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Various: Have You Had Your Vitamin B-3 Today?

AAJ Staff By

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It's too bad that Have You Had Your Vitamin B-3 Today? wasn't made on vinyl. Then it could be featured in John Corbett's "Vinyl Freak" column in Down Beat, wherein he rediscovers quirky platters with offbeat, outrageous or abstruse cover art.

Label M realizes the value of that long-lost art form—the album cover—and has gone to great creative lengths to revive the ability of album packaging to grab potential customers' attention in the stores. Obviously, the cover of Have You Had Your Vitamin B-3 Today? was designed to visually shout at shoppers as they walk by. The CD's case showcases the drawing of a seductive "nurse" in white thong panties, thigh-high hose and red high heels. The music within the CD coincides with the creative peak of vinyl album covers and with the heyday of such Playboy types of fantasies.

Once you're past the cover, what do you find?

Well, it turns out that producer Joel Dorn has put together his own brand of vitamin B-3 that involves the irresistible appeal of the Hammond B-3 with the sax-and-guitar funk that accompanied it.

Attaining remarkable cooperation among record labels, Dorn was given permission to reissue some of the best jazz organ recordings of the 1960's (plus one in 1971). B-3 experts Bob Porter and Pete Fallico made the recommendations. All of the tracks were recorded at Rudy Van Gelder's famous Englewood Cliffs studio, where he offered keyboard players exceptional instruments for use. (Hank Jones raves about Van Gelder's Steinway grand piano.)

Encompassed in this appreciation of a decreasingly recorded jazz form is a virtual who's who of top saxophonists and organ players. And the tracks include memorable performances by some of the masters of the genre.

The opener is a perfect example of that. Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt create statement and response from the very beginning of "You Talk That Talk" before they get into a tenor sax battle of the titans. The next burner is just as remarkable: the unforgettable teaming of then-husband-and-wife Stanley Turrentine and Shirley Scott. Each with their distinctive voices, the two of them belie the mistaken impression that sometimes organ-and-sax groups forever connoted loudness and overstatement. Quite the opposite is true on Turrentine/Scott's "Trouble," whose theme is reminiscent of "Fever."

Saxophonists who haven't remained in the public consciousness, such as Ike Quebec, fall squarely within the tradition as well. Milt Hinton's bass lines introducing Quebec's "Easy - Don't Hurt" provide an unaccustomed acoustical presence in the group, even though organ quartets often rely on the bass pedals to walk the music.

Lou Donaldson's "Funky Mama" is absolutely consistent with the synthesis of funk and humor that became his trademark a few years before his boogaloo sound took off. And Jimmy Smith's version of "Jumpin' The Blues" with Kenny Burrell and Stanley Turrentine on Smith's Blue Note Midnight Special album remains a classic.

The Vitamin B-3 album is so inspiring that the mind wanders to think of other great pairings that could appear on Vitamin B-3, Part 2: Rahsaan Roland Kirk with Rahn Burton, Mel Rhyne with Johnny Griffin, Hank Marr with Rusty Bryant, Johnny "Hammond" Smith with Oliver Nelson, Jimmy McGriff with Bill Easley, Richard "Groove" Holmes with Teddy Edwards, Wild Bill Davis with Johnny Hodges, Don Patterson with Sonny Stitt, and Dr. Lonnie Smith with Lou Donaldson or a young Joe Lovano.

The real question for hoped-for Part 2 would be: What will the nurse administering the vitamins look like?

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