program (62 minutes) of some of the best, most soulful pop that’s been heard in the last twenty years. Such style must seem old-fashioned now. No samples, no contrived rhythms, no phony raps and hardly any concessions to contemporary popular music. Stuff this good hasn’t been heard since the late 70s when you were sure to hear great Toussaint tunes like Labelle’s "Lady Marmalade" (1975) or Glen Cambell’s "Southern Nights" (1977) on the radio. What you have here is melodic, soulful songs with catchy hooks and danceable grooves. Sometimes the lyrics are goofy ("Computer Lady," "Ahya"). But the tunes – one and all – grab attention and hold on. Among the favorites are the spunky, funky instrumentals: "Get Out of My Life, Woman," "Funky Bars," "All of It" and "Rolling With The Punches." They’re not really jazz. But they feature Toussaint strolling in his wondrously appealing way on piano. They got groove too. As for the tunes you can sing along to, go for the joy-to-the-world soul anthems of "We’re All Connected" and "Aign Nyee" or the joy-of-love celebrations of "Pure Uncut Love" (interesting title) and "Oh My" (featuring Dave Bartholomew on trumpet). Connected, recorded between 1994 and 1996, isn’t really jazz, but it offers joyful listening for those who appreciate the appeal of pop music and – at least for this listener – the happiness music sometimes offers.

Tracks: Pure Uncut Love; Do The Do; Computer Lady; Get Out Of My Life, Woman; We’re All Connected’ Sweet Dreams; Funky Bars; Ahya; If I Leave; Aign Nyee; In Your Love; Oh My; All Of It; Wrong Number; Rolling With The Punches.

Collective Personnel: Dave Bartholomew, Stacy Cole, Jamil Sharif: trumpet; Edward Reed, Brian Cayolle: baritone sax; Fred Kemp, Amadee Castenell: tenor sax; Gary Brown: alto sax and tenor sax; Allen Toussaint: piano, Fender Rhodes, synthesizer, vocals; Sammy Berfect: organ; J.R. Branch: synthesizer; Scott Goudea, Leo Nocentelli: guitar; Chris Severin, Roland Guerin: bass; Bernard "Bunchy" Johnson, Russell Batiste, Herman Lebeaux: drums; Bill Summers, Clarence "Reginald" Toussaint: percussion; Tricia Boutte, Suzanne Bonseigneur, Ed Roussell, Tomika Goffner, Tanya Elllsworth, Terri De Gruy: background vocals.

Steel City Soul
Jimmy Ponder
(32 Jazz)

Despite sterling work over the last three decades with such luminaries as Johnny Hodges, Lou Donaldson, Jimmy McGriff and Stanley Turrentine and a baker’s dozen albums on his own since 1973, talented Pittsburgh-based guitarist Jimmy Ponder has yet to receive his due. The guitarist clearly recalls Wes Montgomery because he too plays the guitar with his thumb, a difficult technique that yields a warm, pretty sound. But the problem is Ponder (or his producers) never seem to know which bag to stuff his style in: straight jazz (last year’s James Street on HighNote), funk (his ABC LPs from the late 70s) or soul-jazz. Even the six discs he recorded for Muse between 1987 and 1994 suffer from the same problem.

Steel City Soul is a worthwhile collection that gathers ten tracks Ponder recorded during the Muse years. It’s a reflection on the talents of a guitarist who deserves the recognition two of his contemporaries, Melvin Sparks and fellow Pittsburgher George Benson, already receive. But this collection seems weighted too heavily by tunes that vie for considering Ponder as Montgomery’s heir (from mid-tempo pieces like "Johnny’s Place," "My Romance" and "All Blues" to ballads "You Are Too Beautiful" and "This Bitter Earth"). Each tune sounds great, benefiting from Ponder’s terrific performances. But the focus on Wes detracts from the joy of Ponder’s own interesting, story-like constructions. And Ponder’s essential take on Montgomery’s "Bumpin’ on Sunset" (1988) is inexplicably missing here! A stronger Ponder collection would have featured more of his funk (only the excellent "Mean Streets—No Bridges" is represented here) and more originals, like the nice Kenny Burrell-like solo piece, "A Tribute To A Rose."

