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Charles Kynard: Legends of Acid Jazz

Douglas Payne By

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Charles Kynard (1933-79) had a brief, rather low-key career as an organist. By day, he maintained a full-time career working with kids with special needs and taught piano between gigs and his job. He only recorded infrequently, doing sessions and two albums under his own name for Pacific Jazz in the early 1960s and several sessions and three records under his own name for Mainstream Records during 1971-74. But it is, perhaps, the four records he did for Prestige between 1968 and 1970 that the organist is best known for. Legends of Acid Jazz combines the last two of these, Afro-Disiac and Wa-Tu-Wa-Zui.

On both, Kynard showcases his remarkable ability to exploit the heck out of an interesting groove. The best of his originals usually sticks to variations of the blues or out-and-out boogaloos. But it's the machine-gun attack of his left hand and the churning grind he maintains with his feet - despite the ever-presence of a bassist - that separates Kynard's playing from the crowd. The counterpoint he offers with his right hand is what usually puts the fun in his funk.

Afro-Disiac pits the organist in a quintet with tenor staple Houston Person and elevated by the presence of guitarist Grant Green. This was a reunion of sorts for Kynard and Green, the two having appeared together on 1968's The Soul Brotherhood. The originals, mostly by Kynard's school chum Richard Fritz, and Kynard's eloquent cushioning offer an ideal environment for the guitarist - much more favorable than Green's own recordings from the period.

Kynard is more of a featured presence on the Wa-Tu-Wa-Zui, adding his electric piano stylings to "Winter's Child" and the dance floor classic, "Zebra Walk." Here, Kynard revels in a sextet that features the much-lamented honker Rusty Bryant, trumpeter Virgil Jones and guitarist Melvin Sparks. The tunes aren't as memorable as the first session and the playing doesn't have the edge or energy that Kynard could generate elsewhere (for evidence, check out the monster Reelin' with the Feelin', which is paired with Wa-Tu-Wa-Zui on the British BGP CD). But this "legend of acid jazz" is worth hearing and exploring and for fans of guitarist Grant Green, the first six songs are required listening.

Songs:Afro-Disiac; Bella Donna; Trippin'; Odds On; Sweetheart; Chanson du Nuit; Wa-Tu-Wa-Zui (Beautiful People); Winter's Child; Zebra Walk; Something; Change Up.

Players:Charles Kynard: organ, electric piano; Houston Person, Rusty Bryant: tenor sax; Virgil Jones: trumpet; Grant Green, Melvin Sparks: guitar; Jimmy Lewis: Fender bass; Idris Muhammad, Bernard Purdie: drums.

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


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