Ed Kelly & Friend – Theresa Records TR106 (1979)/Pure Pleasure Records (2021) 180-gram stereo vinyl, 36:39 ****1/2:
(Ed Kelley, Pharoah Sanders and others – complete list of musicians below)
Ed Kelly was a legendary jazz figure in the Bay Area. In a unique career move, he chose family, life and church as his primary lifestyle. Though a native Texan, Kelly moved to Oakland when he was 8 and played organ in local church gatherings. He also performed with legendary artists like Nate Adderley, Jimmy Witherspoon, Milt Jackson, Dexter Gordon and Sonny Stitt. He recorded for East Bay label, Theresa Records and taught for over 20 years at Laney College. He split time between his jazz quintet and gospel “Arkestra”. Pure Pleasure Records has released a re-mastered 180-gram vinyl of a collaboration with Pharoah Sanders, Ed Kelly & Friend. In a combination of covers and original material, the legacy of Kelly is re-introduced. Side 1 opens with the accessible soulful jazz number, “Pippin”. With a mellow, funky groove, the jam anchored by dense bass, and electric piano, is framed by a horn/reed chorus and gossamer violin accents.. Sanders contributes a sultry run on tenor. Kelly takes over on keyboard countered by strings in a classic late 70’s West Coast jazz arrangement. There is a sustained pulse and visceral rhythm. Switching to a popular standard (“Answer Me My Love”), the quartet takes on much of the sentiment inhabited by Nat “King” Cole” in his version. Kelly starts with a flourish on piano. Then Sanders in atypical fashion adds his smooth, flowing element on saxophone. Kelly’s soloing is lyrical and articulate, with just the right touch of aspirational resonance.
Sanders gets to flex his swing muscles on his original, “You’ve Got To Have Freedom”. Bassist Peter Bashay and drummer Eddie Marshall lay down a propulsive framework as Pharoah stretches out the tonality. The musical chemistry is palpable as Kelly falls in with the rhythm section. There is harder jazz edginess with expanded instrumentation that underlies the intensity. Kelly’s solo ranges from full-bodied chording to brisk notation. The finish is ear-catching as the tenor reverberates in studio aesthetics. Showcasing his flexibility, Kelly goes old-school vaudeville/stride on “Sweet Georgia Brown”. His rolling left hand and overall bluesy insinuation shines on this nearly solo performance. Side B revisits the ambient fluency of strings with a glowing ballad, “Rainbow Song”. It exudes airy inflection and the exquisite reticence of Kelly’s piano is compelling. Sanders adds a different texture with soprano saxophone. Shifting gears, “Newborn” is aggressive and swings with rollicking African-infused syncopation. The addition of marimba and congas expands the musical tapestry. The finale is nothing short of breathtaking. Sam Cooke’s eternally timeless hit, “You Send Me” is translated into a stellar duet. Both Kelly and Sanders interact seamlessly as they weave around this familiar melody. Kelly’s refined performance is unusually perceptive and may be the exclamation point on his adroit skills. Sanders injects a hint of “free jazz” near the end of the song.
Pure Pleasure Records has done their customary superior re-mastering to 180-gram vinyl. The overall sound mix is balanced with excellent stereo separation. This is a great jazz album!
Ed Kelly – piano
Pharoah Sanders – tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone
Peter Barshay – double bass
Eddie Marshall – drums
with special guests:
Don Ramsey – alto saxophone
Anthony Sidney – trombone;
Harley White – baritone saxophone
Larry Jones – trumpet
Oscar Williams – trumpet
Babatunde – congas
Joanne Nicol & Cecelia Twain – violins
Marsha Gonick – viola
Joseph Herbert – cello
Junius Simmons – electric guitar
Side 1: Pippin; Answer Me My Love; You’ve Got To Have Freedom; Sweet Georgia Brown
Side 2: Rainbow Song; Newborn; You Send Me
For more information, please visit vendor Acoustic Sounds website:
Published by Pure Pleasure Records: