Gene Ammons - Brother Jug!

Gene Ammons Brother Jug (Prestige 1970)

As if nothing had happened, Gene Ammons resumed his place in the Prestige roster after his seven-year long stint in jail and delivered four consecutive big-selling albums in 1969/70. Brother Jug is the second in line.

Gene Ammons - Brother Jug!

Personnel

Gene Ammons (tenor saxophone), Sonny Philips (organ), Junior Mance (piano), Billy Butler (guitar), Bob Bushnell (bass), Bernard Purdie (drums), Frankie Jones (drums), Candido (congas)

Recorded

on November 10 & 11, 1969 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey

Released

as PR 7792 in 1969

Track listing

Side A:
Son Of A Preacher Man
Didn’t We
He’s A Real Gone Guy
Side B:
Jungle Strut
Blue Velvet
Ger-Ru


“Jug” was a nickname cast upon Ammons by singer and bandleader Billy Eckstine, whose band Ammons was part of in the mid forties, like so many future modern jazz giants as Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon and Sonny Stitt. One day the band checked out new hats in a store. When Eckstine found out the enormous hat size of Ammons, he blurted out: ‘You jug-head motherfucker!’ The name, shortened to “Jug”, stuck. Shortly after, Ammons had his first big-selling song with 1947’s Red Top. The ballad My Foolish Heart, which had been in the book of Eckstine’s band, was next, a smash hit in 1951. The Prestige albums of Ammons sold well, especially 1960’s Boss Tenor, which spawned the popular Canadian Sunset, and 1962’s Bad! Bossa Nova. At that time, Ammons had become a heroin addict. Already having done stints in jail in the fifties, now the law put him away not only for possession but also selling narcotics, a sure sign that Ammons was abused as a symbol of ‘the degenerate, black musician’. He had to put up with a staggering seven-year sentence.

During those years of 1962-69, Prestige kept his name in the spotlight as best as it possibly could, releasing a number of albums with material from the vaults. Nevertheless, upon the release of Ammons from jail in 1969, the label was curious if the big-toned melodist could still deliver. The answer was affirmative with a capital A. Ammons had honed his chops in prison. The homecoming concert at Chicago’s Plucked Nickel in the fall of ’69 (the liner notes say) was a succes, the following gigs in Detroit, Baltimore and Philadelphia likewise. New York? No, Ammons wasn’t allowed to play in the Big Apple. A bunch of bureaucrats from the liquor board kept “Jug” out of town. Except for the studio of Rudy van Gelder, where Ammons recorded the well-received The Boss Is Back! and, subsequently, Brother Jug! and The Black Cat!. In between, Prestige released a live album with Dexter Gordon, The Chase!.

Meanwhile, the health of Ammons had detoriated considerably. Ammons passed away in 1974 at the age of forty-nine. They had to dug for “Jug”. At his funeral Sonny Stitt, whom Ammons had been associated with regularly throughout his career, played My Buddy. One of the best friends of Ammons, tenor saxophonist Prince James, also performed. James is featured on Brother Jug as well, on the last track of the album, Ger-Ru, which also includes Junior Mance, the pianist who’d been part of an early Ammons group.

The rest, however, consists of an organ combo including organist Sonny Philips and one of Prestige’s house rhythm sections of bassist Bob Bushnell and drummer Bernard Purdie. Solid groove music assured. The loose, tough-as-nails version of Son Of A Preacher Man is a ringer, while the flagwaving shuffle blues He’s A Real Gone Guy, a song from r&b singer Nellie Lutcher, conjures up images of loved ones leaning against the wall, drowning each other with drunken, smeary kisses. Every Gene Ammons album of the late sixties and early seventies has a stand-out track. On Brother Jug, it’s Jimmy Webb’s Didn’t We, a ballad that finds Ammons at the top of his unsurpassed, unique game of level-headed drama. Soon, as Ammons would grow more ill, his form would understandably falter. But for the moment, “Jug” was back at the forefront of entertaining and hi-level soul jazz.

Scroll down on the Spotify link to listen to most of the Brother Jug album. Well, The Boss Is Back is also pretty swell.

Shirley Scott - Shirley Scott & The Soul Saxes

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

Shirley Scott’s dressed up for the rock age. The musical garments don’t really suit the experienced, tasteful organist.

Shirley Scott - Shirley Scott & The Soul Saxes

Personnel

Shirley Scott (organ), Ernie Royal (trumpet A1 & A2 & B1-B4), King Curtis (tenor saxophone A1 & A2 & B1-B4), Hank Crawford (alto and baritone saxophone A1 & A2 & B1-B4), David Newman (tenor saxophone, flute A1 & A2 & B1-B4), Richard Tee (piano A1 & A2 & B1-B4), Eric Gale (guitar), Chuck Rainey (bass A1 & A2 & B1-B4), Jerry Jemmott (bass A3), Bernard Purdie (drums A1, A3 & B1, B2), Jimmy Johnson (drums A2 & B3, B4)

Recorded

on September 10, 1968 in Atlantic Studios, NYC and July 9 & 10, 1969 in Regent Sound Studios, NYC

