Every bit as exciting as the hard bop emanating from the East Coast, Katanga! is a reminder of how a large segment of music from the time just seemed to get pushed aside, but is now worthy of a major rediscovery.
Curtis Amy Mosaic Select 7 Mosaic Records
I can still remember doing an interview with Mosaic's Michael Cuscuna several years back when I felt compelled to probe him about the lack of reissues from African American artists who happened to record for the Pacific Jazz label. Many still associate Richard Bock's imprimatur with the 'cool school' and such artists as Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker and fail to understand the full scope of the label's deep catalog. At the time of the interview, the Select series was years from appearance and Cuscuna bemoaned the difficulties he was having with putting out such reissues. At the current time, we can be thankful for Mosaic's efforts that brought to light the complete Pacific Jazz recordings of Gerald Wilson and a recent Select edition that for the first time put trumpeter Carmell Jones' albums for the label on CD.
The present set at hand might just be one of the most important reissues of the past five years. Saxophonist Curtis Amy never got much attention outside of his working environs of Los Angeles but was undeniably an important post swing stylist whose work has been hard to reevaluate due to its scare availability. Several years back Amy's Katanga! was available as a limited edition compact disc and a few ears perked, but now we have in this three-disc set all of Amy's Pacific Jazz output and it is uniformly inspired.
Amy's first two session would be co-led with organist Paul Bryant and originally issued as The Blues Message and Meetin' Here. The personnel is the same on both dates and it's intriguing to hear a West Coast approach to the popular organ combo genre of the early '60s. For Bryant's part, he's clearly more out of the Wild Bill Davis bag than an imitator of Jimmy Smith's histrionics. Amy shares the front line with valve trombonist Roy Brewster and it makes for a more distinctive ensemble sound. Onzy Matthews' "Meetin' Here" might serve as the perfect introduction to Amy's artistry, lively and expressive and with a round tone that at times recalls the work of Teddy Edwards.
For Amy's third Pacific Jazz album he again looks for a collaborator and profits from the efforts of drummer Frank Butler, an incredible musician who too often took a backseat to Shelly Manne in the public eye. This date is also notable for the appearance of vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson some five years yet away from his own debut on Blue Note. Amy and trumpeter Carmell Jones lock in tight for a half dozen original's from the saxophonist's pen and the results are splendid. Butler, who worked with such names as Curtis Counce and Hampton Hawes, even gets a feature of sorts on "Very Frank."
Amy's next two Pacific Jazz sessions from 1962, Way Down and Tippin' On Through , also find the vibes as an integral part of the ensemble color but this time around we're introduced to another new voice. Way before his commercial experiments of the '70s and beyond, Roy Ayers was heralded as an up and comer of some merit and it's easy to see why based on his strong showing here. Look for a very young Marcus Belgrave sitting in on three tracks from Way Down. Amy even gets to stretch out at length on the live sessions from The Lighthouse that comprise the album Tippin' On Through. The aforementioned Katanga! completes this package and the 1963 set would also prove to be Amy's last for the label. Trumpeter Dupree Bolton is as much the star on this set as is Amy and pianist Jack Wilson also makes a formidable impression. Every bit as exciting as the hard bop emanating from the East Coast, Katanga! is a reminder of how a large segment of music from the time just seemed to get pushed aside, but is now worthy of a major rediscovery.
As Michael Cuscuna points out in his postscript accompanying this set, Amy recorded under his own name only two more times prior to his death in the summer of 2002. In the interim he stayed active on the LA studio scene even recording with The Doors and Carole King. His legacy as a jazz artist permeates this long overdue set that comes most highly recommended.
DISC ONE 1. Searchin' (A) 8:44 2. Goin' Down, Catch Me A Woman (A) 9:23 3. The Blues Message (A) 8:38 4. Come Rain Or Come Shine (A) 4:55 5. This Is The Blues (A) 8:23 6. Meetin' Here (B) 7:05 7. Early In The Morning (B) 6:46 8. If I Were A Bell (B) 6:02 9. One More Hamhock Please (B) 8:00 10. Angel Eyes (B) 6:19 11. Just Friends (B) 4:10
DISC TWO 1. Gone Into It (C) 6:14 2. Annsome (C) 8:36 3. Bobbin' (C) 5:18 4. Groovin' Blue (C) 8:13 5. Beautiful You (C) 7:38 6. Very Frank (C) 1:48 7. Way Down (E) 7:38 8. Liberia (E) 6:43 9. 24 Hours Blues (D) 5:20 10. Lisa (D) 2:33 11. A Soulful Bee, A Soulful Rose (D) 6:53 12. All My Life (E) 7:18 13. Bells And Horns (E) 5:36
DISC THREE 1. Tippin' On Through (F) 8:43 2. Funk In The Evening (F) 9:47 3. For Ayers Only (F) 6:51 4. In Your Own Sweet Way (F) 6:34 5. Summertime (F) 6:55 6. Set Call (F) 0:23 7. Katanga (G) 3:02 8. Lonely Woman (G) 3:46 9. Native Land (G) 10:18 10. Amyable (G) 6:11 11. You Don't Know What Love Is (G) 5:57 12. A Shade Of Brown (G) 5:57
Personnel: Curtis Amy (tenor saxophone) with Paul Bryant, Bobby Hutcherson, Carmell Jones, Jimmy Bond, Frank Butler, Roy Ayers, Marcus Belgrave, Victor Feldman, Jack Wilson, and many others
Track Listing: Disc One: Searchin', Goin' Down Catch Me A Woman, The Blues Message, Come Rain Or Come Shine, This Is The Blues, Meetin' Here, Early In The Morning, If I Were A Bell, One More Hamhock Please, Angel Eyes, Just Friends. Disc Two: Gone Into It, Annsome, Bobblin', Groovin' Blue, Beautiful You, Way Down, Liberia, 24 Hours Blues, Lisa, A Soulful Bee A Soulful Rose, All My Life, Bells And Horns. Disc Three: Tippin' On Through, Funk In The Evening, For Ayers Only, In Your Own Sweet Way, Summertime, Set Call, Katanga, Lonely Woman, Native Land, Amyable, You Don't Know What Love Is, A Shade Of Brown, Very Frank.
Personnel: Curtis Amy, tenor sax, soprano sax; Carmell Jones, Marcus Belgrave, Dupree Bolton, trumpet; Roy Brewster, valve trombone; Bobby Hutcherson, Roy Ayers, vibes; Ray Crawford, guitar; Frank Strazzeri, John Houston, Victor Feldman, Jack Wilson, piano; Paul Bryant, organ; Clarence Jones, Jimmy Bond, George Morrow, Bob Whitlock, bass; Jimmy Miller, Frank Butler, Tony Bazley, Larance Marable, Doug Sides, drums.
I love jazz because it is in my blood. It is the only original American art form. It is sacred. The greatest musicians are jazz artists.
I was first exposed to jazz in 1961 listening to my father's records of Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Count Basie, Nat King Cole, Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young.
I met Sonny Stitt, Wayne Shorter, Branford Marsalis, Joey Calderazzo, Michael Brecker, Cannonball Adderley, Walter Booker, Dave Liebman, Joe Lovano, George Benson, Mike
Stern, Stanley Turrentine, Billy Harper, Skip Hadden, Charlie Haden.
The best show I ever attended was Joe Lovano with Soundprints at the Wexner Center in Columbus Ohio in 2014.
The first jazz record I bought was Miles Smiles.