Bernard Purdie – Purdie Good! – Craft Recordings

by | Jan 13, 2021 | Jazz CD Reviews, SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

Bernard Purdie – Purdie Good! – Prestige Records PR 10013 (1971)/Craft Recordings/Concord Music Group CR00354 (2020) exclusive numbered limited edition release by Jazz Dispensary and Vinyl Me Please purple 180-gram stereo vinyl, 35:14 ****:

(Bernard Purdie – drums; Tippy Larkin – trumpet; Warren Daniels – tenor saxophone; Charlie Brown – tenor saxophone; Harold Wheeler – electric piano; Ted Dunbar – guitar; Billy Nichols – guitar; Gordon Edwards – Fender bass; Norman Pride – conga)

There are American musicians whose resume is breathtaking, but name recognition may be obscure. Drummer Bernard Purdie is one of these players. The signature “Purdie Shuffle” (triplets against half-time backbeat) is a historical marker of his bluesy drum style. While he recorded as a band leader, Purdie’s legacy is rooted in his expansive career as a session musician. Too numerous to mention in its entirety, he played with Wilson Pickett, Jack McDuff, Nina Simone, Steely Dan, Joe Cocker, Laura Nyro, James Brown, Louis Armstrong, Gary Burton, Aretha Franklin, B.B. King and Dizzy Gillespie. The visceral impact of this “drummer’s drummer” can be felt on great tracks like “Home At Last” (Steely Dan), “Rock Steady” (Aretha Franklin), “Where Is The Love” (Roberta Flack/Donny Hathaway), “She’s Gone” (Hall & Oates), “The Thrill Is Gone” (B.B. King) and “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World” (James Brown) to name just a few. Meticulous craftsmanship and genial presence have kept the Maryland-born drummer in great demand since the mid-60’s.

Craft Recordings and Jazz Dispensary in conjunction with Vinyl Me Please, has released a special limited edition, dazzling purple 12” re-mastered update of Purdie Good!. Originally engineered by studio legend Rudy Van Gelder for Prestige Records (1971), there are six tracks of covers and original material. The ebullient drummer showcases his talent as a solo artist, fronting a skillful r & b ensemble. As with all of his work. precisely timed, groove-infused drum patterns are the trademarks of these sessions. Side A opens with a cover of the inimitable James Brown classic “Cold Sweat”. The arrangement is faithful to the original. Tight trumpet and saxophone accents punctuate Purdie’s steady tempo. A crisp electric guitar lead is complemented by a mellower electric piano. The group captures the rhythmic patterns of Brown, but eschews the frenetic energy (Who wants to have an energy battle with “the hardest working man in show business”?). What makes this jam stand out is the brilliant drum solo by Purdie that is preceded by a conga run, surrounded by funky bass. It is a blissful groove fest. Led by an echo-laden guitar, electric piano and breezy Caribbean vibe, Bobby Bloom’s summertime hit, “Montego Bay” gets a soulful update. Here, the rhythm section (drums, bass, conga) expands the template. When the “Memphis-style” horns chime in, it is transformative. On the title track (one of three Purdie compositions), a slower gospel-infused piano intro explodes into hard-charging r & b at the drop of a downbeat. A muscular tenor saxophone is countered by a fusion-esque electric piano. It is steady, building with intensity.

A change of pace kicks off Side B. “Wasteland” adopts a slower, “down ’n’ dirty” rendering with full-bodied saxophone lead. A “wah-wah-“ guitar solo is evocative of the era. Purdie contributes a variety of refined techniques as the hypnotic flow leads into a relaxed but forceful coda. In a reinvention of Fred Neil’s memorable tune “Everybody’s Talkin’” (from Midnight Cowboy), the whimsical melancholy is jettisoned and replaced by the slow-groove aesthetics. While musically interesting (double tenor saxophones and another standout Purdie run), it doesn’t reverberate like the other album cuts. The finale (“You Turn Me On”) fits in much better. The Latin-tinged arrangement showcases excellent double-tracked trumpet, a consistent underlying vamp, fluid guitar and breezy musical ambiance. 

This special limited edition of Purdie Good! is very accessible and shines a light on an under-appreciated musical giant. The overall mix is top-notch with exceptional stereo separation. Vinyl collectors will appreciate the vivid purple disc and affordable price.  

TrackList:
Side A: Cold Sweat; Montego Bay; Purdie Good
Side B: Wasteland; Everybody’s Talkin’; You Turn Me On   

—Robbie Gerson 

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