Sunday, March 10, 2019

Melvin Sparks - 1975 - '75

Melvin Sparks

01. I’ve Got to Have You [feat. Jimmy Scott]
02. Mockingbird
03. Looking for a Love
04. Get Ya Some
05. Get Down with the Get Down
06. Bump & Stomp
07. In the Morning
08. If You Want My Love [feat. Jimmy Scott]

Melvin Sparks (guitar)
Ron Bridgewater (tenor saxophone)
Caeser Frazier (organ)
Idris Muhammad (drums)
Jimmy Scott - Vocal [tracks #1,8]

After the release of Texas Twister, Melvin Sparks’ friend and ally Bob Porter left Eastbound Records, and just when it looked as if things couldn’t get any worse, they did. Armen Boladian decided to close Eastbound Records, and Melvin Sparks became part of Westbound Records’ roster, which included Funkadelic and Parliament. Both were enjoying the most successful periods of their career, while jazz was in the doldrums.

By 1975, jazz albums were becoming a hard sell, but Melvin Sparks entered the studio with his band and vocalist Jimmy Scott who featured on two tracks on Melvin Sparks ’75. It was co-produced by Melvin Sparks and Bernie Mendelson and when it was completed, scheduled for release in later in 1975.

When Melvin Sparks ’75 was released by Westbound Records in 1975, interest in jazz was at an all-time low. Despite that, critics were impressed by an album that featured some of Melvin Sparks’ finest performances and two deeply soulful vocals from Jimmy Scott. Sadly, when Melvin Sparks ’75 was released, just like Texas Twister the album failed commercially. The big question was what did the future hold for Melvin Sparks?

Westbound Records allowed Melvin Sparks to record what would’ve been his sixth album I’m Funky Now, which should’ve been released later in 1976. However, Westbound Records decided not to release the album, and this spelt the end of Melvin Sparks’ career Westbound Records. 

After recording six albums in six years, Melvin Sparks was left without a recording contract. Westbound Records had decided to cut their loses, as Melvin Sparks had still to make a commercial breakthrough.  

That was despite Melvin Sparks being a talented and versatile composer and musician, who had released five albums which were well received by critics. However, he was out of luck as the most fruitful period of his career coincided with jazz being in the doldrums.

Record buyers turned their attention to other genres and many jazz musicians no longer released albums on a regular basis. That was the case with Melvin Sparks who released albums sporadically. This began with  Sparkling in 1981, which was followed sixteen years later in 1997 with I’m A ‘Gittar’ Player. After that, Melvin Sparks didn’t release a new album until the new millennium.

What You Hear Is What You Get was released in 2001 and was the start of another fruitful period for Melvin Sparks. It Is What It Is followed in 2004 with This Is It! in 2005. However, when Groove On Up was released in 2006, it proved to be his swan-song.

Five years later, Melvin Sparks, who was one of the great jazz guitarists of his generation,  passed away in on March the ’15th’ 2011, just before his sixty-fifth birthday. Jazz music was in mourning at the loss of a talented and versatile guitarist, whose career had spanned five decades. However, looking back at Melvin Sparks long career, the five fruitful years he enjoyed between 1970 and 1975 was when he released the finest albums of his career at Prestige, Eastbound Records and  Westbound Records 

Melvin Sparks - 1973 - Texas Twister

Melvin Sparks
Texas Twister

01. Whip! Whop!
02. Gathering Together
03. Judy’s Groove
04. Texas Twister
05. Ain’t No Woman (Like the One I Got)
06. I Want to Talk about You
07. Star in the Crescent

Guitar – Melvin Sparks
Baritone Saxophone – Edward Xiques (tracks #1,3,5)
Congas – Buddy Caldwell (tracks #1,2,3,4,5,7)
Drums – Idris Muhammad (tracks #1,2,3,4,5,7)
Electric Bass – Wilbur Bascomb (tracks #1,3,5)
Electric Piano – Sonny Phillips (tracks #1,3,5)
Guitar – Ron Miller (tracks #1,5)
Organ – Ceasar Frazier (tracks #2,3,7)
Organ – Sonny Phillips  (tracks #6)
Tenor Saxophone – Ron Bridgewater (tracks #1,2,3,4,5,7)
Trumpet – Cecil Bridgewater (tracks #1,3,5), Jon Faddis (tracks #1,3,5)
Flugelhorn – Cecil Bridgewater, Jon Faddis (tracks #5)
Drums – Jesse Kilpatrick Jr. (tracks #6)

After signing to Eastbound Records, began work on his fourth album Texas Twister with his old mentor and producer Bob Porter.  Melvin Sparks hoped that renewing his partnership with Bob Porter might kickstart his career.

For Texas Twister, Melvin Sparks wrote four new compositions Whip! Whop!, Judy’s Groove, Texas Twister and Star In The Crescent. They were joined by Bobby Graham’s Gathering Together, Billy Eckstine’s Want To Talk About You and Brian Potter and Denise Lambert’s Ain’t No Woman (Like The One I Got). These seven tracks became Melvin Sparks’ Eastbound Records’ debut Texas Twister.

No expense was spared for the recording of Texas Twister which was produced by Bob Porter and was recorded by band that featured some top musicians. The rhythm section of drummer Idris Muhammad, bassist Wilbur Bascomb and guitarists Ron Miller. They were joined by organist Caesar Frazier, Sonny Phillips on Fender Rhodes and Buddy Caldwell on bongos. A horn section that featured baritone saxophonist Ed Xiques, tenor saxophonist Ron Bridgewater and trumpeters Cecil Bridgewater and Jon Faddis was the final piece of the jigsaw. Melvin Sparks played his trusty Guild guitar on Texas Twister which was meant to be the start of a new era for him.

Texas Twister was released to plaudits and praise, and hailed as Melvin Sparks’ finest album. Although it was a much funkier album than his previous offerings, Melvin Sparks hadn’t turned his back on soul jazz as he led three different lineups of his band on Texas Twister. Sometimes, Melvin Sparks’ all-star band are reduced to a trio, while other times he leads an impressive ten piece combo on Texas Twister. One of Melvin Sparks’ secret weapons on Texas Twister were the bongos which added a Latin sound as he flitted between funk and soul-jazz on his comeback album.

Despite being well received by critics, who thought Texas Twister Melvin Sparks’ finest album, it failed to find an audience when it was released later in 1973. History had repeated itself again, and Melvin Sparks who had just released his fourth album Texas Twister was still looking to make a commercial breakthrough.

Like many soul-jazz musicians, Melvin Sparks moved into funkier directions as the mid-'70s approached, whether out of pressure from marketing trends, a desire to explore that area, or both. As such efforts go, Texas Twister is a decent one, though not innovative or tremendously exciting. Working as the leader of three different configurations of musicians varying in size from a trio to a ten-piece, Sparks wrote about half of the material and took all the guitar solos, though Ron Miller also played guitar on three tracks. The cuts with the larger band tend to be the funkiest, the group playing with real pluck on "Whip! Whop!" But elsewhere, they lean toward a more straight-ahead soul-jazz direction, with "Judy's Groove" setting a nice swinging, walking beat. "Star in the Crescent" is an effortless throwback to the classic, more bop-driven '60s soul-jazz style, Sparks peeling off some fluid lightning riffs and giving plenty of space to Idris Muhammad's drums and Caesar Frazer's skittering organ. Texas Twister was combined with the 1975 LP '75 on a single-disc CD reissue.

Melvin Sparks - 1972 - Akilah!

Melvin Sparks 

01. Love the Life You Live
02. On the Up
03. All Wrapped Up
04. Akilah
05. Blues for J.B.
06. The Image of Love

Guitar – Melvin Sparks
Drums – Idris Muhammad
Flute – Dave Hubbard, Hubert Laws (tracks #6)
Organ, Piano – Leon Spencer
Percussion – Buddy Caldwell
Saxophone [Alto] – George Coleman (tracks #4), Sonny Fortune (tracks #1,2,4,5)
Saxophone [Tenor] – Dave Hubbard (tracks #3), Frank Wess (tracks #1,2,4)
Trumpet – Ernie Royal (tracks #4), Virgil Jones (tracks #1,2,4)

With neither Sparks! nor Spark Plug proving particularly popular, Melvin Sparks was well aware that his third album Akilah!, was make or break for him at Prestige. Melvin Sparks was still regarded as one of Prestige’s rising stars, but he had still to make a breakthrough. It was a case of now or never as Melvin Sparks began work on Akilah!

