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Ain't It Funky Now!, LP (£15.60)
In the late 60s there was a panic going on at jazz record companies. Records just weren't selling - sure Ella or Miles were shifting units, the big international stars, but new acoustic talent was having a hard time. Soul and funk was what was being danced to in the clubs. There was one ray of hope shining through. Since 1967, when Lou Donaldson had scored a Top 10 R&B album with Alligator Bogaloo his band had developed a hybrid of funky jazz that was selling units and filling the clubs. Donaldson's band, built upon Idris Muhammad's drumming base, played a mixture of originals and covers of hits by artists such as James Brown and Lee Dorsey.
Donaldson's label Blue Note might have been expected to work this trend and to a certain extent they did with Grant Green, but it was across the river in New Jersey that Prestige's new staff producer Bob Porter really took advantage. Using Lou's band as both a talent pool and a rhythm section he signed Muhammad, Charles Earland and Melvin Sparks. And once he'd done that he rounded up some more - Sparks' friend Leon Spencer, Grant Green with Jack McDuff's recommendation Funk Inc. He then got funky with a whole host of acts that included Rusty Bryant, Gene Ammons and Charles Kynard, who were already signed to Prestige.
This merry band then started creating records that made jazz fun and made you want to dance. The albums charted and the funkiest tracks were edited down on to 45 so that you could have some fine three minute slices of groove on the neighbourhood juke box without your beer drinking being confused by intricate solos. These singles weren't especially aimed at selling through shops and are now quite hard to find. With this in mind BGP has decided to round the best of them up, put them alongside some of the funkiest Prestige album tracks and create one of the funkiest albums you are EVER likely to get your hands on.
Classic cuts such as Gene Ammons' Jungle Strut, and Rusty Bryant's Fire-Eater take on a whole new meaning as they are edited down to 7 inch size. Idris Muhammad's covers of James Brown and Charles Wright are incendiary pieces of funk and it sounds as if Funk Inc's Sister Sadie was recorded about two minutes after hearing Sex Machine on the local radio .....
AIN'T IT FUNKY NOW! is an entry into a parallel jazz universe where Donaldson is more important than Coltrane and getting a groove counts for more than your solo. It's not that you necessarily want to live there, but it's certainly where you would want your night outs!
By Dean Rudland