Rusty Bryant – Fire Eater (1971)

A gold-plated classic from the soul-jazz vaults, tenor sax-man Rusty Bryant was clearly in a funky-as-hell mood when he cut this album at the Van Gelder studio for Prestige Records. It succeeds because there is nothing lightweight to be found here of the sort you might encounter on a Lou Donaldson LP, for example. Three of the four tracks on Fire Eater are solid examples of driving soul-jazz, with one slow-swinging blues, ‘The Hooker’, that is well placed within the funkier tunes. Drummer Idris Muhammed is responsible for much of the potency of this recording, especially his forceful performance on the killer opening title-track which has great playing from everyone in the room. Wilbur Longmire creates fire with his guitar solo, and organist Bill Mason takes it perilously close to the edge painting broad strokes of vibrant sound that stream like a torrent from your speakers. Bryant’s style is steeped in the blues, a signature voice that both purrs and wails, and his playing is consistently engaging. His steamy solo on ‘Free At Last’ is an excursion into deep midnight blue, and the rest of the band are pulled into the zone with him. The little-known but excellent organist Leon Spencer takes a seat behind the Hammond for the second half of the album on his compositions ‘The Hooker’ and ‘Mister S.’ which elicit yet more soulful contributions from this well-attuned unit. It’s best not to think too long and hard about it, just get this tasty little platter on your playlist, pronto!



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