For his third album, Melvin Sparks had written four new tracks, On The Up, All Wrapped Up, Akilah and Blues For JB. They were joined by Leon Spencer Jr’s The Image Of Love and Gene Redd and Kool and The Gang’s Love The Life You Live.

By the time Melvin Sparks recording his third album, producer Bob Porter had left Prestige, and this time, he was joined in the  studio by Ozzie Cadena who supervised the recording of Akilah! This wasn’t the only change, as a very different band accompanied Melvin Sparks during the Akilah! sessions.

Familiar faces included Idris Muhammad, organist and pianist Leon Spencer Jr and trumpeter Virgil Jones. They were joined by some new names including alto saxophonists George Coleman and Sonny Fortune, flautist Hubert Laws, percussionist Buddy Caldwell, trumpeter Ernie Royal and tenor saxophonists Frank Wess and Dave Hubbard who also played flute on Akilah! It built on Melvin Sparks’ two previous albums, Sparks! and Sparks Plug, and was the most important album of his solo career.  

With Akilah! completed, Melvin Sparks’ third album was scheduled for release later in 1972, and again, just like his two previous  well received by critics upon its release. However, history repeated itself, and Akilah! failed to find the audience that it deserved. This was a huge blow for Melvin Sparks, who left Prestige later in 1972.

Fortunately, by the time Akilah! was released, Bob Porter who had left Prestige Records, had joined Armen Boladian’s Detroit-based label Eastbound Records. With Melvin Sparks without a label, Bob Porter recommended that Eastbound Records sign his old friend and protégé. This was the start of a new era for Melvin Sparks.

A masterwork of soul jazz, driving guitar licks, swirling organ (Leon Spencer), an exiting woodwind section (Virgli Jones, Sonny Fortune, Frank Wess, Ernie Royal, George Coleman, Dave Hubbard & Hubert Laws), powerful drums (Idris Muhammad) & additonal percussion (Buddy Caldwell).

Melvin Sparks - 1971 - Spark Plug

Melvin Sparks 
Spark Plug

01. Who's Gonna Take the Weight?
02. Spark Plug
03. Conjunction Mars
04. Alone Together
05. Dig Dis

Guitar – Melvin Sparks
Drums – Idris Muhammad
Organ – Leon Spencer Jr. (tracks #1), Reggie Roberts (tracks #2,3,4,5)
Tenor Saxophone – Grover Washington Jr.
Trumpet – Virgil Jones

After the commercial failure of his debut album Sparks!, Melvin Sparks went away and wrote Spark Plug, Conjunction Mars and Dig Dis which would featured on his sophomore album Spark Plug. These three tracks were joined by covers of Gene Redd’s Who’s Gonna Take The Weight? and Schwartz and Dietz’s Alone Together.  The songs that became Spark Plug were recorded by many of the musicians that featured on Sparks!

Drummer Idris Muhammad, organists Leon Spencer Jr and Reggie Roberts, trumpeter Virgil Jones and tenor saxophonists Grover Washington Jr join guitarist Melvin Sparks. Taking charge of production on Spark Plug was Bob Porter, as a much more laid back, but funky album of soul-jazz took shape. This was similar to the Prestige “sound” that had evolved over the last few years under Bob Porter. Melvin Sparks was the latest purveyor of the Prestige sound.

Just like his debut album Sparks!, Sparks Plug, was well received by critics, and many thought that Melvin Sparks was one of Prestige’s rising stars. However, when Melvin Sparks released Sparks Plug later in 1971, the album wasn’t the commercial success that Prestige nor Melvin Sparks had hoped. For both parties, this was hugely disappointing.

Sparks used a similar soul-jazz approach as he had on his previous Prestige session (Sparks!), revamping the lineup to put Reggie Roberts on organ and a young Grover Washington, Jr. on tenor sax (Idris Muhammad remained behind the drums). He also introduced some compositions of his own this time around; three of the five numbers are Sparks originals. It's more relaxed, funky, occasionally bluesy jazz with guitar and organ to the fore, very much of a piece with the Prestige soul-jazz "house" sound circa 1970. Pleasant fare, although it does tend to fade into suitable background music instead of attracting attention or intense scrutiny. The entire album is available on the Legends of Acid Jazz CD reissue, which also includes everything from Sparks!. 

A groovy & driving album by this exellent guitarist with organ (Reggie Roberts/Leon Spencer), sax (Grover Washington), trumpet (Virgil Jones) and Idris Muhammad on drums. The album starts with the funky tune Who's Gonna Take the Weight? by Kool & the Gang, followed by the melodious composition Spark Plug, Conjunction Mars has a nice horn accompainement, Alone Together has a cool groove & the guitar gives tribute to Grant Green and Dis Dis closes with an intense guitar / organ interaction by Melvin and Reggie.

Melvin Sparks - 1970 - Sparks!

Melvin Sparks

01. Thank You for Letting Me
02. I Didn't Know what Time It Was
03. Charlie Brown
04. The Stinker
05. Spill the Wine

Guitar – Melvin Sparks
Tenor Saxophone – Houston Person (tracks #4)
Tenor Saxophone – John Manning (tracks #1,2,3,5)
Drums – Idris Muhammad
Organ – Leon Spencer Jr.
Trumpet – Virgil Jones

Although American jazz and blues guitarist Melvin Sparks enjoyed a career that spanned five decades, the most fruitful period of his career was the seventies, when he released five albums between 1970 and 1975. Melvin Sparks’ career began at Prestige Records, where he released a triumvirate of albums between 1970 and 1972. However, after leaving Prestige, Melvin Sparks signed to Armen Boladian’s Eastbound Records in Detroit. This was the latest chapter in a story that began in Houston, Texas, where Melvin Sparks discovered music.

Melvin Sparks was born in Houston, Texas, on March the ‘22nd’ 1946, into what was a musical family. His two brothers both played guitar, and his mother ran a cafe which was a favourite hangout for local musicians. This included Don Wilkerson, Stix Hooper and Cal Green, who would prove supportive of Melvin Sparks and influenced him later in his career.

At the age of eleven, Melvin Sparks received his first ever guitar, and by the time he was in high school, was playing in his first band alongside organist Leon Spencer. Within a few years, seventeen year old Melvin Sparks had left school and embarked upon a career as a processional musician.

Initially, Melvin Sparks went out on the road with The Upsetters, who had been Little Richard’s backing band, and then went on to back some of the biggest names in R&B. For the next three years, Melvin Sparks served what was akin to a musical apprenticeship with The Upsetters, as they crisscrossed America. In 1966, The Upsetters arrived in New York which was where Melvin Sparks met the man who would transform his career.

In New York, Melvin Sparks met bandleader and jazz organist Brother Jack McDuff, who just happened to be looking for a guitarist. Melvin Sparks fitted the bill and in 1966, he joined Brother Jack McDuff’s band. Over the next few years, Melvin Sparks played on several albums that featured Brother Jack McDuff. This included his 1967 album Do It Now, and the same year, Melvin Sparks played on Do It Now, Jimmy Witherspoon with Jack McDuff’s The Blues Is Now. The following year, Melvin Sparks played on Brother Jack McDuff and David Newman’s 1968 collaboration Double Barrelled Soul. That was just part of the story.

Soon, Melvin Sparks was the go-to-guitarist for anyone who was looking for a jazz guitarist, and played alongside Lonnie Smith on his 1967 album Finger Lickin’ Good. After that, Melvin Sparks played alongside several top boogaloo artists signed to Blue Note between 1968 and 1970, including Lou Donaldson, Reuben Wilson and Lonnie Smith. However, in 1970 Melvin Sparks made the transition from sideman to solo artist.

By 1970, Melvin Sparks signed to Prestige, where he was reunited with his old friend and former high school bandmate Leon Spencer Jr, who was also signed to the label. The pair would play on each other’s albums over the next couple of years.


Having signed to Prestige Records, twenty-seven year old Melvin Sparks soon, began work on his much-anticipated debut album, Sparks! He was paired with producer Bob Porter who by 1970, had already established the Prestige soul-jazz sound. Now they had to choose the songs that suited this sound.

