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 formthe album coverand 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?
Track Listing: You Talk That Talk, Trouble, The Mighty Burner, This'll Get To Ya, Funky Mama, Easy-Don't Hurt, Jumpin' The Blues, Troubled Times, Blues In Maude's Flat
Personnel: Gene Ammons, Sonny Stitt, Stanley Turrentine, Houston Person, Willis Jackson, Ike Quebec, Yusef Lateef, tenor sax; Lou Donaldson, alto sax; George Freeman, Melvin Sparks, Bill Jennings, Grant Green, Kenny Burrell, guitar; Leon Spencer, Shirley Scott, Charles Earland, Jack McDuff, John Patton, Freddie Roach, Jimmy Smith, Carl Wilson, B-3 organ; Virgil Jones, Tommy Turrentine, Frank Robinson, trumpet; Major Holley, Milt Hinton, Leonard Gaskin, bass; Al Harewood, Alvin Johnson, Ben Dixon, Donald Bailey, Joe Hadrick, drums; Idris Muhammad, drums, vocals; Ray Barretto, conga, tambourine; Buddy Caldwell, Buck Clarke, conga
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.