Even so, Steel City Soul is a good place to start becoming familiar with the interesting work of Jimmy Ponder.

Tracks: Johnny’s Place; All Blues; You Are Too Beautiful; Solitude; Mean Streets—No Bridges; A Tribute To A Rose; Uncle Steve; My Romance; This Bitter Earth; I Only Have Eyes For You; Softly As A Morning Sunrise.

Collective Personnel: Jimmy Ponder: guitar; Geary Moore: rhythm guitar; Houston Person, James Anderson; tenor sax; Bill Saxton: flute, tenor sax; Mark Soskin, Benny Green: piano; Big John Patton, Lonnie Smith: organ; Peter Washington: bass; Roger Humphrey, Victor Jones, Greg Bandy, Winard Harper, Eddie Gladden: drums; Sammy Figueroa, Lawrence Killian: percussion.

Greater Than The Sum Of His Parts
Eddie Harris
(32 Jazz)

Chicago tenor man Eddie Harris (1934-1996) already had nearly a dozen albums and one huge hit single ("Exodus") to his credit when he signed to Atlantic Records in 1965. Over the following 12 years, Atlantic released more than 20 Eddie Harris records. Some of these were innovative (1967’s The Electrifying Eddie Harris and 1974’s Is It In), some were sublime (1970’s Come On Down, 1973’s Excursions and 1976’s How Can You Live Like That?), some were hits (1969’s Swiss Movement, with Les McCann) and some were just plain strange (1972’s Eddie Harris Sings The Blues and the stand-up comedy of 1975’s The Reason I’m Talking S—t). The rest always had moments of great interest. But, sadly, Eddie Harris never got the attention, recognition or musical respect during his lifetime he sincerely deserved. Critics thought Harris, his playing and his musical pursuits were too eclectic or erratic to merit attention. Then he’d try something unique like attaching a reed piece to a trumpet. And critics cried foul. That’s yet more ammunition in the distrust of critics.

But collections like this excellent 32 Jazz compilation beg to reverse bad thinking like that. Eddie Harris had one of the most distinctive tones on tenor – a pinched cry of joy – and was, undoubtedly, the most characteristic of practitioners on the electrified Varitone sax (which is heard to ample effect on two full LPs included here). His compositions, while usually exploring innovative rhythmic structures, still had catchy hooks. His playing always carried a linear, story-like logic whether he explored the prettier sides of romanticism or the freer sides of the spectrum. And Harris’s bands all contained many talented members, often leaders in their own right, that made the reed man sound even better.

This oddly-titled collection contains four full LPs of Harris’s worthwhile music: his 1965 Atlantic debut, The In Sound; the 1966 follow-ups, Mean Greens and The Tender Storm and his sixth Atlantic effort from 1968, Silver Cycles. Rhino has already released the first two LPs in this collection on one CD – as well as a CD of Harris’s excellent fourth and fifth Atlantic LPs (The Electrifying Eddie Harris/Plug Me In). So, while I’m not sure why we needed a second version of the first two LPs, it’s nice to have all four of these Harris gems in one place – at a great price.