Just like many albums of soul jazz, cover versions were often the order of the day. That was the case with Melvin Sparks’ first album of Prestige soul-jazz, which featured Sly Stone’s Thank You For Being Myself, Rogers and Hart’s I Didn’t Know What Time It Was and Leiber and Stoller’s Charlie Brown. However, Melvin Sparks had decided to record The Stinker which was written by his old friend and now label mate Leon Spencer Jr, who was also part of all-star band that recorded Sparks!

When recording of Melvin Sparks debut album Sparks! began, Bob Porter took charge of production and Rudy Van Gelder was the recordist. Backing guitarist Melvin Sparks was a tight and talented band that featured drummer Idris Muhammad, organist Leon Spencer Jr, trumpeter Virgil Jones and tenor saxophonists Houston Person and John Manning. Once the album was recorded, Sparks! was scheduled for release later in 1970.

Before the release of Sparks!, critics had their say on Melvin Sparks debut album, which was an album of soul-jazz that headed in the direction of pop. Sparks! was well received by critics, and when it was released in later 1970, it was hoped that it would launch Melvin Sparks’ solo career. However, despite the favourable reviews, Sparks! failed to find a wider audience which was a disappointing start to Melvin Sparks’ career at Prestige.

A solid soul-jazz outing that looks to commercial material for the bulk of the set, but doesn't unduly compromise itself in a pop direction. Sparks was one of the bluesiest soul-jazz guitarists, and his tart tone shares space here with deep grooves from Leon Spencer on organ. The brass, handled by Virgil Jones (trumpet) Houston Person (tenor sax), and John Manning (tenor sax) is usually secondary to the guitar-organ riffs. Sparks remakes Sly Stone's "Thank You," the Coasters' "Charlie Brown," and Eric Burdon and War's "Spill the Wine" as lengthy instrumentals -- commercial choices, to be sure, but executed with relaxed grit. Rounding out the program is a Rodgers & Hart cover and a Leon Spencer original. The entire album is available on the Legends of Acid Jazz CD reissue, which also includes his 1971 follow-up, Spark Plug.

Sonny Phillips - 1977 - My Black Flower

Sonny Phillips
My Black Flower

01. Goin' Home 6:37
02. Salaam 7 6:23
03. My Black Flower 5:02
04. Me And My Brudder 5:42
05. You Make Me Feel So Young 5:28
06. Jalal 5:13

Drums – Qaadir Almubeen Muhammad
Flute – Galen Robinson
Guitar – Jimmy Ponder
Organ – Sonny Phillips
Percussion – Ralph Dorsey
Piano – Sonny Phillips

Organist and pianist Sonny Phillips kept a rather low profile during his two decades in jazz. Born and raised in Alabama in 1936, Phillips headed to Chicago's DePaul University as a teen to pursue a career in education. At 20, he began studying privately with pianist Ahmad Jamal and started playing his own gigs in Chicago. Phillips joined Eddie Harris's band in 1963 and stayed with the tenor sax legend throughout most of the rest of the decade. By the late 1960s, Phillips was devoted to the Hammond B3 and headed to New York City, working with sax greats Rusty Bryant, Gene Ammons and Houston Person, who employed Phillips throughout most of the next decade.

Between 1969 and 1970, Phillips also recorded three discs of his own for Prestige Records, riffing over Prestige's usual stew of blues, ballads and boogaloos and offering unusual, but danceable originals like "Sure Nuff, Sure Nuff" and "Make It Plain." Phillips toured and recorded with Houston Person regularly over the next few years, penning two of Person's best songs: "Kittatian Carnaval" (from 1973's The Real Thing ) and "Preachin' and Teachin'" (from 1977, available on Person's 32 Jazz set Lost & Found ).

Sonny Phillips, who also began using his Muslim name, Jalal Rushdan, at this time, made only two more records under his own name, both for the Muse label: this 1976 session and 1977's I Concentrate On You, which could have easily been added in full to this CD. After a bout with cancer, Phillips fled to California and began teaching. He remains there today, proudly presenting piano recitals featuring his students.

My Black Flower is a nice reminder of what Phillips contributed to jazz. It's a pleasing blend of simple but varied medium-tempo soul riffs. The organist sets himself within a complimentary quintet (with second drummer Frankie Jones added for whatever reason to three tracks) featuring perfectly attuned and equally underrated guitarist Jimmy Ponder, flautist Galen Robinson, drummer Ben Dixon and percussionist Ralph Dorsey.

Phillips starts by revisiting Eddie Harris's soulful blues "Goin Home," (he also played on the 1966 original, included on 32 Jazz's Harris anthology, Greater Than The Sum Of His Parts ). "My Black Flower" switches gears completely and lets Phillips sit down at the grand piano for a solo feature that clearly displays Ahmad Jamal's influence. "Salaam 7" and "Jalal" are typical Phillips originals, offering familiar but forgettable riffs, but plenty of engaging solos from the organist and the guitarist (notable again on the wedding combo groove of "You Make Me Feel So Young"). The disc's strongest, and surely most played track will be "Me And Me Brudder," another one of Phillips's infectious "Kittatian Carnival"-like Jamaican grooves.

Phillips was never destined to shake the rafters, dethrone fellow organists Jimmy Smith or Larry Young or even eclipse the individual talents of other low-key players like John Patton, Leon Spencer or Clarence Palmer. He simply set out to share the benefit of music's joy and shared experience with listeners. That's what gives My Black Flower the interest it maintains today.

Phillips marks Eddie Harris and Ahmad Jamal as his primary influences. Phillips studied under Jamal in the '50s and, like both players, he had a gentle, soulful ability. From Jamal, Phillips inherited or formulated a subtle, understated style of playing that used space and sounds akin to Miles Davis. It was in 1963 that Phillips toured as an organist with the great improviser Eddie Harris. On "My Black Flower," one can hear the beguiling, Jamal-inspired piano, and the organ fantasies are heard on "Me and Me Brudder." Another feature of this album is the inclusion of Latin rhythms, courtesy of conga and percussion journeyman Ralph Dorsey.

Sonny Phillips - 1971 - Black on Black!

Sonny Phillips
Black on Black!

01. Black On Black
02. Check It Out
03. Blues In Maude's Flat
04. Proud Mary
05. The Doll House

Bass [Fender] – Jimmy Lewis
Drums – Bernard Purdie
Guitar – Melvin Sparks
Organ – Sonny Phillips
Tenor Saxophone – Rusty Bryant

Sonny Phillips' third and final album for Prestige, coming just over a year after his first, shows the soul-jazz organist moving in a somewhat funkier direction than his first two efforts. The roiling title track actually has an edge of menace to it, an idea his other albums never even entertained. Of the five tracks, the most surprisingly effective is the nine-minute take on Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Proud Mary"; even more so than Ike and Tina Turner, Phillips and band completely reshape the song, taking off the edge of distance from Creedence Clearwater Revival's original and the campy showbiz of the better-known cover in favor of a pure soul-jazz workout that's among the finest things Phillips ever did in his short recording career. The other highlight is "The Doll House," a showcase for Rusty Bryant's tenor sax with the album's most satisfying soloing. Sonny Phillips isn't highly rated by some soul-jazz historians, but his unique and characteristic light tone -- heavily influenced by his early teachers, Jodie Christian and Ahmad Jamal -- makes his albums far more interesting to listen to than the usual barrage of Jimmy McGriff lifts.

One of Sonny Phillips' hardest hitting albums ever – an all-Hammond set that really cooks hard from start to finish! Sonny's working here in a lean, mean combo with plenty of Prestige jazz funk touches – heavy drums from Bernard Purdie, hard tenor solos from Rusty Bryant, rumbling Fender bass from Jimmy Lewis, and well-woven guitar lines from the amazing Melvin Sparks – heard here right at the prime of his young career!

Sonny Phillips - 1970 - Black Magic!

Sonny Phillips 
Black Magic!

01. Make It Plain
02. Wakin' Up
03. Over the Rainbow
04. Bean Pie
05. I'm an Old Cowhand
06. The Brotherhood

Congas – Buddy Caldwell
Drums – Ben Dixon
Electric Bass [Fender] – Jimmy Lewis
Electric Piano [Fender Rhodes] – Sonny Phillips (tracks: A3, B1)
Guitar – Melvin Sparks
Organ – Sonny Phillips
Tenor Saxophone – Eddie Pazant

Dynamic & melodious soul jazz effort by this Jimmy Smith follower -a precursor of the modern-day acid jazz sound - features the great Melvin Sparks on guitar! (By the way, am I the only one that thinks the dude looks like Eddie Murphy?)

