Friday, October 7, 2016

Howard Roberts - 1977 - The Real Howard Roberts

Howard Roberts 
The Real Howard Roberts

01. Dolphin Dance 5:25
02. Darn That Dream 4:51
03. Lady Wants To Know 3:56
04. Parking Lot Blues 5:44
05. Gone With The Wind 5:27
06. Serenata 5:55
07. Angel Eyes 8:16

Bass – Ray Brown
Drums – Jimmie Smith
Guitar – Howard Roberts
Piano – Ross Tompkins

Most of guitarist Howard Roberts' recordings through the years (particularly a long string for Capitol in the 1960s) were quite commercial, featuring brief versions of current pop tunes. A versatile studio player, Roberts finally had an opportunity in 1977 to record some no-nonsense, straight-ahead jazz. This set (reissued on CD) matches Roberts in a quartet with pianist Ross Tompkins, bassist Ray Brown, and drummer Jimmie Smith playing some standards (including Herbie Hancock's "Dolphin Dance," "Gone With the Wind," and "Angel Eyes"), Michael Franks' "Lady Wants to Know," and Brown's "Parking Lot Blues." This is one of the few examples of Howard Roberts showing what a strong jazz player he could be.

Howard Roberts - 1975 - Lord Shango

Howard Roberts
Lord Shango

01. Jenny's Theme 2:41
02. Funky, But?? 2:24
03. Some PeopleA4 Walk Softly 3:07
05. Sailin' 2:59
06. It Was You 3:25
07. Streak O'Lean 2:30
08. Jesus, Sweet Jesus 2:50
09. Glory, Glory 2:58
10. Be Ready For The Judgement Day 1:57
11. Banjoko
12. Come To The Water 2:40
13. My Lord, He Calls Me 1:42

Soundtrack of the movie...I have no info on musicians involved... So all help is welcome.

Howard Roberts - 1975 - Equinox Express Elevator

Howard Roberts 
Equinox Express Elevator

01. Unfolding In 5:13
02. Timelaps 1:51
03. T T T T 4:43
04. Growing Natural Concern 3:53
05. 2dB, Eyes Of Blue 2:03
06. (The Single) (On This Side) 3:03
07. Real Freak Of Nature Historical Monument 3:21
08. Slam 5:34
09. Harold J. Ostly, The Country Tax Assessor 3:53
10. Unfolding In (On Itself) 1:39

Bass – Jerry Scheff
Drums – John Guerin
Electric Guitar, Classical Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Guitar [Moog Synthesized], Vocals, Vocals [Aged], Vocals [Twelve String] – Howard Roberts
Electric Piano – Mike Wofford
Organ – Dave Grusin
Percussion – Mayuto Correa
Synthesizer [Moog] – Ed Michel
Vocals – Diana Lee

From 1972 (not released until 1975), the follow-up to ANTELOPE FREEWAY, EQUINOX EXPRESS ELEVATOR, doesn't aspire to be nearly as experimental, but if anything it is a more accomplished, forward thinking set of collective improvisations and sophisticated ensemble arrngements, functioning not so much as solo features, but as an ever-evolving series of interconnected motifs, whose use of a dual-electric keyboards/dual-drum set-and-percussionist format certainly references the collective ensemble concept of Miles Davis' BITCHES BREW, even if it does not outright emulate the trumpeter' stylistic devices.

EQUINOX is a bold, original attempt to liberate jazz musicians from the narrow confines of standard song form structures (not that there is a damn thing wrong with those structures), and while ANTELOPE was more consciously a fusion recording, EQUINOX is Roberts' very personal attempt to define a fresh ensemble approach for himself and those progressive musicians like himself who often found themselves hemmed in by the commercial expectations of being successful Hollywood Studio musicians. In particular, the great drummer John Guerin distinguishes himself as both an improviser and composer, as does keyboardist-producer Dave Grusin, who never sounded so edgy.

(Note: In 1974, collaborators John Guerin (drums), Max Bennett (bass) and Tom Scott (saxophones) were to collaborate with Joni Mitchell on the new directions of her breakthrough hit, COURT AND SPARK.)

Please ignore the superficial. dismissive pronouncements of the initial Amazon commentator, who like those cocksure critics back in 1971, having no categories with which to put this music in an easily identifiable bag, simply pounced on the two most unabashedly progressive recordings Howard Roberts ever made and summarily put them to the sword, justifying their contempt by characterizing ANTELOPE FREEWAY in particular as a shameless commercial descent...wrong...Wrong...WRONG!

As a guitarist and scribe, I have been enjoying these two recordings for more than 40 years, and have long sought to drum up interest in digitizing them, the better to max out their stunning aural qualities and wide dynamic range and give them a good modern spit shine.

I am positively pumped that they are finally being given a proper CD release, 20-some years after Roberts passed away, as they represent a vital overlooked aspect of Howard Roberts' wit and adventurous musical outreach.

Howard Roberts - 1974 - Sounds

Howard Roberts

01. You Are The Sunshine Of My Life 2:02
02. Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree 2:27
03. If 2:19
04. When Sunny Gets Blue 2:56
05. This Masquerade 2:36
06. Moondance 2:02
07. We've Only Just Begun 2:25
08. Last Tango In Paris 2:22
09. Where Is This Love 2:18
10. Indulge Me 2:33

Apparently trying to take advantage of the easy listening guitar albums Tony Mottola was doing for the Command label and that Al Caiola was doing for a couple of companies, Capitol brought Howard Roberts into the studio to record a melange of contemporary pop and standards. While Roberts spent a significant portion of his career in the studios, often recording pop songs, he nonetheless escaped the maudlin to become a jazz guitarist of the first rank. In addition to several albums as a leader, Roberts recorded with such jazz luminaries as Art Pepper, Bud Shank, and the Candoli Brothers. While there are some excellent standards on this disk, it is cluttered with such fluff as "If," "Where Is the Love," and "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Around the Ole Oak Tree" which even a talent like Roberts can't resuscitate. Even on the good tunes Roberts has to plough through electronically created accompaniments as on "When Sunny Gets Blue," or a overcome a monotonous, monotone back beat. Appropriately (or ironically), the last track on this CD is Roberts own "Indulge Me." And that's just what the listener has done for nine tracks out of respect for the man's artistry. Hopefully for Robert's reputation, this LP will never see the light of day as a CD.