From Soultrane to Soul Jazz: A Handful of Prestige Reissues

Ken Kase By

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Having recently acquired the considerable catalog of Fantasy Records, Concord has taken on the task of re-releasing some bona-fide jazz classics. Many of the discs, like those in the ongoing Blue Note RVG reissues series, bear the imprint of engineer Rudy Van Gelder's 24-bit remastering (with the exception of Pat Martino's East!, which has been treated to hybrid SACD status by Mobile Fidelity).

Although Fantasy did a credible job of creating good sounding digital masters beginning in the early 1980s, these latest editions feature improved sound and revised liner notes. If the re-emergence of these classic sides awakens interest among the young or otherwise uninitiated, then such efforts to preserve and improve this music are well worthwhile.

John Coltrane
Prestige/Concord Music Group

Almost universally hailed as a John Coltrane classic and easily among the very best of the saxophonist's Prestige albums, this reissue is especially poignant a year after the release of Monk And Trane At Carnegie Hall (Blue Note, 2005). It serves as a good illustration of how profound Monk's influence was during this crucial period in Coltrane's development. "Good Bait" bursts with a furious torrent of ideas running over the simple changes and loping groove, producing the loosest-swinging cut on the album. "I Want to Talk About You", which became a staple of Coltrane's repertoire well into the 1960s, is given a tender, soulful reading and "Russian Lullaby", with its breakneck tempo and fierce precision, points the way to Trane's next great period with Atlantic. A pivotal release, well worthy of re-examination.

Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis
The Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis Cookbook, Vol. 1
Prestige/Concord Music Group

Recorded a few years before saxophonist "Lockjaw" Davis' semi-retirement, and between stints with Count Basie, Cookbook, Vol. 1 is a cut above the myriad run-of-the-mill, so-called soul jazz releases of the late 1950s and early 1960s. On tracks like "Have Horn, Will Blow" and "In the Kitchen", Davis' facile swing intersects with a forceful R&B-inflected slur and honk, making the album a sterling example of what made him so great. Equally arresting is Davis' balladry, as heard on the sultry "But Beautiful". The emergent organist, Shirley Scott, block chords ever at the ready, shines on "The Chef" and "Avalon". Jerome Richardson, whose presence on flute dates these recordings somewhat, nonetheless smokes in a tenor saxophone duet with Davis on "Three Deuces". A fine, filling stew all around. And it's good for you, too.

Miles Davis
Prestige/Concord Music Group

Before his celebrated "comeback" at Newport in 1955, trumpeter Miles Davis had been stoking the creative fires and forming his unique sound and aesthetic with a series of early 1950s albums—some memorable, others less so. Walkin' is clearly one of those early releases that points forward. Davis' playing is assured and confident, and the fantastic rhythm section of pianist Horace Silver, bassist Percy Heath and drummer Kenny Clarke (with his renowned brushwork) shines, especially on the perennial "Solar" and "Love Me Or Leave Me". The title track, which would morph into the more abstract "Sid's Ahead" on Milestones (Columbia, 1958), features trombonist J.J. Johnson and tenor saxophonist Lucky Thompson in fine form, and "Blue 'N' Boogie" just about tears the roof off with a series of classic solos. All in all, a perfect example of Davis' emerging style in the days before the formation of the first great quintet with John Coltrane.

Pat Martino
Prestige/Mobile Fidelity

Although the trendy and somewhat uninspired East Indian vibe of the title track is a bit much to take, this 1968 release is nevertheless a good representation of guitarist Pat Martino's early years. The remaining tracks, including "Trick" and "Close Your Eyes," display a bop-inspired classicism that is unusual for the era. Martino delivers some agile and spirited solos throughout and pianist Eddie Green puts in some workmanlike performances (despite the excruciatingly out of tune, wretchedly recorded piano that no amount of digital preening can rectify). The best track by far is the group's reading of Coltrane's "Lazy Bird", which caps off a patchy but interesting collection of songs.

Jack McDuff
The Honeydripper
Prestige/Concord Music Group

A loose and gutsy set of quartet performances from 1961, The Honeydripper is one of several albums recorded by organist Jack McDuff for Prestige and Blue Note that set the soul jazz standard. Making his recording debut, guitarist Grant Green's performances on "Whap!" and the title track are particularly relaxed—and is that an early hint of growling overdrive that would later punctuate his lines? "Dink's Blues" features the dark, robust tenor saxophone of Jimmy Forrest, while "I Want A Little Girl" and "Blue And Tonic" are fine showcases for McDuff's signature, pre- funk touch on the drawbars.

Tracks and Personnel


Tracks: Good Bait; I Want To Talk About You: You Say You Care; Theme For Ernie; Russian Lullaby.

Personnel: John Coltrane: tenor saxophone; Red Garland: piano; Paul Chambers: bass; Art Taylor: drums.

The Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis Cookbook, Vol. 1

Tracks: Have Horn, Will Blow; The Chef; But Beautiful; In The Kitchen; Three Deuces; But Beautiful (Alt.); Avalon.

Personnel: Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis: tenor saxophone; Jerome Richardson: flute, tenor saxophone (#5); Shirley Scott: organ; George Duvivier: bass; Arthur Edgehill: drums.


Tracks: Walkin'; Blue 'N' Boogie; Solar; You Don't Know What Love Is; Love Me Or Leave Me.

Personnel: Miles Davis: trumpet; J.J. Johnson: trombone; Lucky Thompson: tenor saxophone; David Schildkraut: alto saxophone (#3, #5); Horace silver: piano; Percy Heath: bass; Kenny Clarke: drums.


Tracks: East!; Trick; Close Your Eyes; Park Avenue Petite; Lazy Bird.

Personnel: Pat Martino: guitar; Eddie Green: piano; Ben Tucker: bass, tambourine (#1); Tyrone Brown: bass (#1); Lenny McBrowne: drums.

The Honeydripper

Tracks: Whap!; I Want A Little Girl; The Honeydripper; Dink's Blues; Mr. Lucky; Blues And Tonic.

Personnel: Jack McDuff: organ; Jimmy Forrest: tenor saxophone; Grant Green: guitar; Ben Dixon: drums.


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