Suffice it to say that The In Sound is a solid program of six straight-ahead jazz tracks featuring pianist Cedar Walton, bassist Ron Carter and Billy Higgins. There’s the hit-potential movie-theme cover in "Love Theme From ‘The Sandpiper’," the wickedly sinewy cover of "Love for Sale" and Harris’s standard, "Freedom Jazz Dance" (which bassist Ron Carter brought to boss Miles Davis, who immortalized it in 1966 on his influential Miles Smiles). Mean Greens adds more soul to the stew, Sonny Phillips on organ, a bevy of percussionists and its leader playing electric piano on some tracks. It also provides the template for Harris’s next big hit, the funk classic, "Listen Here" (the one that became famous is from Electrifying). The Tender Storm returns the group to a standard quartet performing a rather subdued program of soulful pop favorites ("When A Man Loves A Woman") and standards ("My Funny Valentine"). But here, Harris introduces the Varitone sax into his sound, which, surprisingly, does not differ that much from his own personal sound on tenor. Things get much headier on the interesting Silver Cycles. Fellow Chicago native Jodie Christian is now on piano and woodwind and string sections are added. Here, Harris charters new territory. And that famed Harris persona shines through – a funky blend of solid jazz, clever improvisation, soulful, electric grooves and abstract musical notation. Another Harris classic, "1974 Blues" is here as well as the eclectic electric homage, "Coltrane’s View." Throughout, Harris gives his Varitone sound a warm personality that does not make it sound as odd or out of place as its electric weirdness might suggest.

Hopefully, Greater Than The Sum Of His Parts will cause greater interest in the late, great Eddie Harris. Perhaps companies like 32 Jazz will release even more of Harris’s notable recordings. Excursions, Is It In and How Can You Live Like That? should be required listening for all jazz fans. But the music, sound, production and packaging of this tremendous musical collection is superb and recommended to all.

Tracks: Love Theme From "The Sandpiper" (The Shadow Of Your Smile); Born To Be Blue; Love For Sale; Cryin’ Blues’ ‘S Wonderful; Freedom Jazz Dance; Mean Greens; It Was A Very Good Year; Without You; Yeah Yeah Yeah; Listen Here; Blues In The Basement; Goin’ Home; When A Man Loves A Woman; My Funny Valentine; The Tender Storm; On A Clear Day (You Can See Forever); A Nightingale Sang In Berkley Square; If Ever I Would Leave You; Free At Last; 1974 Blues; Smoke Signals; Coltrane’s View; I’m Gonna Leave You By Yourself Silver Cycles; Little Bit; Electric Ballad; Infrapolations.

Collective Personnel: Eddie Harris: tenor sax, Varitone sax, electric piano; Seldon Powell: woodwinds, baritone sax; Haywood Henry: baritone sax; Philip Bodner: woodwinds; Bennie Powell: trombone, bass trombone; Bernie Glow, Mel Lastie, Joe Newman, Ernie Royal, Snooky Young: trumpet; Cedar Walton, Jodie Christian, Joe Zawinul: piano; Sonny Phillips: organ; Ron Carter, Melvin Jackson, Richard Davis: bass; Monk Montgomery: electric bass; Billy Higgins, Bobby Thomas, Billy Hart, Richard Smith: drums; Bruno Carr, Marcelino Valdez: drums, Latin percussion; Ray Codrington: trumpet, tambourine, percussion; Ray Barretto, Billy Higgins, Bucky Taylor: percussion; Valerie Simpson, Eileen Gilbert, Melba Moore, Martha Stewart: background vocals; Gene Orloff: strings.

Young Gunn Plus
Russell Gunn
(32 Jazz)

This solid and engaging mainstream debut was first issued on Muse Records in 1995 when trumpeter Russell Gunn was 24 years old. That disc didn’t attract much attention and Gunn went on to work with Wynton (Blood on the Fields) and Brandford Marsalis (Buckshot LeFonque) then followed up his debut with last year’s Gunn Fu (HighNote). But the wise folks at 32 Jazz thought Young Gunn deserved another chance.

Much will probably be made of the fact that Gunn attended the same St. Louis high school as Miles Davis and has the late trumpeter’s sixties quintet sound down cold. But as much as such comparisons reigned and dogged Wynton Marsalis early in his career, Gunn deserves more. He’s a clean, clear-toned player with a greater facility than Davis possessed. He also swings outside the box more easily than Wynton. But he shares Miles and Wynton’s fondness and abilities for the romantic (his tone on trumpet suggests the warmer flugelhorn sound). Best of all, unlike so many players of his generation, Gunn does not dazzle with boring technique or wasted notes. His restraint is more suggestive and appealing.

