Anyone struck with a sense of deja vu by this recording, is not alone. Even without reference to Big John Patton's 1968 album Understanding , the feel of the late '60s and early '70s is overwhelming. Whether it is called Soul Jazz or funk, it has strong echoes of an era when the Hammond B-3 was king. Whoever it wasCharles Earland or maybe Richard Holmesthe music swept listeners along with whatever mix of voices comprised the band. To many, they were, or seemed, at least, better times. No one is expecting to hear The Fifth Dimension's "Let the Sunshine In" again anytime soon. In any event, Patton's album was considered by many to be a classic, and the music, by folks such as Sonny Rollins and Kenny Burrell, sure did not hurt.
It is, alas, difficult to follow a classic. Harold Alexander was a pretty fair saxophonist when giants walked the Earth. Edwin Bayard is a good player as well, but the saxophone has evolved so much that even a fair R&B player is apt to get lost in the shuffle today. Robert Mason is also a nice player, but John Patton was, at least on Understanding (Blue Note, 1968), having a pretty good day. And so it goes with almost everything else on this recording. James Gaiters is an accomplished drummer and has played with Mulgrew Miller, Terell Stafford, and James Carter, among many others. But a self-inflicted desire to urge comparisons with a Blue Note classic is a case of "careful what you wish for." Some of the soloists seem to run out of ideas before they run out of time, which is a pity. Fortunately, Gaiters never really runs out of energy.
If this recording only makes younger listeners curious about the kind of sounds that dominated the FM airwaves back in the '60s and '70s, it will have done a valuable service. And they will hear some interesting music, revived and reimagined, as well.
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