everybodydigs#121 Sonny Rollins – Saxophone Colossus

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everybodydigs# is a series of posts about Jazz, Funk, Soul & R’n’b albums released from the 20s to the 90s, you can read a brief description/review and listen to a small preview (when it’s possible). everybodydigs# is like when someone tells you “hey you should listen to this album!” and nothing less, enjoy!

Though he lacked the improvisational fire of John Coltrane or the restless curiosity of Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins played with a rich, round tone that complemented his melodic inclinations, making him the most accessible of the postbop musicians. Saxophone Colossus is the most successful of the late 1950s albums that made his reputation. Rollins’s playing never falters; he’s backed by the redoubtable Max Roach on drums, Tommy Flanagan on piano, and Doug Watkins on bass. Rollins is equally at home with the lilting Caribbean air of “St. Thomas,” standards (“You Don’t Know What Love Is”), blues (“Strode Rode,” featuring a driving Flanagan solo), and a smoldering version of Brecht-Weill’s “Moritat” (better known as “Mac the Knife”). If you are new to jazz, there is no better place to start than Saxophone Colossus. –Steven Mirkin

Rappamelo’s favorite track:

everybodydigs#120 Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong – Porgy & Bess

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everybodydigs# is a series of posts about Jazz, Funk, Soul & R’n’b albums released from the 20s to the 90s, you can read a brief description/review and listen to a small preview (when it’s possible). everybodydigs# is like when someone tells you “hey you should listen to this album!” and nothing less, enjoy!

There have been many recordings of the music from the Gershwin opera Porgy and Bess, but this is one of the more rewarding ones. Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald sing all of the parts, performing 16 of the play’s best melodies. Unfortunately, there is not much Armstrong trumpet to be heard, but the vocals are excellent and occasionally wonderful, making up for the unimaginative Russ Garcia arrangements assigned to the backup orchestra.

Rappamelo’s favorite track:

everybodydigs#119 Wes Montgomery – The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery

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everybodydigs# is a series of posts about Jazz, Funk, Soul & R’n’b albums released from the 20s to the 90s, you can read a brief description/review and listen to a small preview (when it’s possible). everybodydigs# is like when someone tells you “hey you should listen to this album!” and nothing less, enjoy!

The incredible Wes Montgomery of 1960 was more discernible and distinctive than the guitarist who would emerge a few years later as a pop stylist and precursor to George Benson in the ’70s. On this landmark recording, Montgomery veered away from his home Indianapolis-based organ combo with Melvin Rhyne, the California-based Montgomery Brothers band, and other studio sidemen he had been placed with briefly. Off to New York City and a date with Tommy Flanagan’s trio, Montgomery seems in his post- to hard bop element, swinging fluently with purpose, drive, and vigor not heard in an electric guitarist since bop progenitor Charlie Christian. Setting him apart from the rest, this recording established Montgomery as the most formidable modern guitarist of the era, and eventually its most influential. Montgomery is clearly talented beyond convention, consistently brilliant, and indeed incredible in the company of his sidemen, and this recording — an essential addition to every jazz guitarist fan’s collection — put him on the map. (allmusic)

Personnel: Wes Montgomery (guitar); Tommy Flanagan (piano); Percy Heath (bass); Albert Heath (drums).

Rappamelo’s favorite track:

everybodydigs#118 Donny Hathaway – Everything Is Everything

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everybodydigs# is a series of posts about Jazz, Funk, Soul & R’n’b albums released from the 20s to the 90s, you can read a brief description/review and listen to a small preview (when it’s possible). everybodydigs# is like when someone tells you “hey you should listen to this album!” and nothing less, enjoy!

Already a respected arranger and pianist who’d contributed to dozens of records (by artists ranging from the Impressions to Carla Thomas to Woody Herman), with this debut LP Donny Hathaway revealed yet another facet of his genius — his smoky, pleading voice, one of the best to ever grace a soul record. Everything Is Everything sounded like nothing before it, based in smooth uptown soul but boasting a set of excellent, open-ended arrangements gained from Hathaway’s background in classical and gospel music. Donny Hathaway’s debut introduced a brilliant talent into the world of soul, one who promised to take R&B farther than it had been taken since Ray Charles debuted on Atlantic. (allmusic)

Rappamelo’s favorite track:

everybodydigs#117 Dexter Gordon – Gettin’ Around

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everybodydigs# is a series of posts about Jazz, Funk, Soul & R’n’b albums released from the 20s to the 90s, you can read a brief description/review and listen to a small preview (when it’s possible). everybodydigs# is like when someone tells you “hey you should listen to this album!” and nothing less, enjoy!

