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Hank Crawford: Memphis, Ray and a Touch of Moody

Douglas Payne By

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director from 1958-64, already had his own sound on alto sax by 1960 when he started his own Atlantic recording career (quite a feat in the wake of Bird and the dawn of Cannonball). During the next decade, he produced a consistent catalog of soulful sets for Atlantic, almost all well worth hearing.

This excellent two-disc set brings back four (!) of the best and earliest of Crawford's long out-of-print Atlantic LPs: his debut, More Soul (1960); his third, From the Heart (1961); his fourth, Soul of the Ballad (1963); and his sixth, Dig These Blues (1964). It's a remarkably cohesive, swinging set of first-rate soul jazz, blues and soulful ballads.

More Soul starts it all off with a straight-ahead, fun-filled set of seven solid swingers (even "Misty" swings here). Crawford's well-constructed septet features an alto/tenor/baritone/two trumpet frontline. David "Fathead" Newman shines on tenor, Leroy Cooper grinds on baritone and the trumpeters take several nice spots. But Crawford testifies : he jumps, soars, swoops and glides, never resorting to pretense or showiness. He means what he says and it sounds good.

The same group returns for the great From the Heart, a slowed-down, low-down set of nine blues. Guitarist Sonny Green turns out on three tracks, doing Crawford's sound up Basie style. Crawford, covering soulful standards like "Dat Dere" and "Sister Sadie" on his previous outing, explores more of his own blues here: "Sweet Cakes," "Sherri," "The Peeper" and "Stoney Lonesome."

Soul of the Ballad is a sax-and-strings affair that seems a little out of place here. Nevertheless, Crawford invests warm gusto in a set of too-familiar ballads, arranged by Marty Paich in the same country-soul style he was helping Ray Charles popularize at the time. The excellent Dig These Blues returns Crawford to more familiar ground, digging deep in on some good blues, and Crawford sitting in on piano for the noir blues of "Bluff City Blues" and "The Crazy Saloon."

Memphis, Ray and a Touch of Moody, despite its odd title (referring to Crawford's birthplace, his musical benefactor and, presumably, the saxophonist's affinity for James Moody), offers a satisfying portrait of one of jazz's most soulful alto players and a heaping helping of delicious soul jazz at its best. Recommended.

Tracks:Boo's Tune; Angel Eyes; Four Five Six; The Story; Dat Dere; Misty; Sister Sadie; Don't Cry Baby; Sweet Cakes; You've Changed; Baby Let Me Hold Your Hand; Sherri; The Peeper; But On The Other Hand; Stoney Lonesome; What Will I Tell My H eart; Blueberry Hill; I Left My Heart In San Francisco; Stormy Weather; Sweet Slumber; If I Didn't Care; Stardust; Any Time; Whispering Grass; Time Out For Tears; I'm Getting' Sentimental Over You; There Goes My Heart; Have A Good Time; Dig These Blues; Don't Get Around Much Anymore; Banana Head; H. C. Blues; It's A Sin; Hollywood Blues; Baby Won't You Please Come Home; New Blues; Bluff City Blues.

Personnel: Hank Crawford: alto sax, piano; David "Fathead" Newman, Abdul Baari, Wilbur Brown, Wendell Harrison: tenor sax; Leroy Cooper, Howard Johnson: baritone sax; Phillip Guilbeau, Oliver Beener, Marcus Belgrave, Julius Brooks, Jimmy Owens: trumpet; John Hunt: trumpet, fluegelhorn; Edgar Willis, Ali Mohammed, Charlie Green: bass; Milt Turner, Bruno Carr: drums; Sonny Forrest: guitar; The Marty Paich Orchestra.

Title: Memphis, Ray and a Touch of Moody | Year Released: 1998 | Record Label: 32 Records


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