Shirley Scott – Shirley Scott & The Soul Saxes (1969)

Undeservedly obscure but near essential in your collection, this recording from the peak Atlanta Records soul era features some major players and a great set list. In itself this is no guarantee of a classic; this dynamite disc, however, delivers the goods in abundance. Organist Shirley Scott had been a prolific soul-jazz recording artist since the late fifties, and appeared on a brace of sixties Blue Note LPs with her husband Stanley Turrentine. On Shirley Scott & The Soulful Saxes she turns up the heat with tremendous exuberance and a horn section that will knock the fillings out of your teeth. Hank Crawford, King Curtis and David “Fathead” Newman are the titular soulful saxes, joined by Ernie Royal on trumpet. Together they blast the punchy arrangements out of the stadium, and with in-demand session players Eric Gale on guitar, Chuck Rainey on bass, and the legendary soul drummer Bernard “Pretty” Purdie, you know your soul is coming at you with a large dose of funk underneath. Shirley Scott is the guiding light, steering the ensemble through searing covers of Marvin Gaye’s ‘You’, The Isley Brothers ‘It’s Your Thing’ and a rampant version of ‘Get Back’. The horns sit out on a jaunty run-through of Nina Simone’s ‘I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free’ which gives Scott plenty of room to move on top of Purdie’s lock-tight rhythm. By far, the highlight of the album is a soaring rendition of ‘(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman’. Shirley Scott infuses real emotional intimacy into each verse as the song surrenders its vulnerabilities, gradually achieving a crystalline perfection of intensity and freedom that defines total and unconditional love. A major creation, this is one of the most moving recordings in the history of soul, a genre that is heavily laden with songs that uncompromisingly detail passionate yearning.

 

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