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Charles Kynard: Legends of Acid Jazz

AAJ Staff By

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The name is unfamiliar; the sound is welcome. A full-time teacher in Los Angeles, Charles Kynard did not record often (as a leader, just one album after he left Prestige.) But he’s got that feel you love in an organ: subtle and sweet, and a strut when he needs it. These dates, among his last for the label, show him extra-funky, with strong riffs and a bunch of great players. It doesn’t have flash, but it’s bad all the same. So listen to the teacher – this sound can take a lot of folks to school.

The track is fast for “Afro-Disiac”, as Charles hits a fanfare. Houston Person takes it smooth, a lighter touch than he normally has. The organ wanders high, reedy at times, then deep ‘n’ greasy. Person shouts softly – and I’d love to know how. Then it’s Grant Green, stuttering notes tangy and sweet. This “Afro-Disiac” works – I love the sound! “Bella Donna” is similar; easy at first, the line gathers steam. Person turns gritty, an aggressive honk as the chords drift in. Green is strong, sprinkling the chords as the solo steps high. Very consistent, very thought out. And satisfying – that goes without saying.

“Odds On” is a step up, a simple line goes higher by turns. (It sounds like James Brown, who did this on “Bring It Up”.) Green drips the blues with dark languid notes, and Houston has the late-night howl of despair. Kynard is THICK – juicy chords that are slinky and tough. Not my odds-on favorite, though – that honor belongs to “Sweetheart”. With very familiar chords (used on Little Walter’s “My Babe” and elsewhere) the funk is infectious, and you seek no cure. Jimmy Lewis pounds a killer bass, and Person unloads – that's what we were looking for. And Charles – he is the thread, with little comps that make this live. Eight minutes gone in the speed of a heartbeat. And the romance continues with “Chanson du Nuit”, a luscious ballad with Charles’ liquid tones. He becomes a harpsichord on the solo, dainty shimmers leading to Houston’s vibrato. It fades slowly, and you can hear the stars twinkle. The end of a beautiful day, which you bet will lead to another.

The band is different for the Wa-Tu-Wa-Zui album, but the sound remains, more aggressive this time. The title cut is fast and nervous, centered on the slashing guitar. Rusty Bryant (an old-time R&B honker) pushes hard; love that muscular rasp! Melvin Sparks has a blunt sound: Green was sweeter, but he has more bend to his notes. Virgil Jones spirals upward, the notes resounding broad. The title means “beautiful people”, and the track proves it.

“Winter’s Child” glimmers with the grace of “Chanson”. Charles takes the electric piano; the warbling notes blend well with the unison horns. Intimate, and with strength – the sound of the ‘Sixties. Speaking of which, “Something” could have been dated filler, but it isn’t. The tempo is up, the horns bear down, and none of the sappiness you expect from the tune. Charles starts it like “Spinning Wheel” and takes it strong with a pipe organ sound. Similar to Charles Earland’s Aquarius”, with two men from that session. And we close with the blues – Bryant is victorious from the opening note. He sounds relaxed, and the notes come fast with a bad attitude. Jones floats above him, using well the studio echo. Listen to Sparks, who slides delicious on Jones’ towering solo. His own tumbles free, a springy sound Charles imitates. He pours on the smoke, and the broad strokes taste mighty good. His best effort here, and what a nightcap. It works if you like your organ light, an your jam spicy.


Title: Legends of Acid Jazz | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Prestige Records

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