Sonny Phillips - 1969 - Sure 'Nuff

Sonny Phillips 
Sure 'Nuff

01. Sure 'Nuff, Sure 'Nuff 6:50
02. Be Yourself 4:30
03. Oleo 7:40
04. Mobile To Chicago 7:25
05. The Other Blues 9:10

Drums – Bernard Purdie
Electric Bass [Fender] – Bob Bushnell
Guitar – Boogaloo Joe Jones
Organ – Sonny Phillips
Tenor Saxophone – Houston Person
Trumpet – Virgil Jones

Organist Sonny Phillips was born in Mobile, Alabama in 1936 to a musical family, but did not begin his jazz education until the age of 23, when he began studying with Ahmad Jamal. The music of Jimmy Smith inspired him to switch to the organ, and soon he was performing with soul-jazz greats such as Lou Donaldson, Eddie Harris, Houston Person, and Gene Ammons. Phillips debuted as a leader on the 1969 Prestige set Sure 'Nuff, which was followed by the 1970 dates Black Magic and Black on Black. He returned to recording as a leader for the Muse label in 1976 with My Black Flower, but the next year's I Concentrate on You proved to be his final recording as a leader. After an illness in 1980, Phillips moved to Los Angeles, where he occasionally taught, performed, and recorded as a sideman during the years to follow.

The debut set as leader by organist Sonny Phillips is refreshingly free of the usual clichéd funky licks copped off Jimmy Smith and Brother Jack McDuff albums. Very early in his career, the Alabama-born, Chicago-based Phillips trained on piano under Ahmad Jamal, and Jamal's characteristic style remains imprinted on Phillips' loose, easy-flowing solos. (There's a little Ramsey Lewis in there as well, especially on the swinging soul-jazz title track.) This lighter touch and less blues-dependent style gives Sure 'Nuff an intriguing and unusual sound that keeps it from sounding like just another soul-jazz album. At times, Phillips sounds like he's been listening to jazz-rock pioneers like the Al Kooper-led Blood, Sweat & Tears or even the very early (pre-wimpy) Chicago, because tracks like "Be Yourself" and "The Other Blues" subtly integrate rock backbeats and rhythm guitar into jazz forms. Sure 'Nuff isn't an undiscovered masterpiece or anything, but it's considerably more interesting than the average soul-jazz album from the late '60s.

This is probably the best album ever cut by one of the lesser-known Prestige jazz funk organ players – and it's got a nice group that includes Virgil Jones and Houston Person, along with Ivan Boogaloo Joe Jones and Bernard Purdie. The title cut – "Sure Nuff, Sure Nuff" – is a monster groover, and the album's got some other nice ones 

Leon Spencer - 1973 - Where I'm Coming from

Leon Spencer
Where I'm Coming from

01. Superstition 6:45
02. Give Me Your Love 5:23
03. Keeper Of The Castle 5:20
04. Trouble Man 6:45
05. The Price A Po' Man's Got To Pay 5:25
06. Where I'm Coming From 5:35

Alto Saxophone – Sonny Fortune (tracks: B3)
Bass – George Duvivier (tracks: A1 to B1)
Congas – Buddy Caldwell (tracks: B3)
Drums – Grady Tate (tracks: A1 to B2), Idris Muhammed (tracks: B3)
Electric Piano – Ernest Hayes (tracks: A1 to B1)
Flute – Hubert Laws (tracks: B3)
Flute, Baritone Saxophone, Conductor – Frank Wess (tracks: A1 to B1)
Flute, Tenor Saxophone – Seldon Powell (tracks: A1 to B1)
Guitar – Joe Beck (tracks: A1 to B2), Melvin Sparks (tracks: B3)
Organ – Leon Spencer
Tenor Saxophone – Dave Hubbard (tracks: B3)
Trumpet – Jon Faddis (tracks: A1 to B1), Victor Paz (tracks: A1 to B1), Virgil Jones (tracks: B3)

Tracks A1 to B2 recorded at Van Gelder Studios, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, on January 26, 1973.
Track B3 recorded Feb. 22, 1972

Leon Spencer's final recording is an understated but very groovy document that features keyboard solos with a restrained horn section and funky rhythm guitar providing tight and tasty support. Covers of contemporary tunes by Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, Steve Wonder and The Four Tops simmer without ever coming to the boil, but it is the Spencer originals that come alive, particularly the title track that closes the album (recorded during sessions for his previous LP "Bad Woman Walking") which is the highlight. Strangely for a Rudy Van Gelder engineered recording the overall sound is a little flat with very little bottom end which actually gives it a refreshingly under-produced feel. This is a near peak for rare-groove releases and is certainly worth checking out.

Leon Spencer - 1972 - Bad Walking Woman

Leon Spencer
Bad Walking Woman

01. Hip Shaker 3:50
02. Down On Dowling Street 4:55
03. In Search Of Love 4:00
04. If You Were Me And I Were You 5:57
05. Bad Walking Woman 5:01
06. When My Love Has Gone 6:10
07. When Dreams Start To Fade 7:42

Leon Spencer – organ, vocals
Virgil Jones – trumpet (track 5)
Hubert Laws – flute, piccolo flute (tracks 4, 6 & 7)
Buzz Brauer – flute, English horn, oboe (tracks 3, 4, 6 & 7)
Sonny Fortune – alto saxophone (track 5)
Dave Hubbard – tenor saxophone (tracks 1 & 5)
Joe Beck (tracks 3, 6 & 7), Melvin Sparks (tracks 2, 4 & 5) – guitar
Idris Muhammad – drums
Buddy Caldwell – congas

Supremely heavy work from organist Leon Spencer – one of his classic jazz funk sessions for Prestige Records, and a record that shows him opening up his sound a bit more than before! The album has Spencer working in a few different lineups – some with small groups that feature Melvin Sparks on guitar and Idris Muhammad on drums – others with some slightly larger instrumentation and even a bit of strings, used in a sophisticatedly soulful style that reminds us a bit of CTI or Kudu backings of the time! Billy Ver Planck handles the larger arrangements, but even on these Leon's organ is right out front in the mix – really dominating the tunes, and soaring over the top with a newly fluid style that reminds us of Charles Earland at his own best during this time.

The reviews at the time were not very good. Leon's previous work was in the organ combo niche of the time (MacDuff, Scott, Wilson, McGriff for example). The bad / lackluster reviews had to do with the inclusion of strings and Hubert Laws on a few tracks. Ironically those tracks are what earned the album 5 stars from me! I was not a fan of the gospel flavored funk of the period so the lush romantic feel of the ballads here ( very ordinary arrangements) were a welcome change for me. I recently got a 2 on one 'acid jazz' cd with more of Spencer's work on the PRESTIGE/FANTASY label, but this remains the best album from Spencer for me. 

Leon Spencer - 1971 - Louisiana Slim

Leon Spencer
Louisiana Slim

01. Louisiana Slim 10:10
02. Mercy Mercy Me 4:05
03. (They Long To Be) Close To You 5:20
04. Our Love Will Never Die 10:20
05. The Trouble With Love

Congas – Buddy Caldwell
Drums – Idris Muhammad
Guitar – Melvin Sparks
Organ – Leon Spencer, Jr.
Tenor Saxophone, Flute – Grover Washington, Jr.
Trumpet – Virgil Jones

Sublime Hammond from the amazing Leon Spencer – heard here at the height of his younger years, when he was cooking up as much magic in the studio as Johnny Hammond or Charles Earland – and really stretching things out, in ways that take the jazz organ format much farther than the giants of a decade before! The date's an all-out great one in the Prestige funky jazz mode – with Spencer on organ, Melvin Sparks on guitar, Grover Washington Jr on tenor, and Idris Muhammad on drums – a bit more subtle than before, but still plenty darn funky! Tracks are nice and long!

Leon Spencer - 1970 - Sneak Preview!

Leon Spencer
Sneak Preview!

