The Hammond B-3 soul-jazz sound of Big John Patton (as he was then called) was perfect for the 1960s. It was the groove that drew attention and Patton made several albums for Blue Note. As his style went out of favor, some of the recordings never saw the light of day until almost 20 years later and at the same time Patton slipped into the background. He resurfaced in the 1980s and went into the studio. Among his albums Soul Connection, originally released in 1983 on Nilva Records (the label owned by drummer Alvin Queen) has now been re-released.
Patton had a strong band with him on this record. Trombonist Grachan Moncur III fits in just nicely. Moncur never shies from a challenge and his playing here is strong and imaginative. Guitarist Melvin Sparks has found his calling in several hyphenated jazz genres including acid, soul and funk, and saxophonist Grant Reed has played with Mongo Santamaria. Queen has a lively history having been part of the sound set up by Junior Mance, Stanley Turrentine and Charles Tolliver, among others. The band is the perfect conglomeration for the music here.
The title track kicks off the jam, with Moncur and Reed setting up the soul-jazz atmosphere. The melody grabs instantly and once the horns are established, Patton comes in. He stays with the melody but extrapolates it with a compact sense of direction, ringing the changes with just a little grease to slip and slide in and out of the groove. Reed injects boppish lines to give the tune a nice change of direction.
The band is in its element as they make "Extensions" swing. Sparks literally fires the first salvo with notes that light up the melody as he plays with an easy gait. Reed is hardy, hitting the deep end with taut notes, once more driving the tune into bop territory. Patton changes the tenor, the organ providing a lighter air as he prances lithely while Queen pushes the front line with his crisp accents and sense of rhythm. It all falls neatly into place.
Time has not effaced nor worn the impact of this music. It is still relevant, making this a welcome re-issue.
Soul Connection; Pinto; Extensions; Space Station; The Coaster.
John Patton: Hammond B-3 organ; Grachan Moncur III: trombone; Grant Reed: tenor sax; Melvin Sparks: guitar; Alvin Queen: drums.
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