Relatively unknown as far as storming tenor players go, Texas-born Curtis Amy perhaps wasn't so storming after all, as this set suggests.
Familiar to rock fans for his solo on the Doors' "Touch Me, Amy was more restrained, more a player of shadings and touch, than his reputation and birthright might lead one to believe. These sessions for the Pacific Jazz label, all cut in the early '60s, open with two albums of the then exceedingly popular combo of organ and tenor, jazz's most strenuous, and arguably contrived, attempt to blend hard bop with the soul and R&B music then dominating the radio waves grease, as Herbie Nichols called it. But Amy must have been relentlessly driven within his own particular style, a niche of the blues for which John William Hardy, in his liner notes, comes off as a full-blown apologist generating excuses and reasons where none are needed; the blues are just fine.
By the time of his third Pacific session, Amy had done away with the organ, and overhauled his band to feature Carmell Jones on trumpet and Bobby Hutcherson on vibes, to go along with Frank Butler at the drums, who would later spend time with Miles Davisas would pianist Victor Feldman, who made his contributions to the Amy band fourteen months following. And with each outing and changing lineup, the results are a marked improvement on those that came before, culminating in the unabashedly brilliant Katanga! session, with Dupree Bolton on trumpet. Songs that leaned more on others for their identities Goin' Down, Catch Me a Woman is a dressed up "Work Song, "Meetin' Here a riff on "My Babe are superseded by performances of so fresh a nature that the art of engagement becomes a composition in and of itself. Tippin' on Through, the penultimate session, from the Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach, is one of those bewitching one-off live albums, ranking alongside Ornette Coleman's Hillcrest date with Paul Bley. And still it doesn't compare to Katanga!this set's bona fide masterpieceso unlike everything else that Amy recorded, qualitatively, that one is scarcely prepared for it, and more than a little, at first, incredulous that this could be the same leader who two years prior was noodling away with Paul Bryant.
The album is one of only two marked by the presence of Bolton, and he has become, somewhat romantically, one of those jazz performers that for whom one laments there wasn't morea Dick Twardzick or Hassan. Amy, who died in 2002, and whose work hardly even gets a mention in any jazz reference bookan oversight this box will hopefully put rightwas by all accounts an affable, generous man and eminently practical in recognizing that boundaries need not be limitations. But for those who like to ponder whither the intersection of art and commerce, that's Amy's wife, Merry Clayton, hollering warnings of bad things to come, on the Stones' "Gimmie Shelter. Perspective, as always.
Disc One: 1. Searchin' 2. Goin' Down, Catch Me A Woman 3. The Blues Message 4. Come Rain Or
Come Shine 5. This Is The Blues 6. Meetin' Here 7. Early In The Morning 8. If I Were A
Bell 9. One More Hamhock Please 10. Angel Eyes 11. Just Friends Disc Two:
1. Gone Into It 2. Annsome 3. Bobbin' 4. Groovin' Blue 5. Beautiful You 6. Very Frank 7.
Way Down 8. Liberia 9. 24 Hours Blues 10. Lisa 11. A Soulful Bee, A Soulful Rose 12. All
My Life 13. Bells And Horns Disc Three: 1. Tippin' On Through 2. Funk In The Evening 3. For Ayers Only 4. In Your Own Sweet
Way 5. Summertime 6. Set Call 7. Katanga 8. Lonely Woman 9. Native Land 10. Amyable
11. You Don't Know What Love Is 12. A Shade Of Brown
Curtis Amy (ts, ss), Roy Brewster, (vtrmb), Paul Bryant (org), Clarence Jones (b), Jimmy
Miller (d), Carmell Jones (t), Boddy Hutcherson (vib), Frank Strazzeri (p), Jimmy Bond (b),
Frank Butler (d), Marcus Belgrave (t), Roy Ayers (vib), John Houston (p), George Morrow
(b), Tony Bazley (d), Victor Feldman (p), Bob Whitlock (b), Larance Marable (d), Dupree
Bolton (t), Ray Crawford (g), Jack Wilson (p), Victor Gaskin (b), Doug Sides (d)