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Bobby Bryant Sextet Ain’t Doing Too B-A-D, Bad (Cadet 1967)

Bobby Bryant’s live album Ain’t Doing Too B-A-D, Bad is a commercial, forthright soul music affair and, when judged accordingly, a winner. Bryant’s exuberant, high-powered trumpet style sets the crowd in constant motion.

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Personnel

Bobby Bryant (trumpet), Hadley Caliman (tenor saxophone), Herman Riley (tenor saxophone), Joe Sample (piano), John Duke (bass), Carl Lott (drums)

Recorded

on February 1967 at Marty’s-On-The-Hill, Los Angeles

Released

as Cadet 795 in 1967

Track listing

Side A:
Sunny
Love Is Supreme
Blues For Ramona
Side B:
A Change Is Gonna Come
58th Street
Girl Talk
Don’t Say Goodbye


Communicating the blues evocatively, Bryant stays true to the roots of his place of birth, Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Occasionally, however, Bryant puts his message in the corner by overzealously relying on gimmicks. Luckily, three factors keep Bryant in check. Firstly, his group lays down a tough groove. Secondly, the carefully crafted tenor charts unifies the varied repertoire. Finally, in contrast to many live recordings, solo’s are concise. It keeps fresh a date of this groovy nature.

After ‘calling the children home’ a capella, by means of upper register blowing, the perennial Sunny sets in. Its unusually slow drag is enticing. Neal Hefti’s much-covered Girl Talk gets the same treatment. Uptempo rocker and Bryant original 58th Street – a crowd pleaser par excellence – is perhaps the album’s most satisfying tune. It does without a Bryant solo, but his buoyant tackling of the theme and meaty way of ‘taking the tune out’ cracks everybody up. Pianist Joe Sample delivers an especially swift and funky solo.

Stix Hooper’s Blues For Ramona ignites ambivalent feelings. Herman Riley’s tenor solo is coherent and solid and the way Bryant backs Riley, and vice versa, is stimulating. Unfortunately, Bryant also creates havoc by soloing simultanuously with Riley near the end. It sounds disorientating and gets on your nerves.

Sam Cooke’s classic A Change Is Gonna Come fares better. Bryant retains a lot of the charged feeling Cooke’s gospel-soul classic embodies. Here his horn really sings from the heart. It’s difficult to stay untouched.

By 1967 Bobby Bryant was an experienced trumpet and flugelhorn player that had worked with Oliver Nelson and Charles Mingus. He was a firm part of the West Coast scene and acquainted and/or recorded with, among others, The Jazz Crusaders (of which the earlier-mentioned Joe Sample and Stix Cooper were part), Gerald Wilson and the lesser-known trombonist Lou Blackburn. Blackburn also played on Bryant’s 1971 album Swahili Strut and provided the picture for this album’s cheerful front cover.

Taking that brisk image into account, it is evident that Bobby Bryant indeed wasn’t doing too bad. Much in demand as trumpeter for Hollywood’s movie business, this album makes clear Bryant also had a foothold as soulful cooker in clubs such as Marty’s-On-The-Hill. Shouts from the audience in the opening track, that gave this album its name, attest to that honourable fact.

The Jazz Crusaders - Lighthouse '69

The Jazz Crusaders Lighthouse ’69 (World Pacific 1969)

The succesful fourth live recording of The Jazz Crusaders at The Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach, California (those of 1962, ’66 and ’68 also gained a considerable degree of popularity) is characterised by a warm sound and an exciting live atmosphere. And, above all, by two exhilarating covers of The Beatles’ Get Back and Tony Joe White’s Willie And Laura Mae Jones.

