After a six-year stay at Prestige, jazz organist Shirley Scott began a lengthy run of albums on Impulse! This two-fer brings together her first two albums for the label, 1963â€™s For Members Only and 1964â€™s Great Scott!!Â Each album splits its tracks between Scottâ€™s regular trio setting (variously featuring rhythms by Earl May/Jimmy Cobb and Bob Cranshaw/Otis Finch) and arrangements written and conducted by Oliver Nelson. Scottâ€™s Hammond fits well into each setting, leading the trio with terrific energy and verve, and finding space for lower-wattage performances amid Nelsonâ€™s charts. Scottâ€™s original tunes, including the superb â€œBlues for Members,â€ are given to the trios, with the orchestral numbers drawn largely from jazz and show tunes. The small combo is likely to be more satisfying to those who favor hard-swinging, bluesy shots of Hammond, though Scottâ€™s long musical relationship with Nelson yields some nice results, including a swanky take on Henry Manciniâ€™s â€œA Shot in the Dark.â€ [Â©2011 hyperbolium dot com]
After emigrating from Budapest in the mid-50s, Hungarian guitarist Gabor Szabo found his way into the U.S. jazz scene, first with Chico Hamilton, and starting in 1966 as a group leader. These two 1967 live albums come from the middle of a productive two-year stay on Impulse!, and collect performances from an April run at Bostonâ€™s Jazz Workshop and a September date at the Monterey Jazz Festival. Szabo plays in a quintet of guitar, bass, drums and percussion. The song list mixes originals from Szabo and guitarist Jimmy Stewart, with standards, pop hits and several Brazilian tunes. This quintet was one of Szaboâ€™s best showcases, as the interplay and conversations between the two guitars are buoyed by a solid rhythm section. Hal Gordon, whoâ€™d only joined the group the month before the Boston dates, quickly established his congas as an integral part of the comboâ€™s sound. The use of only strings and drums (as well as the combination of acoustic and electric guitars) set the group apart from horn-driven jazz acts, creating a sound that suggested the ballroom jams of San Francisco, but without indulging either the volume of rock or the avant garde changes of fusion. This two-fer is an excellent showcase of what Szaboâ€™s mid-60s quintet could do. [Â©2011 hyperbolium dot com]
Ray Charlesâ€™ helped inaugurate the Impulse! label with this 1961 release, the labelâ€™s second album. Produced by Creed Taylor, and recorded in the same New Jersey studios that hosted Jimmy Smith and other Blue Note greats, Charles sat himself behind a Hammond B-3 and together with key members of the Count Basie band, he swung arrangements written by Quincy Jones and Ralph Burns. From the opening horn stabs of â€œFrom the Heartâ€ itâ€™s clear that this band plays big, brassy and hard, yet Charles keeps it cool on the organ, and his two vocal numbers (â€œIâ€™ve Got News For Youâ€ and â€œIâ€™m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Townâ€), are blue and soulful. Charles gave the band and its soloists plenty of room to shine, but when his keys step to the front, such as his growling lead on â€œOne Mint Julep,â€ itâ€™s clear whose leading the sessions.
Concordâ€™s two-CD reissue adds three albums that Charles recorded in the 1970s: My Kind of Jazz (1970), Jazz Number II (1972) and My Kind of Jazz Part 3 (1975). These are primarily instrumental albums and are filled with the sort of charts used to warm up audiences at Charlesâ€™ live shows. There is a generous helping of 3/4 jazz waltzes and Latin rhythms. Recorded with his road band, the lineup is filled with instrumental stars, including Blue Mitchell, Joe Randazzo, Clifford Scott, David â€œFatheadâ€ Newman and many others. Highlights include the Stax-styled groove of â€œBooty-Buttâ€ and a bubbly take on Lee Morganâ€™s â€œSidewinder.â€ As an additional bonus, a cover of â€œMistyâ€ is included from trombonist Steve Turreâ€™s In the Spur of the Moment.
The recording quality is superb, with a super wide stereo image. Remastering is by Paul Blakemore at Telarc. The setâ€™s 12-page booklet includes new liner notes by Ralph Friedwald, original album notes by Dick Katz and Quincy Jones, and full-panel cover reproductions. The original sessions show Charles at full power; the 1970s albums feature great playing, but often feel like pre-show warmups. If you already have Genius + Soul = Jazz in high fidelity, the upgrade may not be necessary, but if you havenâ€™t yet enjoyed Charlesâ€™ 1961 classic, this is a great way to hear it. [Â©2010 hyperbolium dot com]