Dexter Gordon’s mid-’60s period living in Europe also meant coming back to the U.S. for the occasional recording session. His teaming with Bobby Hutcherson was intriguing in that the vibraphonist was marking his territory as a maverick and challenging improviser. Here the two principals prove compatible in that they have a shared sense of how to create sheer beauty in a post-bop world. Add the brilliant Barry Harris to this mix, and that world is fortunate enough to hear these grand masters at their creative peak, stoked by equally extraordinary sidemen like bassist Bob Cranshaw and drummer Billy Higgins, all on loan from Lee Morgan’s hitmaking combo. The subtle manner in which Gordon plays melodies or caresses the most recognizable standard has always superseded his ability to ramble through rough-and-tumble bebop. While this is not Gordon’s ultimate hard bop date, it is reflective of his cooling out in Europe, adopting a tonal emphasis more under the surface than in your face. It’s not essential, but quite enjoyable, and does mark a turning point in his illustrious career. (allmusic)

Personnel: Dexter Gordon (tenor saxophone); Bobby Hutcherson (vibraphone); Barry Harris (piano); Bob Cranshaw (bass); Billy Higgins (drums).

Rappamelo’s favorite track:

everybodydigs#116 Stan Getz / Dizzy Gillespie – Diz & Getz

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everybodydigs# is a series of posts about Jazz, Funk, Soul & R’n’b albums released from the 20s to the 90s, you can read a brief description/review and listen to a small preview (when it’s possible). everybodydigs# is like when someone tells you “hey you should listen to this album!” and nothing less, enjoy!

Dizzy Gillespie was at the peak of his powers throughout the 1950s, still the pacesetter among trumpeters. This albun matches Dizzy with Stan Getz, the Oscar Peterson Trio and drummer Max Roach. Getz, although identified with the “cool” school, thrived on competition and is both relaxed and combative on the uptempo explorations of “It Don’t Mean a Thing” and “Impromptu”.

Personnel: Dizzie Gillespie (trumpet); Stan Getz, Hank Mobley (tenor saxophone); Oscar Peterson, Wade Legge (piano); Herb Ellis (guitar); Ray Brown, Lou Hackney (bass); Max Roach, Charlie Persip (drums).

Rappamelo’s favorite track:

everybodydigs#115 Aretha Franklin – I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You

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everybodydigs# is a series of posts about Jazz, Funk, Soul & R’n’b albums released from the 20s to the 90s, you can read a brief description/review and listen to a small preview (when it’s possible). everybodydigs# is like when someone tells you “hey you should listen to this album!” and nothing less, enjoy!

While the inclusion of “Respect” — one of the truly seminal singles in pop history — is in and of itself sufficient to earn I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You classic status, Aretha Franklin’s Atlantic label debut is an indisputable masterpiece from start to finish. Much of the credit is due to producer Jerry Wexler, who finally unleashed the soulful intensity so long kept under wraps during her Columbia tenure; assembling a crack Muscle Shoals backing band along with an abundance of impeccable material, Wexler creates the ideal setting to allow Aretha to ascend to the throne of Queen of Soul, and she responds with the strongest performances of her career. While the brilliant title track remains the album’s other best-known song, each cut on I Never Loved a Man is touched by greatness; covers of Ray Charles’ “Drown in My Own Tears” and Sam Cooke’s “Good Times” and “A Change Is Gonna Come” are on par with the original recordings, while Aretha’s own contributions — “Don’t Let Me Lose This Dream,” “Baby, Baby, Baby,” “Save Me,” and “Dr. Feelgood (Love Is a Serious Business)” — are perfectly at home in such lofty company. A soul landmark. (allmusic)

Rappamelo’s favorite track:

everybodydigs#114 Kenny Burrell – Midnight Blue

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everybodydigs# is a series of posts about Jazz, Funk, Soul & R’n’b albums released from the 20s to the 90s, you can read a brief description/review and listen to a small preview (when it’s possible). everybodydigs# is like when someone tells you “hey you should listen to this album!” and nothing less, enjoy!

Kenny Burrell’s music is a wonderful blend of elegance and conviction, musical inventiveness and thoughtful restraint. On this 1967 session, the guitarist is joined by regular associates–tenorist Stanley Turrentine, conga drummer Ray Barretto, bassist Major Holley, and drummer Bill English–and together they concentrate on the subtlest and deepest hues of the blues, combining strong rhythmic grooves with a feeling of late-night reflection. There’s never a misstep or a superfluous note, from the funky Latin hit “Chitlins Con Carne” to Burrell’s deeply felt solo “Soul Lament” and the concentrated swing of “Gee, Baby, Ain’t I Good to You.”

