In 1967 many aspiring musicians picked up the guitar as their instrument of choice, but most were interested in becoming the next Bob Dylan rather than the next Wes Montgomery. It’s understandable, then, that Phil Upchurch’s debut as a leader got lost in the shuffle. At this point he had worked as a sideman with some of the best artists in the rhythm and blues field, like Otis Rush and B.B. King, and would later follow the fusion movement with George Benson’s outfit in the seventies. However, Feeling Blue demonstrates that he was more than capable of handling the spotlight.
Half of the selections feature a high octane horn section where Upchurch no doubt felt right at home, and the R&B leanings of “Feeling Blue” and “Muscle Soul” give the guitarist plenty of opportunities to exercise his chops, cleanly executed and tasteful at any speed. But when the group approaches jazz standards and pop tunes they fall prey to the over-orchestration that marred Wes Montgomery’s later releases. “Tangerine,” for instance, is too muscular, and “Up, Up, and Away” sounds horribly dated today.
If the entire session featured this approach, then the album as a whole would be clearly sub par. However, the real treats are the quintet tracks, in which Upchurch is the sole lead instrument and is backed by a crack rhythm section. The handful of jazz standards and originals showcase his skill with single note and chord-based solos. The guitarist makes serviceable material out of “Corcovado” and “I Want A Little Girl” but turns in two truly great performances with a heavily swinging “Israel” and a bluesy “Sabaceous Lament” that display a formidable soloist with a bit of edge and plenty of tasty licks. Released for the first time on CD, Feeling Blue is a great jazz guitar record that, while flawed, displays a musician of considerable talent.
Track Listing: 1. Felling Blue 2. Stop and Listen 3. Corcovado 4. Really Sincere 5. Tangerine 6. Up, Up, and Away 7. Israel 8. Sabaceous Lament 9. Muscle Soul 10. I Want A Little Girl.
Personnel: On 3, 4, 7, 8, 10: Phil Upchurch - guitar; Wynton Kelly - piano; Richard Davis - bass; Jimmy Cobb - drums; Montego Joe - congas. Other selections: Phil Upchurch - guitar; Wallace Davenport - trumpet; Ed Pazant, John Gilmore, Pat Patricl - reeds; Al Williams - piano, celeste; Chuck Rainey - electric bass; Bernard Purdie - drums; Warren Smith - congas, vibraharp.
I've always loved jazz ...my mother was a classical pianist and my aunt was a blues singer, who was managed by Clarence Williams (Bessie Smith's producer). As a young boy, they introduced me to people like Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan, and Jimmy Smith
I've always loved jazz ...my mother was a classical pianist and my aunt was a blues singer, who was managed by Clarence Williams (Bessie Smith's producer). As a young boy, they introduced me to people like Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan, and Jimmy Smith. We hung out at my Aunt Kate's Soul Food restaurant in Harlem after the matinees at the Apollo where I listened to their stories. I knew I wanted to be a jazz musician from then on. My mother wanted me to play piano, but my Aunt bought me a guitar. I've been playing ever since.
At my mother's early prompting, I first sang Blue Velvet at my Catholic elementary school...and all the nuns came running in and asked me to sing again, so I knew I must have sounded pretty good. I've been singing ever since.
I met Tony Bennett in Miami and he inspired me to return to New York. He was a great mentor.
The best show I ever attended is mpossible to say, I've seen so many great shows. From Tony Bennett to Pat Martino, Return to Forever to Weather Report...I've seen some great performances.
My advice to new listeners is don't let jazz intimidate you, the music has something for every listener and it is our American gift to the world.