Groovin in the Summer of Oh Six
We all do it. Some of us do it with a bit of a bounce, while others sort of coolly glide, feet barely touching down. But everyone grooves, and everyone has music that just get 'em to grooving. Here are some different ways to get your groove on for the summer of 2006.
The Best of the Capitol Jazz & Blues Sessions
This twenty-song anthology delivers the definitive overview of Lou Rawls' vocal accomplishments before his late-1970s run with Gamble & Huff for Philly International records popped him into the mainstream.
Like so many other blues-influenced pop singers, Rawls begins right from The Source, the family church, through the opening "Motherless Child, from The Soul Stirring Gospel Sound of the Pilgrim Travelers Featuring Lou Rawls (1962). Lovingly rendered with the Les McCann piano trio for Rawls' first record as a leader (Stormy Monday, 1962), Billie Holiday's "God Bless the Child almost sounds written for the deep, warm blanket of this singer's profoundly comforting voice. The unmistakable heat and light of gospel music also permeates "Something Stirring in My Soul, as well as Rawls' seven-minute workout of Sam Cooke's "Somebody Have Mercy, recorded with the famously funky Muscle Shoals (Studio) Fame Gang in 1970.
While the tunes are mostly solid, some just work better than others. You'd think that "Georgia On My Mind would provide a great vehicle for Rawls' slow-burning voice, but this version from Tobacco Road (1963) is simply a mess: the horn section (led by Curtis Amy's soprano sax), Richard "Groove Holmes' organ solo and Ray Crawford's guitar solo all bump into each other behind, then spill over to overwhelm Rawls' vocal out front.
So skip that and instead dig Rawls' blues from days and nights spent learning his soulful craft in the blues and jazz juke joints of Los Angeles and his Chicago hometown: his toe-tapping stroll through "Nobody But Me ; a lively arrangement of "So Hard to Laugh, So Easy to Cry crowned by Howard Roberts' sharp blues guitar; his soulful in-concert walk down the memoried lanes of "Tobacco Road, where Tommy Strode's piano saunters into barrelhouse boogie and blues; and the set-ending trilogy of Big Bill Broonzy's "Mean Old World with two more Holiday tunes, "Long Gone Blues and "Fine and Mellow, all three recorded with Amy's sextet, previously unreleased, loose-grooved, and swinging fine and mellow indeed.
The RH Factor
A straight-up hard bop player of often stunning ability, Roy Hargrove (RH) needs to play more than straight-up hard bop, and sometimes he embarks on outside projects like The RH Factor for explorations beyond the jazz repertoire. He performs on trumpet and flugelhorn here, with an experimental laboratory that includes a double rhythm section (bassists Reggie Washington and Lenny Stalworth; drummers Jason "JT Thomas and Willie Jones III), guitarist Todd Parsnow, and three keyboard players (Bobby Sparks, Charles McCambell, Renee Neufville), plus David "Fathead Newman as featured saxophone soloist and neo-funk mystery man D'Angelo guest-starring on "Bull***t.
The set begins with the promise of Hargrove's trumpet quicksilver runs through the opening "Distractions (Intro). Then his hot trumpet bounces through the second tune, "Crazy Race ... but these opening glimmers prepare expectations for greatness that the rest of the music just never reveals.
Distractions basically offers two solid pieces: The title track, chaotic yet streamlined modern jazz chopped into four servings as brief as twenty seconds ("Distractions 3 ) and as long as four minutes (the set-ending "4 ), and the track with D'Angelo. The remainder, mainly co-composed with Neufville and featuring her lead vocal, sound like bargain bin Patrice Rushen, limpid music that's not quite jazz or funk.
To be fair, "A Place cops the guitar voicings from Heatwave's classic "Groove Line and scratches them against powerful trumpet blasts; Hargrove opens soft around the edges in a romantic Herb Alpert mood before soaring high and mighty mighty, like Lee Morgan just lettin' it all hang out. Hargrove also finds much inspiration in D'Angelo's bad-ass hip-hop funk groove, singing through his mute just to sound a little edgy, like he was beaming through some magical, time-traveling old-time radio into its thick, rubbery jam.
The fact that he further blows his ass off over the blistering groove of "Distractions 4 more than four minutes, thankfully, of steady rockin' instrumental boilalmost makes the rest of these Distractions more disappointing. The whip-crack sound of the snare drum, its almost ridiculous, sustained fast tempo, and the monumental energy and fever of Hargrove's trumpet are enough to make you wonder, "Where was this guy for the past half hour?