Saxophonist Hank Crawford will forever be linked to his one-time employer, the great Ray Charles, in the minds of R&B lovers, but soul-fusion fans are likely to remember him for a string of albums he recorded on the Kudu label in the 1970s. Crawford and tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine proved to be the two pillars of potent saxophone soul in label head/producer Creed Taylor's stable during this era, but Crawford's work is often overlooked now, while Turrentine's albums still get plenty of recognition. Few would argue that Turrentine classics like Sugar (CTI, 1970) or Salt Song (CTI, 1971) are deserving of the reissue treatment, but Crawford's oeuvre also merits a return visit, and CTI Masterworks finally rectified this issue with the inclusion of this disc in its final wave of reissues celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the label.
For this, his fourth Kudu outing, Crawford turns to the music of Stevie Wonder, including two of the Motown star's songs on the date ("All In Love Is Fair" and "Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing"), as well as contributing an original that has shades of "Superstition" subconsciously sewn into its melodic design ("Sho Is Funky"). With Bob James onboard to provide arrangements, the saxophonist rounds out the program with two other originals that provide a more complete view of his talents, while lending some variety to the proceedings. "Jana" is a complete stylistic detour, with a woozy melody that speaks volumes about what Crawford learned while in Charles' employ, while "Groove Junction" ends the album on a hip, swinging note, as drummer Idris Muhammad drives the band from below with his inimitable cymbal work.
A few musicians have an opportunity to step into the spotlight, including underrated guitarist Hugh McCracken ("Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing"), but Crawford occupies the driver's seat for the large majority of this date, and his performances never disappoint. While this particular disc is bereft of bonus tracks, making for a short thirty-five minutes listen, it's more important to be thankful for what it has: an abundance of soul in the form of the one and only Hank Crawford.
Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing; Jana; All In Love Is Fair; Sho Is Funky; Groove Junction.
Hank Crawford: alto saxophone; Phil Bodner: alto flute, piccolo, tenor saxophone; Joe Farrell: flute, tenor saxophone; Jerry Dodgion: flute, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Pepper Adams: baritone saxophone; Romeo Penque: baritone saxophone; Randy Brecker: trumpet, flugelhorn; Jon Faddis: trumpet, flugelhorn; Alan Rubin: trumpet, flugelhorn; Dave Taylor: bass trombone; Bob James: electric piano, clavinet, Arp; Richard Tee: piano, organ; Hugh McCracken: guitar, harmonica (4); Ron Carter: bass (5); Gary King: bass; Idris Muhammad: drums (2, 4, 5); Bernard Purdie: drums (1, 3); Ralph McDonald: percussion, conga; Alexander Cores: violin; Lewis Eley: violin; Max Ellen: violin; Paul Gershman: violin; Emmanuel Green: violin; Charles Libove: violin; Harry Lookofsky: violin; David Nadien: violin; Matthew Raimondi: violin; Al Brown: viola; Manny Vardi: viola; Charles McCracken: cello; George Ricci: cello.