The Jazz Crusaders - Lighthouse '69

Personnel

Wilton Felder (tenor saxophone), Wayne Henderson (trombone), Joe Sample (piano, electric piano), Buster Williams (bass), Stix Hooper (drums)

Recorded

in 1969, live at The Lighthouse, Hermosa Beach, California

Released

as WP ST-20165 in 1969

Track listing

Side A:
Get Back
It’s Got To Be Real
Willie And Laura Mae Jones
Ruby P’Gonia
Side B:
It’s Your Thing
Inside The Outside
Reflections
Svenska Flicka


The Jazz Crusaders had the advantage of five members able to write on demand. (or four and a half, since Buster Williams was an occasional member) Their original compositions on Lighthouse ’69 are noteworthy despite their similarity of rhythm and melodic structure – with the exception of Buster Williams’ energetic Ruby P’Gonia. The solo’s from tenorist Wilton Felder and trombonist Wayne Henderson aren’t spectacular but solid and close to the blues. And close to bebop as well, as is evidenced by Wayne Henderson’s extended quote of Charlie Parker’s Now’s The Time (itself a variation of the traditional The Hucklebuck) in Inside The Outside.

What makes Lighthouse ’69 a classic album are two pop and soul covers. Their version of The Isley Brothers’ It’s Your Thing doesn’t belong to this group. It’s not the standout funk demonstration you would expect from a group of that high standard. But dig, if you will, The Jazz Crusaders’ intoxicating excursions into pop and country soul. The rhythm section informs both Get Back and Willie And Laura Mae Jones with an irresistable groove – heavier than the original beat – which is a big part of its attraction. Another part is pianist Joe Sample, who changes to electric piano for these tunes and whose supportive and solo statements are arresting.

Get Back contains short, tacky tenor and trombone solo’s that, considering the fact that there isn’t much chordal room to play with, intelligently play with the melody, and are embellished by more than one passionate squeal; it’s a first-class steamroller you wish wouldn’t eventually have to pull to a stop. The horn sections of Willie And Laura Mae Jones, a gritty backwater song if ever there was one, beg you to get your ass out of that shack and shake that thang.

Two bona fide soul jazz classics pretty much destined to make you shout for more, and then some.

YouTube: Willie And Laura Mae Jones

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The Jazz Crusaders Tough Talk (Pacific Jazz 1963)

The Jazz Crusaders. What’s in a name? Whether self-consciously or on a subliminal level, crusading they did; throughout the sixties they pushed the boundaries by incorporating gospel, tin pan alley and Beatles into jazz and popularising it in a major way. This is far from a downgrade on their part. Indeed, I don’t think that I’ll be the last to consider them the West Coast equivalent of The Jazz Messengers or Cannonball Adderley’s Quintet. Maybe not solo-wise, but their group sound and interplay certainly carries the kind of excitement that these iconic groups brought.

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Personnel

Wilton Felder (tenor), Wayne Henderson (trombone), Joe Sample (piano, harpsichord), Stix Hooper (drums), Bobby Haynes (bass)

Recorded

February 13 & 19, 1963 at Pacific Jazz Studios, Los Angeles

Released

as PJ-68 in 1963

Track listing

Side A:
Deacon Brown
Turkish Black
Brahms’ Lullaby
Boopie
Side B:
Tough Talk
No Name Samba
Lazy Canary
Lonely Horn
Brother Bernard


Tough talk is The Jazz Crusaders’ fourth release on Pacific Jazz Records and a very rewarding session. (it is not to be confused with 1973’s Blue Note compilation of the same name) With the exception of Brahms’ Lullaby, all tunes are originals. Most of them revolve around exceptionally playful themes that bookend vigorous and thoughtful blowing. These gentlemen, together from their teens and still barely in their twenties, play with youthful abundance. On Turkish black, an Eastern flavored, quixotic composition on which Felder’s and Wayne Henderson’s interplay between tenor and trombone works particularly well, the very articulate tenor of composer Wilton Felder exhibits an urgency that is reminiscent of John Coltrane. Although Felder is very much his own man, this particular aspect of his playing would come to the fore especially on 1967’s Uh Huh.

Title track Tough Talk is a very catchy blues. It bounces merrily and Joe Sample’s harpsichord gives it a distinctive flavor. It’s not really possible to use the harpsichord in a percussive, down-home fashion. This might be the reason they reworked it on their 1965 album Chili Con Soul. And tastefully so.

Of course in the seventies they would give full measure to pop and funk as The Crusaders. Fame came with it and as an apex to their career stands their 1979 hit collaboration with Randy Crawford, Street Light. High standard entries in the mainstream but not my cup of tea.

YouTube: Tough Talk