Gunn is heard in two strong quintets, one featuring John Hicks’s piano and Sam Newsome’s Shorter-like tenor and the other featuring Branford Marsalis. The 72-minute program, enhanced by three first-rate, formerly unreleased songs, is mostly modal -- alternating ballads with mid-tempo workouts. Gunn’s six originals all have something good to say ("The Beeach," "Bronwyn" and "East St. Louis" especially). But it’s the better known pieces ("Wade in the Water" and "You Don’t Know What Love Is") where the trumpeter’s skills really shine. A curious modal rap tune is a throwaway -- but still manages to fit the bill.

It’s too early to tell if Russell Gunn will set the world on fire. But Young Gunn Plus indicates this is the start of something interesting.

Tracks: East St. Louis; Fly Me To The Moon Wade In The Water; D.J.; You Don’t Know What Love Is; The Concept; The Message; There Is No Greater Love; Blue Gene; Pannonica; The Beeach; Bronwyn; Ginger Bread Boy.

Collective Personnel: Russell Gunn: trumpet; Sam Newsome, Branford Marsalis: tenor sax; John Hicks, James Hurt: piano; Peter Washington, Eric Revis: bass; Cecil Brooks III, Ali Jackson: drums; Chef Word (Derek Washington): rap on "The Concept."

The Chuck Rainey Coalition
Chuck Rainey
(DCC Jazz)

Here’s a tight set of funky soul-jazz grooves served up hot by electric bassist and studio kingpin Chuck Rainey (b. 1940). First released on the Skye label in 1968, it’s the first of only three discs (I think) the bassist released under his own name during a long career that’s included playing with Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Quincy Jones, Steely Dan and many, many others. The overall sound will be familiar to anyone who enjoys Atlantic jazz records from this period. That’s mostly because this set features all of Atlantic’s house musicians (Richard Tee, Cornell Dupree, Eric Gale, Bernard Purdie, etc). But the groove also suggests a blueprint for the Blaxploitation sound that would become familiar just a few years later and, more significantly, lays the foundation for the Saturday Night Live spin-off band, Stuff (three Stuff members are heard here). The guitarists (Dupree, Gale or Billy Butler) usually carry the melody. But Rainey’s distinctive and familiar string slurs are prominent throughout and he sounds appealing the few times he takes the lead ("Harlem Nocturne"). Highlights include Rainey’s "First Love" (later covered by Richard Tee on his excellent 1979 Tappan Zee debut, Strokin’), "How Long Will It Last" (covered by Cornell Dupree on his 1973 Altantic debut, Teasin’), "Genuine John" (with Selwart Clarke’s great string arrangement) and "The Lone Stranger." Good stuff, if you’ll pardon the pun. And -- despite its short 33-minute playing time -- it’s inexpensive and worth hearing.

Tracks: Eloise (First Love); How Long Will It Last; Genuine John (Colors); The Rain Song; Got It Together; The Lone Stranger; Harlem Nocturne/Zenzile; It’s Gonna Rain; Theme From Peter Gunn.

Players: Melvin Lastie: trumpet; Trevor Lawrence: tenor sax; George Stubbs: piano; Richard Tee: organ, piano; Cornell Dupree, Eric Gale, Billy Butler: guitar; Chuck Rainey: electric bass; Bernard Purdie, Jen Rice; Herb Lovelle, Jim Johnson: drums; Warrren Smith, Specs Powell: percussion; Montego Joe: congas; Selwart Clarke: strings conductor; strings.