01. The Slide 5:45
02. Someday My Prince Will Come 6:30
03. Message From The Meters 6:40
04. First Gravy 3:55
05. 5-10-15-20 (25-30 Years Of Love) 4:25
06. Sneak Preview 8:00

Congas – Buddy Caldwell
Design – Don Schlitten
Drums – Idris Muhammad
Guitar – Melvin Sparks
Organ – Leon Spencer, Jr.
Tenor Saxophone – Grover Washington, Jr.
Trumpet – Virgil Jones

Recorded on December 7, 1970 at Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

The Slide will take you for a ride. Leon Spencer’s opening tune, just like his album on which it was presented early in 1971 on the Prestige label, Sneak Preview, is a vintage gritty Hammond B3 killer. Recorded at Rudy van Gelder’s studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Van Gelder not only shaped modern jazz with his engineering for Blue Note and other labels, he was also a fundamental force in making organ jazz an viable musical experience and an accessible, marketable product, initially through his cooperation with Jimmy Smith in 1956. Managing to tame the monster machine’s belligerent tendencies and bringing to the fore crisp, clear lines while retaining the church-rooted feeling, sonority and indomitable oscillating sounds, Van Gelder set the standard for future engineers to follow. In the late sixties and early seventies, RVG was still at it, taking care of virtually all the Prestige funk jazz releases.
Such as Sneak Preview, the sound of molasses, chili in a bowl and ham-on-rye on master tape, which is transferred to the black gold that is still to be enjoyed here and now, in 2018, preferably on original wax, though the OJC reissue is doing a job well done, thank you. Forget the screen of your iPhone for a minute, put the disc on the turntable, kick yourself into gear and slide into the world of sensual, chubby thighs exposed at the stools of sleazy, sweaty bars, of hallelujahs shouted from tiny BBQ joints, of the unstoppable toes that wear out the streets of Baltimore, Harlem’s Lenox Avenue, the wooden floors of Lenny’s-On-The-Turnpike until nothing’s left but dusty remains not unlike the bones of long-gone Victorian maidens… Chill. Zen And The Art Of Turntable Maintenance.

Leon Spencer Jr. gets you to that place. Spencer’s discography is rather concise, but the level of excellence and deep groove is on par with contemporary colleagues like Lonnie Smith and Charles Earland. Spencer came into prominence a few years later. He was born in Houston, Texas in 1945, started out on piano and performed with his friend David “Fathead” Newman as a young man. Spencer studied engineering at Texas Southern University and the University Of Houston and subsequently toured with Army bands. Like many organists, he took up the organ after seeing Jimmy Smith and soon backed Peggy Lee and Lou Rawls. He made his debut in 1969 on guitarist Wilbert Longmire’s Revolution album on World Pacific while living in Los Angeles. Spencer played on guitarist Melvin Sparks’ Sparks and was featured on Lou Donaldson’s Pretty Things album on Blue Note in 1970, which made his reputation as a bonafide jazz funkateer. After Sneak Preview, Spencer would perform on another Donaldson album, Cosmos, another Sparks album, three Sonny Stitt albums and Rusty Bryant’s Fire Eater. As a leader, Spencer followed up Sneak Preview with Louisiana Slim, Bad Walking Woman and Where I’m Coming From.

Sneak Preview used the same line up as Sparks. And the group would work together on Stitt’s Turn It On as well. Some of the members had already cooperated here and there, like Muhammad, Virgil Jones, Melvin Sparks and Buddy Caldwell on Muhammad’s Black Rhythm Revolution on November 2, 1970, or Muhammad, Jones and Sparks on Rusty Bryant’s Soul Liberation on June 15, 1970. I’ve grown accustomed to your face… Standard Prestige procedure (and Blue Note, of course, for that matter): The more tight-knit a group of like-minded fellows and dames become, the smoother the session will develop. This group, consisting of Spencer, trumpeter Virgil Jones, tenor saxophonist Grover Washington Jr., guitarist Melvin Sparks, drummer Idris Muhammad and conga player Buddy Caldwell, has no trouble getting to the nitty-gritty before the lights go out. Idris Muhammad’s drive, as usual, is relentless. There really can be no end to the amazement for the listener of Muhammad’s snappy single snare strokes before-the-one and his firm accompaniment with bass pedal, hi-hat and cymbal. We hear Grover Washington before the saxophonist hit the big time with smooth jazz in the early seventies, and he’s keeping it real and rootsy. And small wonder that A&R man Bob Porter regularly called Virgil Jones for sessions like these, he’s virile, acute, excellent. Virgil Jones is a player who’s all but forgotten, undeservedly.

The group performs Spencer’s funky blues The Slide, shuffle groove First Gravy and the tacky, modal vamp Sneak Preview, Someday My Prince Will Come, the hit from The Presidents 5-10-15-20 and a funk groove from The Meters, Message From The Meters. The latter’s the highlight, a crazy funky affair with intense storytelling from Spencer. Spencer’s bass work (presumably a mix of left hand and a bit of feet) is striking, not only during Message, but also during the popsoul gem 5-10, weaving snappy lines in the middle register into the mix.

Leon Spencer passed away in 2012.

Caesar Frazier - 1978 - Another Life

Caesar Frazier
Another Life

01. Child Of The Wind 7:33
02. Lady 6:00
03. Ha-Ha, Ya (You Make Me Happy) 5:27
04. Another Life 3:43
05. Till Another Day 4:34
06. I Got To Have Your Love 4:04
07. Just A Little Bit Longer 4:49
08. Another Life 2:50

No info on my album on musicians or recording dates... any help appreciated!

Buy it because you love his two funky mid 70's works (available on an excellent double album reissue.) Love it for "Another Life" and "Gonna Lay It on Ya". Completely unlike his previous work. Slick. In between some standard period (nevertheless authentic, if you're into that) saccharine soul there's just enough tasty funkiness to make it worth picking up.

There are some truly great turn-arounds in the world (but as Scotland have just failed to do that against England I can't quite place them) - and Caesar Frazier's conversion from funky Hammond to golden soulster is up there. Sure, all sorts of Hammond players have sung, but when Frazier came to make his third album for Westbound (the first two are available as CDSEWD 047) he made a full conversion. That he did so may be unusual but that he carried it off with such aplomb is a marvel. One that we can now share with you.

The album itself has been a long time favourite amongst lovers of two-step soul, with the title track being bootlegged at the height of the rare groove craze. It is a prime slice of Detroit soul - with sterling arrangements by Westbound regular Mike

Theodore and Motown stalwart David Van Pitte (the man who arranged Marvin Gaye's What's Going On). The opening cut, Child Of The Wind, is a storming piece of soul disco, whilst Till Another Day and the title track are soul as good as you will find anywhere. But the thing that astounds with this album is not the individual stand-out cuts but that the album is so consistently good.

For this, the album's first reissue, we have tracked down the previously unreleased Gonna Lay It On Ya Baby and so we have given you the final instalment of CF's Westbound recordings. He is now a TV weatherman in California - and these were, we believe, his last recordings. Well, Caesar, thanks. 

By Dean Rudland

Caesar Frazier - 1975 - Caesar Frazier '75

Caesar Frazier
Caesar Frazier '75

01. Mighty Mouse 5:20
02. Summer Breeze 5:41
03. Sweet Children 5:46
04. Funk It Down 5:23
05. Living For The City 6:02
06. Walking On The Side 5:00

Baritone Saxophone – Babe Clarke
Bass – Wilbur Bascomb
Congas – Buddy Caldwell (tracks: A1, A2, B3)
Drums – Bernard Purdie (tracks: A3 to B2), Jimmy Young (tracks: A1, A2, B3)
Guitar – Cornell Dupree (tracks: A3 to B2), David Spinoza (tracks: A1, A2, B3), John Tropea (tracks: A1, A2, B3), Richie Resnikoff* (tracks: A3 to B2)
Organ, Electric Piano, Clavinet, Soloist, Keyboards – Ceasar Frazier
Soloist, Guitar – David Spinoza
Tambourine – Joe Venuto (tracks: A3 to B2)
Tenor Saxophone – Charlie Brown
Trombone – Garnett Brown
Trumpet – Joe Shepley, Jon Faddis

More solid hammond funk from Caesar!

The second great album from organist Ceasar Frazier – a tightly grooving set that expands his sound a bit from the first! All the best elements are still in place here – including funky organ from Ceasar, production from jazz funk maestro Bob Porter, and a hip range of players that includes Horace Ott, Wilbur Bascomb, and Bernard Purdie. But the overall sound is somewhat shifted too – brought more into the tightly jamming jazz funk mode of the mid 70s – a bit richer and fuller overall, yet never in a way that's slick or sloppy – just more like some of the best later sides on Prestige or Fantasy from the same stretch. The record features a crazy version of the "Mighty Mouse Theme", a mellow take on the Isley's "Summer Breeze", Stevie Wonder's great "Living For The City", and the original "Funk It Down". 

