Lonnie Smith's a long way from his Blue Note years here – but the sound is still plenty darn great, thanks to some fuller arrangements from the great Brad Baker – of B Baker Chocolate Company fame! The whole thing's quite electric – with Lonnie on Fender Rhodes and other keyboards on most tracks, and rhythms that bring in bits of strings amidst the smaller jazz combo vamping – a blend that's smoothly soulful, but still more than funky enough to please our ears. Lonnie even sings a bit on the record, too – in this slightly-spacey quality that has echoes of Stevie Wonder – but the main focus overall is on his keyboards, which step out nicely over the backings.
A sweet 70s groover from the great Lonnie Smith – a soulful little session that has the keyboardist really stretching out in some great ways! At the time, Smith fares a lot better than some of his late 60s jazz organ contemporaries – as he's got a great lean style, perfect for the decade's increasing use of electric keyboards and larger backings! This set's a great example of that style – as Smith moves way from his 60s soul jazz roots, into the soaring blend of jazz, funk, and soul that you'd also hear on Johnny Hammond albums of the time – almost more soul than jazz, given the presence of vocals on some cuts – but still always with more than enough room for the leader to stretch out and solo. Backings are nice and tight – and handled by Brad Baker (of B Baker Chocolate Company fame).
Masaru Imada is a Japanese jazz pianist and composer. He had classical piano lessons. He played jazz in student bands while a student at Meiji University, after which he worked in business for a year. He then decided to pursue music professionally. From 1953 he was part of clarinetist Eiji Kitamura's band.
Reissue with the latest remastering and the original cover artwork. Comes with a description written in Japanese. We'd hate to get caught in the force of a baritone explosion – as the horns are so big, that's a lot of metal to have to deal with! Fortunately, pianist Rein De Graaf's got the proceedings here on rock-solid territory – providing just the right sort of swing to keep things moving, yet also keep things in control – while both Ronnie Cuber and Nick Brigola open up on the bigger horns – reminding us why they're some of the few players able to carry forward the deftly soulful legacies of earlier baritone greats like Pepper Adams or Serge Chaloff! The album's a live one, and tracks are nice and long – plenty of room for solos on titles that include "Caravan", "Softly As In A Morning Sunrise", "Crack Down", "Night In Tunisia", and "Blue Train" – plus two short beautiful ballads, "What's New" and "In A Sentimental Mood".
Recorded in the U.S. with arranger Teddy Adams, What's Going On embraces in full the American influences that shape it – the polemical R&B of James Brown and Marvin Gaye looms heavy via covers of "Ain't It Funky Now" and the title cut, while the sound and sensibility clearly draw from West coast soul-jazz innovators like Les McCann and Gerald Wilson. But the curiosity and estrangement inherent in the album's stranger-in-a-strange-land origins are in fact its dominant element: Takehiro Honda doesn't simply channel his myriad influences, he also dissects them, taking them apart and putting them back together to understand how they work. The result is a wonderfully eccentric and heartfelt interpretation of American funk rendered in distinctly Japanese terms – studious but a bit goofy, formal yet passionately groovy.
Great work from Gloria Coleman – an overlooked genius on the organ, and part of an elite group of female keyboardists that includes Shirley Scott, Rhoda Scott, and Trudy Pitts! Coleman almost never got the chance to record, but clearly had a sharpness that was honed from years in the clubs – a tight, soulful approach to the instrument that also has her working the bass pedals as strongly as the keys – and an ability to sing at all the right times, in a soul-drenched mode that's even deeper than the vocalizations of Trudy Pitts on her late 60s albums for Prestige. The group's got James Anderson on tenor, Dick Griffin on trombone, Ray Copeland on flugelhorn, and Earl Dunbar on guitar – and titles include the funky "Bugaloo for Ernie", a great version of Kenny Dorham's "Blue Bossa", Blue Mitchell's "Fungi Mama".
An unusual sort of setting for tenor saxophonist Paul Jeffrey – an overlooked player from the east coast scene of the early 70s, and one who only cut a handful of records at the time! The date features Jack Wilkins on guitar, playing with these bright chromatic hues next to Jeffrey's sharper horn – a pairing that makes for an unusual sound, despite a familiar quartet setting – one that's even different from other matches of this nature, such as the work between Sonny Rollins and Jim Hall! Jeffrey's clearly got some bop roots here, but also opens up in other directions too – and the group features Thelonious Monk Jr on drums and Richard Davis on bass.
For the second of his three Mainstream sessions (one that has been reissued on CD), the bebop altoist Charles McPherson pays tribute to Billie Holiday; in fact, "Siku Ya Bibi" means "Day of the Lady" in Swahili. The emphasis is mostly on ballads, with "Miss Brown to You" and "Lover Come Back to Me" being exceptions. Four of the eight selections find McPherson backed by ten strings arranged by Ernie Wilkins, while the remainder of the date has the altoist joined by a rhythm section that includes pianist Barry Harris. Although not quite up to the level of his upcoming, more freewheeling Xanadu sessions, this is a fine outing. Highlights include the two aforementioned cooking pieces, "Lover Man," "Good Morning Heartache," and "I'm a Fool to Want You."