Once more with the Mod Jazz already. We may be stretching the title concepts a bit, but this is the genre that won’t lie down. We have lashings of Hammond, smoky sax and solid beats for the feet, the very essence of this series. This latest issue is right up there with the best.
The unlikely form of Mr Mac Rebennack, aka hippy, blues brother Dr John, starts us on these adventures with an organ-based mover called ‘The Point’. Similar instrumentation can be found on the next tracks by Leo’s Five and Bro Jack McDuff, before we switch to cool blues from the great Albert King who swings like a pollster at election time on ‘C. O. D.’. LA keyboardist Hank Jacobs takes us on a soul instrumental diversion, aided and abetted by the brilliant arranger Arthur Wright.
West Coast producer Kent Harris unearthed a superlative version of the jazz classic ‘Walk Tall’, thought to be by Michelle Harris-Spivey, but sounding so fantastic that I can’t believe this does not conceal a more established artist. Another jazzy vocal and arrangement comes from 1950s LA, R&B bandleader Chuck Higgins on a big brassy version of ‘All Around The World’ aka ‘Grits Ain’t Groceries’.
Fortuitously the Ike Turner and the Ikettes Modern tapes turned up a couple of gems: a fabulous jazz/blues work out that we named ‘Daddy’s Blues’ and a studio jam for ‘Camel Walk’ not used on the Ikettes 45. We’re happy to liberate them both here for your delectation.
Bobby Donaldson’s ‘Bash Dance’ is probably as mainstream as we ever get. That’s not at all surprising, as label owner Al Sears came from that jazz world. We have added the introductory title announcement that fell off the issued 45 mix; it will undoubtedly enrich your life.
Brother Miles Grayson leads us onto a Latin curve with his ‘Sweet Bread’, LA’s attempt at out-selling those NYC watermelons. More sensual Latin vibes (literally) come from the groovily named Richie & The PS 54 School Yard and then the Afro Blues Quintet do what it says on the can to Clarence Paul’s ‘La, La, La, La, La’.
A sideways shuffle brings in soul singers Dee Clark and Jerry Butler with album tracks that show us they were indeed multi-talented vocalists and also serve to remind us that Vee-Jay had a big jazz catalogue too.
We have been lucky enough to get in touch with the Flodavieur Polk that Daddy Dave Polk named his label after. Though we were chasing some Northern gold from her very obscure indie label, we found this short but sassy side, ‘Play It Cool’, from the undeniably hip Billy Larkin.
Memphis combo the Merits cut the atmospheric and exotic ‘Arabian Jerk’ for Goldwax’s subsidiary Bandstand; more of a cool groove than a jazz jam. The same is true of old Kent LP favourite Booker T Averhart, a Texan instrumentalist whose career spanned many years, whereas George Braith’s preference for cantaloupes to the aforementioned watermelons is strictly a jazz thang. There are several more pounds of atmosphere from the much-loved jazzster Googie Rene and his combo on a laid-back, but very worthy ‘Soul Zone 65’. Richard Berry is so far on the R&B side of things that some may even question his jazz credentials; our only possible response to that is; never mind the genre, feel that dancebeat. This is Kent country after all.
And finally: what a way to see out a jazz party with a moody Memphis soul instrumental groove, punctuated by the sound of retching. Let those among us without sin cast the first stone. Quite frankly, I’m feeling safe and sound.
By Ady Croasdell