Great instrumental funk record. I did recognize 3 breaks... The track Sweet Children has been sampled recently by Kanye West, on the new Common album for the track "real people".
Funk It Down has been sampled by gang starr twice!! The start of the song has been used in the song "speak ya clout" for guru's part, then at 1 minute comes in a horn, that's used for another gang starr song "Ex To The Next Girl". Even if your not into rap breaks I'd recomend this album to fans of Booker T & the MG's, it's similar in style.

Caesar Frazier - 1972 - Hail Caesar!

Caesar Frazier
Hail Caesar!

01. Hicky-Burr 8:05
02. Ellie's Love Theme 5:00
03. See-F 4:37
04. Hail Ceasar! 6:23
05. Make It With You 4:42
06. Runnin' Away 4:55

Bass [Fender] – Gordon Edwards
Congas – Buddy Caldwell
Drums – Idris Muhammad
Guitar – Melvin Sparks
Organ – Ceasar Frazier
Tenor Saxophone – Houston Person
Trumpet – Cecil Bridgewater

Hailing from Indianapolis, Ceasar Frazier was a funky soul-jazz organist who recorded several albums for the Eastbound/Westbound label family during the '70s. First making his mark in 1972 with one of saxman Lou Donaldson's funkier bands, Frazier cut his first album Hail Ceasar! later that year, which featured musicians commonly associated with the Prestige label's jazz-funk outings -- Melvin Sparks (guitar), Houston Person (tenor), and Idris Muhammad (drums). The follow-up, Ceasar Frazier '75, featured the likes of guitarist Cornell Dupree and drummer Bernard "Pretty" Purdie; the album's key track, "Funk It Down," was later sampled by jazz-obsessed hip-hoppers Gang Starr for their "Ex-Girl to the Next Girl." In 1978, Frazier resurfaced as a smooth soul/disco vocalist with the LP Another Life, and while he showed some affinity for the idiom, it failed to reinvent him as a commercial force outside the jazz-funk marketplace. In addition to recording on his own, Frazier also played keyboards in Marvin Gaye's backing band. Thanks to the rare-groove revival, his rare original LPs now fetch generous sums on the collectors' market.

In the early 70s Armen Boladian's Westbound Records had started to prove itself a consistent hit making machine, as the likes of the Detroit Emeralds and Funkadelic started to find their feet. Westbound was the latest in a long series of music business ventures, from song writing and production through to distribution, that Armen had involved himself in since the late 1950s. As the main Westbound label firmly established itself in the R&B/soul world, so Armen's mind moved towards thoughts of an alternative label, one that was initially jazz-based.

During the period of 1970-72, the New Jersey-based Prestige label had a hot period with a succession of young, funky jazz artists, many of whom had been sidemen with the in-demand club acts such as Lou Donaldson and Jack McDuff. Records by the likes of Charles Earland, Rusty Bryant, Funk Inc, Houston Person and Melvin Sparks all sold in copious amounts and, as Prestige's mid-western distributor, Armen was more aware than most how well this music was doing. Prestige was sold to Fantasy Records in 1971 and its operations and many of its artists were transferred to the West Coast. Those that didn't or perhaps couldn't go, including in-house producer Bob Porter, found themselves at a loose end that appears to have been put to an end by the inauguration of Eastbound.

Eastbound would eventually sign such established names as Etta Jones, Melvin Sparks and Houston Person, but its initial signings represented a trio of young musicians who were making their way from their Midwestern hometowns through the important bands of the day. You can check Gary Chandler and Bill Mason, who only released one album each, on their shared 2-on-1 CD (Westbound CDSEWD 127), but Caesar Frazier developed a bit of a career, releasing three albums for the Westbound group of companies. The final album Another Life saw Caesar developing a fine pair of soulful lungs, but his first two albums gathered here show him as a fine Hammond player in the funky groove mode that Porter had been working so well at Prestige.

Although born in New York, Frazier had been discovered in Indianapolis, from where Prestige hit signings Funk Inc and later Eastbound act The Nineteenth Whole also hailed. When he recorded Hail Caesar! he had been playing in Indianapolis whilst waiting to join up with Lou Donaldson's highly successful group-.-a group that, not coincidentally, had been raided for fresh recording talent several times before by Porter.

Both Hail Caesar! and '75 are funky organ albums which stay fairly true to the standard format for this sort of record date-.-a couple of recent hits, some hard-driving originals and some slower numbers to vary the tempo. Any one who sweated on the floor at Dingwalls will immediately recognise the acid jazz classic Mighty Mouse from '75 whilst the versions of Quincy Jones' Hicky Burr and Sly's Running Away from the super rare (£125) Hail Caesar! could keep you grooving for weeks if you so desired.

Despite his obvious talent Caesar never recorded with Donaldson - who was in any case moving away from the Hammond sound in the studio at the time. So these two albums are all the recorded evidence of the funky Caesar. Today, according to producer Bob Porter, you may if you are lucky catch him playing near his home in southern California, in between his day job as a radio news broadcaster.

Idris Muhammad - 1979 - Foxhuntin'

Idris Muhammad

01Boogie Boots 5:303
02Foxhuntin' 7:120
03(Dance Dance) Work Your Body 7:54
04Love New Orleans 9:03
05 Are We Doin' It 3:13
06 Dancing In The Land Of Lovely Ladies 8:10

Baritone Saxophone – Ronnie Cuber
Bass – Wilbur Bascomb
Clarinet – Phil Bodner
Drums – Idris Muhammad
Guitar – Hiram Bullock
Harp – Gloria Agostini
Keyboards, Synthesizer – Cliff Carter
Percussion – Sammy Figueroa
Trumpet – Danny Cahn, John Gatchell, Bob Millikan
Vocals – Frank Floyd, Ray Simpson, Zack Sanders

hoho! this is fun :) and great disco, very funky and full of ad lib happiness!

it's like a cross between Cándido, The Blackbyrds and hi-pitched voices ala Bee Gees

excellent drumming, funky guitars and bass together with dance, dance, dance!

Idris Muhammad - 1978 - You Ain't No Friend Of Mine!!

Idris Muhammad
You Ain't No Friend Of Mine!!

01. Disco Man 5:54
02. See Saw 5:33
03. The Doc 7:26
04. You Ain't No Friend Of Mine 6:45
05. Tell Me, Where Did We Go Wrong? 5:06
06. Big Foot 7:47

Bass – Lincoln Goines
Drums – Idris Muhammad
Guitar – Hiram Bullock
Keyboards – Cliff Carter

'You Ain't No Friend Of Mine!' is a funky jazz album recorded by Idris Muhammed in 1978 on Kudu Records. He was an American jazz drummer. Born Leo Morris in New Orleans, he showed great talent as a percussionist and began his professional career while still a teenager playing on Fats Domino's 'Blueberry Hill'. He changed his name to Idris Muhammed in the 1960's upon his conversion to Islam. Recorded and mixed at Fantasy Studios, Berkeley; except horns on "Disco Man", "Tell Me", and "You Ain't No Friend" recorded at Generation Sound, New York, and horns on "See Saw" recorded at Regent Sound, New York. Vocals recorded at Regent Sound, except "You Ain't No Friend" recorded at Fantasy. 

Idris Muhammad - 1978 - Boogie to the Top

Idris Muhammad
Boogie to the Top

01. Boogie To The Top 11:00
02. Bread 5:33
03. One With A Star 7:54
04. Stick It In Your Face 5:23
05. S-E-X 5:00

Bass – Will Lee
Drums – Idris Muhammad
Flute – Jeremy Steig (tracks: A1)
Guitar – Hiram Bullock
Harmonica – Hugh McCracken (tracks: A1)
Harp – Gloria Agostini
Keyboards – Cliff Carter
Percussion – David Friedman, Nicky Marrero, Sam Figueroa
Saxophone [Alto] – Ray Davis (tracks: B2)
Saxophone [Baritone] – Ronnie Cuber
Trumpet – Daniel Cahn, John Gatchell
Vocals – Frank Floyd, Ken Williams, Ray Simpson, Zachary Sanders

Recorded at Electric Lady Studios December 1977

Classic middle period work from drummer Idris Muhammad – a set recorded after his initial run of lean funk recordings for the jazz scene – with a bit more soul in the mix, and definitely a bit of boogie in the groove! Arrangements are by David Matthews – the maestro of the soul-styled charts who first honed his craft with James Brown – and the approach here is tight jazz funk, with both a good ear for the clubs, and some of the more sophisticated styles that the CTI/Kudu crowd could appreciate! There's some vocals at times – sung by Frank Floyd, Ray Simpson, and others – but the instrumental component of the album definitely takes the lead - with percussion by Nicky Marrero alongside Muhammad's tight drums – plus Hiram Bullock on guitar, Cliff Carter on keyboards, David Friedman on vibes, and solos from Ray Davis on alto and Jeremy Steig on flute. 

