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Jimmy McGriff: Electric Funk

Douglas Payne By

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This 1969 Sonny Lester production was one nearly hopelessly lost slab of solid funk. It often popped up in cut-out bins when records were still waxed. When used-record stores started disappearing, beauties like this started vanishing too. But Blue Note's blessed Rare Groove series has exhumed all 32 minutes of this hard-hitting fon-kee gem (and, to its credit, retained the original but dated cover art too). Acid jazzers are probably already familiar with "The Bird Wave," which appeared on the Blue Note Rare Grooves compilation issued in 1996. The great news is that the rest of Electric Funk goes like this too. No sap, no frills. Just good true groove. In 1997, nay-sayers accuse this street soul (which prevailed in the early 70s) of being nothing more than TV cop-show music and Blaxploitation soundtrack stuff. Lovers will say that's the point. But in 1969, this was the next step for soul jazz; a genre Jimmy McGriff has always ruled. From his early Sue classics (all of which were recently released on CD by the Collectibles label) to his Solid State records in the 60s and on to his Sonny Lester productions on Groove Merchant and LRC in the 70s, this man has always known how to rock a groove.

Unfortunately, credits are limited here to the organ grinder and his arranger (Horace Ott - a staple of the orchestrated groove in the 70s). Some sources indicate Stanley Turrentine and Blue Mitchell sit in the orchestra pit (very brief tenor and trumpet features indicate it's certainly possible). It'd be nice, however, to know the identities of the fuzz guitarist heard here and the funky drummer (who has the rhythmic familiarity of Bernard Purdie).

Ott's arrangements are riff-oriented and stay out of McGriff's way. They often launch McGriff into one clever line after another and, fortunately, never tempt him to out-modulate the horn section as was so often the case on McGriff's earlier big-band tribute to Count Basie. Here's hoping Blue Note has room left in the budget to bring back the long-lost grooves of McGriff's The Worm (1968) and Black Pearl (1971) too.


Title: Electric Funk | Year Released: 1997 | Record Label: Blue Note Records

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