Although best known for a string of popular and attractive funk numbers in the tradition of “Dat Dere,” pianist and composer Bobby Timmons was in fact a well rounded musician who could speak a varied language as evidenced by his recorded appearances with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and his own series of solo albums. Inexplicably, it has largely been his output for Riverside Records that Fantasy has chosen to reissue over the years, unfairly neglecting the majority of his Prestige sides. You can get a pair of excellent Prestige sets, including the wonderful pairing with Wayne Shorter ( The Soul Man ), on the two-fer Workin’ Out and the solid Chun-King is out as a Japanese disc, but that still leaves a number of Timmons Prestige albums yet to see the light of day.
Of Timmons’ trio sets for Prestige, none seem to pack a punch that is as inherently funky and enjoyable as the long unavailable Little Barefoot Soul, a 1964 session that initially seemed doomed from the start. As the liners tell it, a quintet date was to be in the offing, but then the horns didn’t show and Ray Lucas had to be called in to replace the original drummer. But be it a determined attitude or a bit of Devine intervention, things were salvaged to produce this recital composed mainly of Timmons originals.
Bassist Sam Jones gets things going via an eight-note riff that he repeats over the form of the 12-bar blues. Then Timmons spins out a clever line of his own, complete with a stylish amen cadence. It’s the kind of thing that makes an immediate impression, with the melody running through your head the rest of the afternoon. In fact, it was this tune alone that had me tracking down this album after hearing it on a friend’s turntable some 10 years ago. Four more Timmons originals round things out in addition to the timeless “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen.” With a catchy name to match its resourceful structure, “Walkin’, Wadin’, Sittin’, Ridin’” gets to the heart of the blues, while “Cut Me Loose, Charlie” is a bit of bebop marked by some appealing altered harmonies.
His first set for Prestige, Little Barefoot Soul, remains a minor Timmons gem that has all but been ignored. Maybe if it was paired with his equally rewarding Christmas album ( Holiday Soul ) Fantasy would have a viable two-fer that would fill in a few missing pieces of the puzzle.