Released

as SD 1532 in 1969

Track listing

Side A:
It’s Your Thing
(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman
I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free
You
Side B:
Stand By Me
Get Back
More Today Than Yesterday


From the mid-fifties to the early seventies Shirley Scott was one of the most successful and prolific organ jazz players around, presenting a cocktail of standards and bluesy jazz either with her trio or with the addition of Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis and Scott’s husband, tenorist Stanley Turrentine. Her fairly traditional work, perhaps more in the mould of Milt Buckner than Jimmy Smith, is recorded on King, Prestige, Impulse and (with Turrentine) Blue Note. Near the end of the decade Scott signed with Atlantic. Let’s try for something hip, Scott presumably must’ve thought. Her soul-heavy album Shirley Scott And The Soul Saxes sold reasonably well and is sandwiched between her Atlantic debut Soul Song and final release, the less succesful Something. In 1971 Scott switched to Chicago’s Cadet label, adding some challenging originals to her sets of evergreens and contemporary pop and soul. Shirley Scott And The Soul Saxes is not only soul-heavy, but rock-heavy as well. That’s the bad part.

But first the good part. Scott turns in tasty performances, she really ‘sings’ on (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman – the Goffin/King classic written for Aretha Franklin – and her gospel intro on I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free is enticing foreplay to a vibrant solo. This bouncy, medium-tempo tune is the album’s highlight. Coincidentally, it’s the only song on the album without horn parts. More Today Than Yesterday – a 1969 hit by The Spiral Staircase – is also one of the better performances. The vibe is relaxed and understatement is the main objective.

The album benefits from a tight-knit group of gifted sidemen. However, there are a couple of downsides. Despite the non-pareil funk qualities of drummers Bernard Purdie and Jimmy Johnson, the beat remains mechanic. Moreover, the promising repertoire suffers from bombastic production and arrangements. The sax section does its fair share of harmony, but sax solo’s are few and concise. Ain’t that peculiar? After all, King Curtis, Hank Crawford and David “Fathead” Newman – some heavy artillery there! – are prominently billed on the front cover. It’s a waste of talent. The bits they do contribute are excellent, especially Curtis’ solo on The Isley Brothers hit It’s Your Thing.

Guitarist Eric Gale had talent in abundance, but it seems he ended up at the wrong session. Considering Gale’s overdrive guitar sound and distorted licks, a sparring date with Jimmy Page of label mates Led Zeppelin would be more on target. The low point of the album is The Beatles’ Get Back. Its ridiculously fast tempo and over-excited ambience overshadows the solid statements by Shirley Scott.

That Atlantic Records lay heavy stress on a rock sound is unfortunate. A more sparse, earthy and less frenzied approach such as the label used for soul stars like Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett would’ve benefited Shirley Scott much more. Sometimes dressing up an artist for the new age can only go that far.

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Boogaloo Joe Jones No Way! (Prestige 1971)

Look at that confident young man on the cover of No Way! Dressed in full funky regalia, caught in the action of playing a solid Gibson guitar, resolutely and in earnest. Boogaloo Joe Jones: sounds hip, dude. And the sleeve shows a man inclined to hit the big time. He wouldn’t, though. Boogaloo Joe Jones, sideman on a small number of soul jazz recordings, before disappearing into obscurity, nevertheless made a series of good albums for Prestige. No Way! is one of them.

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Personnel

Boogaloo Joe Jones (guitar), Grover Washington Jr. (tenor saxophone), Sonny Philips (organ, electric piano, A1 – A3, B2), Butch Cornell (organ, B1, B3), Jimmy Lewis (Fender bass), Bernard Purdie (drums)

Recorded

on November 23, 1970 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ

Released

as PR10004 in 1971

Track listing

Side A:
No Way!
If You Were Mine
Georgia On My Mind
Side B:
Sunshine Alley
I’ll Be There
Holdin’ Back


It shows an uncanny ability to inject the blues, which is the basis of his style, into a repertoire of wide range. It might take a listen or two to connect the party-hardy, viciously outgoing funk of the title track to the sweet and sour white boy’s blues of If You Were Mine – recorded earlier by Ray Charles who’d gone c&w himself. But then it clicks.

In the former, there might be the risk of being blown away by the steamrolling tandem of funk jazz drum wizard Bernard Purdie and electric bassist Jimmy Lewis – a spicy stew – but Boogaloe Joe Jones devours it with relish and throws in punchy lines and fast-fingered licks. Its continuous climactic impulses might might wear one down a bit, but No Way! certainly rocks. Jones also does pretty well in the latter, in which his ‘twangy’ sound and inflected imitiation of the human voice is paramount to its innocent, hum-along charm. If You Were Mine also features a resonant solo by Grover Washington Jr.

So here we have a hip-shaking and eloquent recording of funk, blues, pop and country, jazzed up by a guitar player who, by the way, supposedly was nicknamed Boogaloo chiefly to avoid confusion with the likes of Philly Joe Jones and Jo Jones. Keep good company is what my grandma always used to say.