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Oddities From Impulse!: New LPRs

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The Impulse! label became synonymous with the avant-garde since artists like Coltrane, Archie Shepp, and Pharaoh Sanders were in their roster. However, this latest batch of LPRs contains sessions that are quite different from what Impulse! normally offered, and show that Bob Thiele and company had a wide range of interests when they sought out fresh sources for recordings.

Spanish Rice
Clark Terry & Chico O’Farrill
1966

Spanish Rice has all the ingredients for a successful Latin music session: clattering percussionists, a couple of guitars, peppy horns - there’s even a recipe for Spanish rice included for the curious. And one can assume that Chico O’Farrill, who almost single handedly pioneered the use of Latin music in a big band context, is certainly up to the task of establishing a Latin groove with a depth of expression and artistry not present in similar music from the era. But what really edges this recording into compelling avenues is the presence of Clark Terry, who applies the right amount of sizzle or sultriness to his soloing as the moment calls for.

Songs like “The Peanut Vendor” and “Macarena” (no, not that one) deliver on the enthusiasm and exuberance promised from the cover, creating an addictive groove that percolates through the entire album. However, although filled with swagger and joyful exuberance, if there’s one major drawback, it’s that the material can seem too insubstantial at times. “Spanish Rice” for example features a humorous exchange between O’Farrill and Terry, and a doctored “Happiness Is” pokes fun lyrically at several important jazz figures; both are amusing, but neither all that satisfying in the long run.

Despite the few misfires, Terry and O’Farrill serve up a rather tasty assortment of Latin melodies and exotic rhythms. Sure, they weren’t the most successful commercially at this type of Latin instrumental music, but which is the heartier meal: whipped cream (and other delights) or Spanish rice?


Chicken Fat
Mel Brown
1967

Anytime you get a couple of guitar players together you’re going to get the kind of finger busting interplay heard on Chicken Fat ; the question is whether it will be interesting enough to listen to or a tad too self indulgent. For the most part, Mel Brown succeeds in creating a pleasant piece of soul jazz that, on occasion, ventures into straightforward blues tunes.

There’s plenty of guitar solos here, and Brown takes an edgy, almost haphazard approach to soling that leans heavily on blues licks no doubt acquired during a tenure as a sideman with T-Bone Walker. Capable of fusing together riffs and clichés into interesting solos, Brown also makes use of the latest technology, such as primitive distortion techniques and a wah-wah pedal.

One can clearly see why Brown was sought after as a sideman, but Herb Ellis brings a more sophisticated style of noodling to the record, working from a wider vocabulary than Brown has at his disposal. It’s interesting to see how the two work together to create a unique sound, and this pair creates more attractive moments than when Brown is paired with Arthur Wright on the other selections.

But what really holds this session back is some odd choices in instrumentation. Gerald Wiggins plays the feeblest sounding organ ever to be found in a studio and for some odd reason, Ellis uses a twelve-string for many of the tunes to no particular effect, as if he just bought it on the way to the session and wanted to give it a go.

All this aside, your enjoyment of this session will depend on two things: one, your liking of guitar solos and two, your enjoyment of the blues idiom played with a heavy beat. A fairly enjoyable record, but there’s better stuff like this out there.


Soul Sisters
The Gloria Coleman Quartet
1963

Gloria Coleman is about as obscure as it gets; she put out a pair of albums as a leader and that’s about it. As an organist, she’s clearly below greats like Jimmy Smith and Jack McDuff; she can pound out a few chords and put together a decent solo, but lacks the inventiveness or energy of her fellow musicians. However, when you’ve stacked the deck with gifted improvisers like Grant Green and Leo Wright, you don’t have to do much more than keep the groove churning in the background and stay out of the way. Indeed, that’s what happens, and this is a fairly typical organ jazz album that has a couple of great soloists that raise the bar to make it a worthy purchase. There isn’t anything innovative or creative, just a couple of solid ideas that have worked well in the past.

Green was always an eager participant on organ sessions, and his laid back riffing fits right at home once the groove gets going. Wright dazzles as well; a saxophonist who usually found work in other avenues, he adopts the soulful style appropriate to the setting and really digs in with some beautiful playing. The pair makes this album an unexpected treasure, and worth picking up. You won’t feel like you’ve made a discovery, but rather found an artist determined to record something you’ve heard before and always liked.


Verve on the web: http://www.vervemusicgroup.com


Tracks and Personnel

Clark Terry & Chico O’Farrill - Spanish Rice
Tracks: 1. Peanut Vendor 2. Angelitos Negros 3. El Cumbanchero 4. Joonji 5. Que Sera 6. Mexican Hat Dance 7. Spanish Rice 8. Say Si Si 9. Macarena (La Virgen de la Macarena) 10. Tin Tin Deo 11. Contigo en la Distancia 12. Happiness Is.
Personnel: Clark Terry - Trumpet, Flugelhorn; Chico O'Farrill - Arranger, Conductor; Joe Newman - Trumpet, Flugelhorn; Ernie Royal - Trumpet, Flugelhorn; Snooky Young - Trumpet, Flugelhorn; Everett Barksdale – Guitar; Barry Galbraith –Guitar; George Duvivier – Bass; Julio Cruz – Percussion; Frank Malabe – Percussion.

Mel Brown - Chicken Fat
Tracks: 1. Chicken Fat 2. Greasy Spoon 3. Home James 4. Slalom 5. Hobo Flats 6. Shanty 7. Sad But True 8. I’m Goin’ To Jackson 9. Blues For Big Bob.
Personnel: Mel Brown – guitar; Herb Ellis – guitar; Gerald Wiggins – organ; Ronald Brown – bass; Paul Humphrey – drums; Arthur Wright – guitar; Oliver Nelson – arranger.

The Gloria Coleman Quartet – Soul Sisters
Tracks: 1. Que Baby 2. Sadie Green 3. Hey Sonny Red 4. Melba’s Minor 5. Funky Bob 6. My Lady’s Waltz.
Personnel: Gloria Coleman – organ; Pola Roberts – drums; Grant Green – guitar; Leo Wright – tenor saxophone.


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