Talkin' About You
Nat Adderley
(32 Jazz)

Seems like coronetist Nat Adderley (b. 1931) has been around forever. But no one really started listening to him in his own right him until the unfortunate early death of his older brother in 1975. It’s a true shame. Because there is ample evidence of this guy’s gifts on many Cannonball records (1959-1975) and, surprisingly, nearly three dozen recordings of his own. Talkin’ About You, its title a dedication to Cannonball, is a typically strong set recorded in 1990 and first released on Orrin Keepnews’s Landmark label. No surprises occur, but it’s one solid set that benefits from Nat’s sterling work on coronet and highlights alto player Vincent Herring’s frighteningly cloned Cannonball sound. Herring is a great player in his own right. But it’s scary to hear how well he has mastered his idol’s sound; right down to intonation, punctuation, ideas and execution. Former Cannonball associates and hard-bop veterans – bassist Walter Booker and drummer Jimmy Cobb – are another benefit to this set’s success. Highlights include the soul-jazz of Nat’s "Talkin’ About You, Cannon," the swinging bop of his "Plum Street," the Cannonball soul of pianist Rob Bargad’s "Mo’s Theme," the blues of Victor Feldman’s "Azule Serape" and Jimmy Heath’s "Big ‘P’" (the last two are notably resurrected from the Adderley’s 1960 Riverside LP, Live At The Lighthouse). The standards, while professional and well-intended, don’t add much, but are few in number. One can only hope the availability of Talkin’ About Youwill encourage listeners to think twice about Nat Adderley’s talents. He’s left his own legacy and this set sums it up rather nicely.

Tracks: Talkin’ About You, Cannon; I Can’t Give You Anything But Love; Arriving Soon; Plum Street; Azule Serape; Ill Wind; Mo’ Theme; Big "P."

Players: Nat Adderley: coronet; Vincent Herring: alto sax; Rob Bargard: piano; Walter Booker: bass; Jimmy Cobb: drums.

Nature: The Essence Part III
Ahmad Jamal

As pianist Ahmad Jamal points out in his notes to Nature, he’s recorded prolifically outside the trios for which he has become known (check out his new one on Roesch with the Assai Quartet). But what makes Nature even more unusual is Jamal’s addition of steel drums. Don’t look for a set of kitschy Caribbean tunes though. Othello Molineaux plays his steel drums more like a vibraphonist; as if he understands bop much more than island music. And the familiar, spare sound Jamal attracted Mile Davis’s attention with is still in ample evidence. Jamal’s compositions featuring Moplineaux tend to have rather uncomplicated melody lines – as if to limit the potential flourish of the percussion. What’s most interesting, though, is that Jamal seems content to let steel drums carry the melody, as he does on one of the album’s best tracks, "If I Find You Again (quartet)".

Nature’s best track, the exciting bop of "Devil in My Den," forgoes steel drums altogether and adds fellow Pittsburgher Stanley Turrentine to the basic trio. Again, the horn states the theme. But while soloing, Turrentine’s muscular prowess is almost overthrown by Jamal’s aggressive support. The two soloing together actually sounds less like a sparring match and more like two creative minds considering one another’s space. Unfortunately, this is Turrentine’s only appearance and like trumpeter Donald Byrd’s (or even violinist Joe Kennedy’s) appearance on last year’s Big Byrd, it cries out for a whole set of explorations, not just one. The solo turns, on the other hand, are everything the rest of the disc is not: overstated, filled with too many notes, phony flourishes and quasi-classical cliches. It’s as if Jamal, a beautiful, sensitive and gifted ensemble player, is trying to orchestrate these pieces with two hands rather than letting the spaces or the quietness get his message across.

Like the two previous recordings in Jamal’s "The Essence" series, Nature is frustratingly inconsistent. But when he shines – as he does throughout most of this disc – it’s hard to deny that Jamal, now in his fourth decade of music making, has potent, relevant ideas and a strength in playing that is well worth hearing.

Tracks: If I Find You Again (quartet); Like Someone In Love; Chaperone (solo); Devil’s In My Den; And We Were Lovers (solo); Fantastic Vehicle (abridged version); The End Of A Love Affair (abridged version); Cabin In The Sky (medley); If I Find You Again (duet).

Players: Stanley Turrentine: tenor sax (on "Devil’s In My Den" only); Ahmad Jamal: piano; James Cammack: bass; Idris Muhammad: drums; Othello Molineaux: steel drums (except on "Chaperone," "Devil’s In My Den," "And We Were Lovers" and "Cabin in the Sky").