A much welcomed reissue of the 1978 Idris Muhammad gem 'Boogie To The Top'. Released a year after, arguably, Idris' most well-known anthem, 'Could Heaven Ever Be Like This' the similarities in style and composition are clear. Expertly produced, rich instrumentation, expansive drum fills, gospel tinged full-bodied vocals, all the while epic and life affirming in it's nature - what more could you want?

Young Pulse steps up on the b-side, to add his own subtle touches and tweaks to the original. Looping the guitar and echoing out the vocals whilst working in more of the synth lines. The addition of a crisp clap and extra percussion add an element more vibrancy into this mix, 

Idris Muhammad - 1977 - Turn This Mutha Out

Idris Muhammad
Turn This Mutha Out

01. Could Heaven Ever Be Like This 8:37
02. Camby Bolongo 3:50
03. Turn This Mutha Out 6:50
04. Tasty Cakes 4:23
05. Crab Apple 5:07
06. Moon Hymn 4:22
07. Say What 4:05

Tracks recorded at Mediasound, December 1976, and Electric Lady, February 1977.

Idris Muhammad: drums, tom tom
Wilbur Bascomb: bass
Hiram Bullock: electric guitar
Charlie Brown: guitar
Rubens Bassini: percussion
Sue Evans: percussion
Michael Brecker: tenor saxophone
Ronnie Cuber: baritone saxophone
David Tofani: soprano saxophone
Clifford Carter: synthesiser, keyboards
Randy Brecker: trumpet
Jon Faddis: trumpet
Margaret Ross: harp
Frank Floyd: vocals
Bill Eaton: backing vocals
Zachary Sanders: backing vocals
Ray Simpson: backing vocals
Hugh McCracken: guitar
Jeremy Steig: flute
Eric Gale: guitar

Tracks recorded at Mediasound, December 1976, and Electric Lady, February 1977.

Accompanied by Hiram Bullock (guitar), Cliff Carter (keyboards), Wilber Bascomb (bass), Jeremy Steig (flute), and others, Idris Muhammad ventures into the world of pop and R&B, annoying die-hard jazz fans. Limp and uninspired vocals hurt "Could Heaven Ever Be Like This," but the track is good and could have stood alone with instrument(s) replacing the vocal parts. If you like African rhythms underneath a haunting flute, then you'll love "Camby Bolongo" -- Sue Evans supplies percussions and Randy Brecker provides a searing trumpet solo.

"Turn this Mutha Out" offers some dynamic interplay between Bascomb's funky bass vamp and Bullock's compelling guitar work. The tune landed on the R&B chart in the States and got considerable airplay in Britain. "Tasty Cakes" uses the same lineup including complementary musicians as "Mutha." "Crab Apple," aided by Michael Brecker's tenor sax, jams; the midtempo strut is nasty, particularly when Carter works his synthesizer. "Moon Hymn" is a duo tempo head tune that nods at War's "Slipping Into Darkness." Eric Gale is the guitarist on "Say What," a fusion of jazz and funk. Muhammad never solos, he didn't write any of the songs, he didn't arrange any, and he didn't produce, but that eternally funky, break-heavy drumming makes this an album only he could have recorded.

An album very hard to find, especially in good condition, This album has an incredible song "Could Heaven Ever Be Like This" (is my favorite of this album), this song is probably historically had the most crossover success with the disco audience, The song has an overall funky mid-tempo groove that tends to grow on you with each and every driving beat, the song also stands strongly is "Turn This Mutha Out" with a high burden of funky beat and guitars very well maintained. "Tasty Cakes" this is another amazing song with disco hints and funky touches. "Crab Apple" another of my favorite track, is deliciously funky-jazzy and finally the coolest part of the album "Moon Hymn" fascinating, is a song that you'll gradually enveloping and slowly ending with a horn section that is amazing.

One of the best jazz/funk/disco albums ever! The late great Idris Muhammad, Hiram Bullock, Michael Brecker, and Eric Gale all play their asses off on this legendary album. The beats, the solos and the wicked bass of Wilbur Bascomb make this a true classic. It said in the liner notes it took seven years to get this on cd. I've been waiting and checking to see if it was on cd for 25 years. Finally it's here! It's a shame we've lost these four great musicians. But we can hear them on thousands of albums for years to come.

Idris Muhammad - 1976 - House of the Rising Sun

Idris Muhammad
House of the Rising Sun

01. House Of The Rising Sun 4:39
02. Baia (Boogie Bump) 4:38
03. Hard To Face The Music 4:50
04. Theme For New York City (Based On Prelude No. 4) 3:30
05. Sudan 11:00
06. Hey Pocky A-Way 6:00

Alto Saxophone – David Sanborn
Baritone Saxophone – Ronnie Cuber
Bass – Eric Gale (tracks: A3, B2), Wilbur Bascomb (tracks: A2, A4, B1), Will Lee (tracks: A1)
Cello – Alan Shulman, Charles McCracken, Seymour Barab
Drums – Idris Muhammad
Guitar – Eric Gale, Hugh McCracken (tracks: B2), Joe Beck (tracks: A3)
Percussion – George Devens
Percussion [Log Drum] – Idris Muhammad (tracks: A1)
Piano – Don Grolnick (tracks: A2, A3, B2), Leon Pendarvis (tracks: A1), Roland Hanna
Tenor Saxophone – Bob Berg (tracks: B1), George Young (2), Mike Brecker (tracks: A2)
Trombone – Barry Rogers (tracks: B1), Fred Wesley
Trumpet – Tom Harrell
Violin – Charles Libove, David Nadien, Emanuel Green, Harold Kohon, Harry Cykman, Joe Malin, Max Ellen, Paul Gershman
Vocals – Debbie McDuffie (tracks: A2), Frank Floyd (tracks: A1, B2), Hilda Harris (tracks: A2), Patti Austin (tracks: A2)

Recorded June, September, October 1975

The majority of this record is pretty clean, smooth jazz-funk, with tracks like "Baia (Boogie Bump)" taking on the jazz-disco fusion style that would've fit in right alongside any number of CTI Records releases from around the same time. Not that that should be a surprise, since Kudu was sort of Creed Taylor's farm camp for upcoming talent. Unlike Muhammad's later records like Boogie to the Top, though, this one keeps the track lengths in check and leaves enough focus on the musicians to keep things loose and more jazz-y; dig George Young and Fred Wesley's solos on "Hard to Face the Music," or the colors Sir Roland Hanna adds to "Theme for New York City" with his atmospheric playing.

What makes this entire record worth the price of admission, though, is the 11-minute cut "Sudan," Idris Muhammad's crown jewel both in terms of his original compositions and in terms of his performance, which is just otherworldly tight and precise. While he was largely known for his fills and ability to turn in a consistent backing beat that was energetic and funky, on "Sudan" Muhammad lets the ever-ponderous Hanna and the nervous bass of Wilbur Bascomb do the heavy rhythmic lifting as he explores his kit in strange and increasingly exciting ways. Just the way he changes the beat while Bascomb plays more or less the same riff over and over again re-casts the horns' melodic theme in a new light every time it re-emerges. "Sudan" sometimes seems like about 5 different songs at once, only connected by some of the funkiest playing ever heard on a jazz record. It's an absolute masterpiece, one of the finest soul-jazz tracks ever recorded, and even if the rest of the album is pretty much only recommended for fanatics of that genre everyone owes it to themselves to experience those 11 minutes of brilliance.