Rappamelo’s favorite track:

everybodydigs#113 Bobbi Humphrey – Blacks And Blues

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everybodydigs# is a series of posts about Jazz, Funk, Soul & R’n’b albums released from the 20s to the 90s, you can read a brief description/review and listen to a small preview (when it’s possible). everybodydigs# is like when someone tells you “hey you should listen to this album!” and nothing less, enjoy!

Bobbi Humphrey scored her biggest hit with her third album Blacks and Blues, an utterly delightful jazz-funk classic that helped make her a sensation at Montreux. If it sounds a lot like Donald Byrd’s post-Black Byrd output, it’s no accident; brothers Larry and Fonce Mizell have their fingerprints all over the album, and as on their work with Byrd, Larry handles all the composing and most of the arranging and production duties. It certainly helps that the Mizells were hitting on all cylinders at this point in their careers, but Humphrey is the true star of the show; she actually grabs a good deal more solo space than Byrd did on his Mizell collaborations, and she claims a good deal of responsibility for the album’s light, airy charm. Her playing is indebted to Herbie Mann and, especially, Hubert Laws, but she has a more exclusive affinity for R&B and pop than even those two fusion-minded players, which is why she excels in this setting. Mizell is at the peak of his arranging powers, constructing dense grooves with lots of vintage synths, wah-wah guitars, and rhythmic interplay. Whether the funk runs hot or cool, Humphrey floats over the top with a near-inexhaustible supply of melodic ideas. She also makes her vocal debut on the album’s two ballads, “Just a Love Child” and “Baby’s Gone”; her voice is girlish but stronger than the genre standard, even the backing vocals by the Mizells and keyboardist Fred Perren. Overall, the album’s cumulative effect is like a soft summer breeze, perfect for beaches, barbecues, and cruising with the top down. (allmusic.com)

Peronnel: Bobbi Humphrey (flute, vocals); Chuck Rainey, Ron Brown (bass); Fonce Mizell (clavinet, trumpet, backing vocals); King Erison (congas); Harvey Mason (drums); Jerry Peters (electric piano); David T. Walker, John Rowin (guitar); Stephanie Spruill (percussion); Fred Perren (synthesizer, backing vocals); Larry Mizel (backing vocals).

Rappamelo’s favorite track:

everybodydigs#112 Donald Byrd – Black Byrd

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everybodydigs# is a series of posts about Jazz, Funk, Soul & R’n’b albums released from the 20s to the 90s, you can read a brief description/review and listen to a small preview (when it’s possible). everybodydigs# is like when someone tells you “hey you should listen to this album!” and nothing less, enjoy!

Purists howled with indignation when Donald Byrd released Black Byrd, a full-fledged foray into R&B that erupted into a popular phenomenon. Byrd was branded a sellout and a traitor to his hard bop credentials, especially after Black Byrd became the biggest-selling album in Blue Note history. What the elitists missed, though, was that Black Byrd was the moment when Byrd’s brand of fusion finally stepped out from under the shadow of his chief influence, Miles Davis, and found a distinctive voice of its own. Never before had a jazz musician embraced the celebratory sound and style of contemporary funk as fully as Byrd did here — not even Davis, whose dark, chaotic jungle-funk stood in sharp contrast to the bright, breezy, danceable music on Black Byrd. Byrd gives free rein to producer/arranger/composer Larry Mizell, who crafts a series of tightly focused, melodic pieces often indebted to the lengthier orchestrations of Isaac Hayes and Curtis Mayfield. They’re built on the most straightforward funk rhythms Byrd had yet tackled, and if the structures aren’t as loose or complex as his earlier fusion material, they make up for it with a funky sense of groove that’s damn near irresistible. Byrd’s solos are mostly melodic and in-the-pocket, but that allows the funk to take center stage. Sure, maybe the electric piano, sound effects, and Roger Glenn’s ubiquitous flute date the music somewhat, but that’s really part of its charm. Black Byrd was state-of-the-art for its time, and it set a new standard for all future jazz/R&B/funk fusions — of which there were many. Byrd would continue to refine this sound on equally essential albums like Street Lady and the fantastic Places and Spaces, but Black Byrd stands as his groundbreaking signature statement. (allmusic.com)

Personnel: Donald Byrd (vocals, trumpet, electric trumpet, flugelhorn); Fonce Mizell (vocals, trumpet); Freddie Perren (vocals, electric piano, synthesizer); Larry Mizell (vocals); David T. Walker, Dean Parks, Barney Perry (guitar); Allan Curtis Barnes (flute, oboe, saxophone); Roger Glenn (flute, saxophone); Joe Sample (piano, electric piano); Kevin Toney (piano); Chuck Rainey, Wilton Felder (electric bass); Harvey Mason, Sr. , Keith Killgo (drums); Perk Jacobs, Stephanie Spruill, Bobbye Hall, Bobbye Porter (percussion).

Rappamelo’s favorite track: