When Eric Kloss recorded Introducing Eric Kloss at Rudy Van Gelder's studio in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., in September 1965 he couldn't drive. For one, he was blind since birth. For another, he was just 16. But Kloss could blow, as evidenced by his sidemen: Don Patterson (org), Pat Martino (g) and Billy James (d),
Born in Greenville, Pa., Kloss attended the Western Pennsylvania School for the Blind, which was run by his father. Like Ray Charles, George Sharing, Al Hibbler, Rahsaan Roland Kirk and so many other blind jazz artists, Kloss spent his youth searching inward and emerged with enormous soul and skill. By age 12, he was playing at clubs in nearby Philadelphia with touring artists such as Sonny Stitt.
It's unclear how Kloss came to the attention of Prestige owner Bob Weinstock or producer Cal Lampley in New York. The liner notes don't offer a clue. I'd guess that one or more of Prestige's touring artists, possibly Patterson or Stitt, hipped the label's executives.
At any rate, Kloss's introductory album was a sterling success. Close Your Eyes and Old Folks are standards while 'S 'Bout Time is by Patterson. Kloss wrote That's the Way It Is, a slow blues, while the album's balance consists of Miles Davis's All Blues and the standard Embraceable You. Kloss played alto sax on Old Folks, That's the Way It Is and Embraceable You, and tenor on Close Your Eyes, 'S 'Bout Time and All Blues.
Kloss recorded 20 leadership albums but stopped recording in 1981, reportedly due to health issues. Life Force (1967) and Now (1978) are also among my favorites of his. For more information about Kloss, go here.
Introducing Eric Kloss is a splendid gateway to the saxophonist, whose horn grew a little freer as the years passed. You can hear in his playing a yearning and a vision that transcends sight. Through his horn, you're able to see directly into his soul.
JazzWax tracks: For whatever reason, Introducing Eric Kloss never made it to the digital format. However, in the early 2000s, Prestige released About Time, a CD that combined Introducing Eric Kloss with his second album, Love and All That Jazz. Unfortunately this album, too, is unavailable, though you can find rare copies here. Prestige may want to consider re-issuing these Kloss albums along with several others.
JazzWax clips: Fortunately, three tracks from Introducing Eric Kloss are up at YouTube: