Larry Young – Unity (1965)

Reid Miles’ cover designs for Blue Note were very often innovative and many are now regarded as iconic, but few are as striking and timeless as his artwork for Larry Young’s Unity, the organist’s second release for the label. Stacked bold black capitals in sans-serif type on a plain white background. Blood-orange circles bouncing inside … Continue reading Larry Young – Unity (1965)

The Greyboy Allstars – West Coast Boogaloo (1995)

Plenty of funky jam-bands exist with the necessary skills to establish a deep groove and fill a dance floor, but many lack the virtuosity required to flood a tune with adventurous, confident solos that skim atop tricky but harmonically sophisticated arrangements. A mind can quickly wander when confronted with weak guitar noodling, metronomic drumming and … Continue reading The Greyboy Allstars – West Coast Boogaloo (1995)

Roland Kirk – Now Please Don’t You Cry, Beautiful Edith (1967)

Tragically immersed in a blind man's world of infinite darkness, Roland Kirk’s universe was forever dominated by sound. Gifted with a powerful personality, immense natural talent and a near-obsession with jazz, he seems to have always been destined to become a musical force. A saxophonist of apparently limitless dexterity, he was also an excellent flutist, pioneering … Continue reading Roland Kirk – Now Please Don’t You Cry, Beautiful Edith (1967)

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 … Continue reading Rusty Bryant – Fire Eater (1971)

Jimmy Smith – Root Down (1972)

The intoxicating, sweaty atmosphere of The Bombay Bicycle Club in Los Angeles on the evening of February 8, 1972 is faultlessly trapped forever on this excellent live release by Hammond B3 maestro Jimmy Smith. Energised by the young street-wise musicians in his new line-up and inspired to investigate new directions in groove-saturated jazz, Smith unwittingly … Continue reading Jimmy Smith – Root Down (1972)

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 … Continue reading Shirley Scott – Shirley Scott & The Soul Saxes (1969)

Wes Montgomery – Full House (1962)

On this sizzling live date, guitar great Wes Montgomery is joined by the Wynton Kelly Trio (Wynton Kelly/piano, Paul Chambers/bass and Jimmy Cobb/drums) and the under-rated Johnny Griffin on sax who absolutely tears up this set. Everyone is in top form on all selections which is why, for me, this shades Montgomery’s more famous live … Continue reading Wes Montgomery – Full House (1962)

John Coltrane – Coltrane’s Sound (1960)

Among the heavyweight albums recorded during John Coltrane's solo career, there are several gems that have become somewhat obscured over the decades beneath the vast shadow of the legendary releases. So revered are rightful classics such as Blue Train (1957), Giant Steps (1960) and of course the canonised A Love Supreme (1965) that comparatively minor … Continue reading John Coltrane – Coltrane’s Sound (1960)

Charles Mingus – Oh Yeah (1962)

It's always an event when two mad geniuses come together to record an album. Multi-instrumentalist Roland Kirk, young, blind and brilliant, performed with Charles Mingus for a mere three months. Oh Yeah (also featuring the very excellent Booker Ervin who is less prominent here) is the sole recorded chronicle of this brief union, and one … Continue reading Charles Mingus – Oh Yeah (1962)

Dr. Lonnie Smith – Drives (1970)

Before he started wearing a turban and styling himself as "Doctor", Lonnie Smith was a leading light among the many soul-jazz organ players that emerged in the late 60s. Signed to the Blue Note label he produced some of the more original and interesting albums of the genre and spun his sound on discs by … Continue reading Dr. Lonnie Smith – Drives (1970)