The album starts out with a real funky soulful jazzy uptempo 'House of The Rising Sun', like I have never heard before, and I have heard this song lots, one of the very first songs I learnt to play. It's given a real refreshing sound and takes a big group to do that. This album has many musicians who all add to its greatness (Joe Beck, David Sanborn, Michael Brecker, Hugh McCracken, Bob Berg, Fred Wesley and Patti Austin just some of them) and right in the middle is Idris Muhammad's drumming. The album switches gears on the second track 'Bahia' which has some fantastic horn arrangements, with Fred Wesley on trombone, and it has a chorus of girls singing making it fit for an outdoor beach party. This tune is a Brazilian jazz classic. Ashford and Simpson's 'Hard to Face the Music,' is up next, great track as is the 'Theme for New York City,' but the gem here, and where Idris really shines, is on 'Sudan' and its over 11 minutes long, that puts a smile on my face. He is a fabulous drummer. The perfect trumpet playing on this track, one of the best soul jazz tracks I have ever heard, reminds me of Freddie Hubbard, but its not, its a guy named Tom Harrell, check out his 1989 album Sail Away. The album ends with the Meters' 'Hey Pocky A-Way,' down and dirty funk. I like the variety a lot on this Rudy Van Gelder engineered album.

Idris Muhammad - 1974 - Power of Soul

Idris Muhammad 
Power of Soul

01. Power Of Soul 7:04
02. Piece Of Mind 9:20
03. The Saddest Thing 7:06
04. Loran's Dance 10:39

Keyboards – Bob James
Bass – Gary King
Drums – Idris Muhammad
Guitar – Joe Beck
Percussion – Ralph MacDonald
Soprano Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone – Grover Washington, Jr.
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Randy Brecker

Recorded March, 1974 at Van Gelder Studios.

This album is one of the reasons that Idris Muhammad is regarded as the drumming king of groove. Featuring the arrangements and keyboards of Bob James, the saxophone punch of Grover Washington, Jr., guitarist Joe Beck, trumpeter Randy Brecker, percussionist Ralph MacDonald, and the knife-edge slick production of Creed Taylor, this 1974 issue is a burning piece of deep, jazzy soul and grooved-out bliss. The funk flies fast and heavy, particularly on the title track (Jimi Hendrix's tune), with soaring solos by Grover and James, who fall down in the groove to Muhammad's powerful pace, setting from the heart of the pocket. Beck's own solo is special in that he moves against the tempo just a bit, but that only increases the listener's dependence on the groove of Muhammad. Clocking in at only 34 minutes it's a perfect slice of the raw-onion emotion Muhammad was pulling down at the time. While there isn't a weak track in the four, it's Washington's "Loran's Dance" that takes the cake, even over Hendrix. While the former is dark and heavy, and the immediately preceding tracks by James and Beck, respectively, are light, fancy, free nods to Creed Taylor's hoping for a jazz radio single, it's "Loran's Dance" that showcases not only Washington as an aspiring writer in his own right (this is only a year before Feels So Good and Mr. Magic appeared), but also as a talented interpreter of the edges where jazz and soul come together. James' arrangements are tight, and everybody gets to solo with a little more freedom and grace. Muhammad keeps the pocket wide and Brecker and Washington dance all around in it as James plays the accents furtively. This is some easy-moving, yet musically complex jazz. There is great power in these four tracks to make you move or reflect or just tap your foot while nodding "yeah" at your speakers imperceptibly.

Cool funk soul fusion that oozes from start to finish. Idris's less is more approach to playing the kit creates a mesmerizing groove on all four cuts. He really does have a unique style that truly "carries" the rest of the music. One look at the album cover and one would think that this man spends every waking moment in a mosque, shunning all that is secular. Don't be fooled. This is a funk master to the core and his beats will draw you in......draw you in. The intro to "Loran's Dance" was brilliantly sampled by the Beastie Boys for the opening of their landmark album "Paul's Boutique". Get this one......GET IT!!!

Idris Muhammad - 1971 - Peace And Rhythm

Idris Muhammad 
Peace And Rhythm

01. Peace 12:05
02. Rhythm 5:55
03. Brother You Know You're Doing Wrong 5:40
04. Don't Knock My Love 4:45
05. I'm A Believer 5:20

Bass – Ron Carter
Bass [Fender] – Jimmy Lewis (tracks: B1 to B3)
Bells – Clarence Thomas (tracks: A1, A2)
Congas – Buddy Caldwell
Drums – Idris Muhammad
Electric Piano – Kenny Barron (tracks: A1, A2)
Guitar – Alan Fontaine (tracks: B1 to B3), Melvin Sparks (tracks: B1 to B3)
Percussion, Timbales – Angel Allende (tracks: A1, A2)
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Flute, Arranged By – Clarence Thomas
Trumpet – Virgil Jones
Vibraphone – Willie Bivins (tracks: A1, A2)
Vocals – Sakinah Muhammad (tracks: B1, B3)

Recorded at Van Gelder Studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey on September 13 (tracks 3-5) and September 20 (tracks 1 & 2), 1971

Parts of the second solo album by Prestige Records' house drummer, Idris Muhammad, are an even poppier affair than Black Rhythm Revolution, with a mellow soul-jazz feel replacing the slight Latin tinge of the earlier album... "The Peace and Rhythm Suite" is a side-long suite consisting of two long, spacy compositions that predate the ambient house scene by nearly two decades yet sound entirely of a piece with that style. Long, droning, sustained chords on a variety of wind and reed instruments float above Muhammad's percussion, which ebbs and flows in a free, almost arrhythmic way through most of the piece. Fans of The Orb or Brian Eno will find it an old hat, but for early-'70s jazz, this was downright revolutionary

Idris Muhammad - 1971 - Black Rhythm Revolution!

Idris Muhammad 
Black Rhythm Revolution!

01. Express Yourself 5:30
02. Soulful Drums 4:35
03. Super Bad 5:25
04. Wander 11:05
05. By The Red Sea 8:55

Bass [Fender] – Jimmy Lewis
Congas – Buddy Caldwell
Drums – Idris Muhammad
Electric Piano – Harold Mabern
Guitar – Melvin Sparks
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone – Clarence Thomas
Trumpet – Virgil Jones

Recorded at Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, November 2, 1970

Idris Muhammad was born on November 13,1939, and began playing the drums at age 8 in his native New Orleans. By the time he was 16, he was performing in jazz bands. Muhammad became known as one of the most innovative drummers in soul music of the 1960's, performing with singers Sam Cooke, Jerry Butler, and The Impressions.
He played for the popular musical Hair while performing with the house band for the Prestige Label in the early 1970's. For the rest of that decade, he accompanied popular singer Roberta Flack, led his own band, and worked with Johnny Griffin and Pharaoh Sanders.

An excellent drummer who has appeared in many types of settings, Idris Muhammad became a professional when he was 16. He played primarily soul and R&B during 1962-1964 and then spent 1965-1967 as a member of Lou Donaldson's band. He was the house drummer at Prestige Records (1970-1972), appearing on many albums as a sideman. Of his later jazz associations, Muhammad played with Johnny Griffin (1978-1979), Pharoah Sanders in the 1980s, George Coleman, and the Paris Reunion Band (1986-1988). He has recorded everything from post-bop to dance music as a leader for such labels as Prestige, Kudu, Fantasy, Theresa, and Lipstick.

First off, this isn't one of those sit-around-with-your-forehead-balled-up-manically-chewing-your-fingernails-tryna-microanalyze-each-and-every-nanosecond type records. This is some good solid groove-based soul jazz flavor, perfect for people who want to hear big Idris putting it down in groove mode just prior to his predominantly saccharine CTI stint as a bandleader. 
Well-rocked, breakish rhythms infused throughout this tasty selection of cuts drive the recording, yielding a tight-yet-live, upbeat feel and and some serious repeat listenability.

With a title like "Black Rhythm Revolution!" (and especially that "!" at the end), you'd expect something bold, relentless and perhaps even radical. That's just not the case here though, the title is a tad misleading. Instead, it's a collection that highlights the generosity between musicians. Hardly any single person, including Idris himself, lets their ego get the best of them in an attempt to outshine the other, they all work in harmony as a unified force. There is one song though where Idris shines the light on himself with a powerful and provocative drum solo - "Wander" - and it's righteous beyond belief. He peppers subtle rhythmic polyrhythms against the solid beat structure and it's done in a really forward thinking way. It's a damn near thorough exploration of a groove and it's possibilities. Outside of that dynamic highlight, the rest of the album is solid soul-jazz that doesn't force itself on the listener, but also doesn't hide from the fact that it's ear-candy. It's admirable almost more for what's not on it (flashy show-off for ego's sake) than what's actually coming out of the speakers. Good stuff!