Groove Brothers
Wes Montgomery

Groove Brothers presents two of the few occasions guitarist Wes Montgomery (1925-68) was recorded with his brothers, pianist/vibist Buddy (b. 1930) and bassist Monk (1921-82). And it’s a gem. This 78-minute disc contains perhaps the least known of the brothers’ work together: The Montgomery Brothers (Fanatsy--1960) and The Montgomery Brothers In Canada (Fantasy--1961). Both were made after Wes shook the world with his guitar sound on his 1959 Riverside debut. And although the brothers continued to work together in performance right up until Wes’s death in 1968, they were only recorded on a few other occasions: Groove Yard (OJC), George Shearing and the Montgomery Brothers (OJC) and on Wes’s Fingerpickin’ (Blue Note).

All 13 tracks on Groove Brothers brim with inventiveness – although Wes, who is predictably notable throughout, carries most melodies on the first session (Buddy takes the honors on much of the second set). What really stands out, though, is the musical chemistry these three have together. As the notes indicate, the brothers perform original blues and emerging jazz standards with "clearly-articulated unisons" and "contrapuntal voicings." That’s a fancy way of saying these guys sound terrific together. Buddy is on piano for the first five tracks and vibes on the last eight, and Monk, the innovative electric bassist, sticks to acoustic bass throughout here.

And the highlights are plentiful. From the first session, there’s the Wes originals, "D Natural Blues" and an appealing, early version of "Jingles." From the second set, there’s Duke Person’s superb "Jeannine," Claude Thornhill’s interesting "Snowfall" (offering Buddy’s notable solo), Charlie Parker’s lively "Barbados" and the touching "You Don’t Know What Love Is." Wes and Monk also duet most appealingly on "Angel Eyes" and Buddy’s Wes-like "Beaux Arts."

Groove Brothers is easily recommended and an outstanding addition to Wes Montgomery’s recorded legacy.

Tracks: D-Natural Blues; June in January; Buddy’s Tune; Lover Man (Oh Where Can You Be?); Jingles; Jeannine; Snowfall; Angel Eyes; Barbados; This Love Of Mine; On Green Dolphin Street; You Don’t Know What Love Is; Beaux Arts.

Players: Wes Montgomery: guitar; Buddy Montgomery: piano (1-5), vibes (6-13); Monk Montgomery: bass; Lawrence Marable (1-5), Paul Humphrey: drums.

After Dark
Hank Crawford

Hank Crawford's 14th Milestone release since 1983 purports to be his "blusiest" yet. But the results aren't much different than most of his previous Milestones. After Dark offers solid, soulful jazz that touches on the blues (Crawford's originals, and the disc's best tunes, "Mother Nature" and "Beale Street After Dark"), blues-lite ("My Babe," "St. Louis Blues"), funk-lite ("Git Go"), sticky-sweet ballads ("Share Your Love With Me," "Our Day Will Come") and stock standards ("T'Ain't Nobody's Bizness If I Do," "Amazing Grace").

Crawford's distinctive alto is heard in a compatible quintet featuring long-time partners guitarist Melvin Sparks and drummer Bernard Purdie. Talented pianist Danny Mixon returns from Crawford's previous disc, last year's Tight (with his annoying nursery-rhyme quotes in tow). Stanley Banks and Wilbur Bascomb trade places on bass. As expected, no one other than Crawford really stands out and even Crawford stays in the comfort zone of his patented sound and swing.

It's all slick and soulful but says nothing Hank Crawford hasn't been preaching for years.

Tracks: My Babe; Share Your Love With Me; Git It!; T'Ain't Nobody's Bizness If I Do; Our Day Will Come; Mother Nature; That's All; St. Louis Blues; Beale Street After Dark; Amazing Grace.

Players: Hank Crawford: alto saxophone; Melvin Sparks: guitar; Danny Mixon: piano or organ; Stanley Banks, Wilbur Bascomb: bass; Bernard Purdie: drums.