Another Record Store Day Jazz Dispensary soul collection hits all the right notes.
Jazz Dispensary – Super Skunk – Craft Recordings CR00469 – 180-gram stereo opaque red vinyl, Record Store Day Release [4/23/2022] ****1/2:
(Compilation featuring tracks from Gary Bartz; The Cannonball Adderley Quintet; The Bar-Kays; Houston Person; Art Jerry Miller; Catalyst; Woody Herman; Rabbits & Carrots; The Pazant Brothers & The Beaufort Express)
As the vinyl resurgence evolves, many genres of music have been repositioned for contemporary audiences. One of the “curators” of 70’s era jazz music is Jazz Dispensary. Part of their core mission is to re-master collections of jazz that incorporate modern genre influences into traditional jazz. While these various anthologies are primarily created on vinyl, they are also available digitally on streaming services. With attention to grooves and hooks, tracks from various artists who recorded for Prestige, Fantasy and Milestone labels are being reproduced on 180-gram vinyl. Additionally, there is stunning, “psychedelic” artwork that contributes to the “collectible” eminence of these albums.
Craft Recordings has released another stellar item in this accessible series. Jazz Dispensary – Super Skunk is a vibrant assortment of pulse-driven hypnotic jams. Side A opens with the “get down” funk of Gary Bartz’s 1975 “Make Me Feel Better”. With distorted guitar, r& b vocal call and response and tenor saxophone, this is a quintessential groove tune with some jazzy chord changes. The first instrumental, “Pyramid” is by the iconic Cannonball Adderley Quintet. This cut distills post-bop fusion elements with relentless tempo, spurred on by various keyboards (including George Duke/clavinet), horns (Nat Adderley/coronet), saxophone (Cannonball Adderley) and wah-wah guitar (Pat Martino) adding gritty punctuation to the arrangement. Soul funk specialists The Bar-Kays reinvent Dave Mason’s rocker “Feelin’ Alright” as a slower, pulse-driven opus. Memphis style touches like a horn chorus, gospel-tinged vocals (including falsetto) are exemplary and lead to an explosive conclusion. Tenor saxophonist Houston Person defines the essence of soul jazz on “The Houston Express”. Organ, thick bass, wah-wah guitar and a wall of horns anchor Person’s passionate tenor runs. Another Memphis player, Art Jerry Miller slows thing down with “Finger Lickin’ Good”, but the Stax layered instrumentation fits coherently with the overall feel of Super Skunk.
Side B starts off with Catalyst (“The funkiest band you never heard”) and the fusion number, “New-Found-Truths”. This is more atmospheric with a stylish electric piano (Eddie Green) leading the way. It is evocative of the 70’s studio sound with a smooth flow. Even a straight-ahead jazz act like Woody Herman gets on the funk express with a Herbie Hancock-penned composition (“Fat Mama”). This is somewhat different with a full, layered sonic display. Among the many players featured are Herman (alto, clarinet), Harold Danko (Fender Rhodes) and Joe LaBarbera (drums) who create a muscular big band translation. Latin Soul is capably represented by Rabbits & Carrots. With crisp guitar, a full-bodied saxophone and an unabated rhythm section (with a lot of percussion), it is dance-floor ready. The finale showcases a sinewy laid-back groove performance by The Peasant Brothers & The Beaufort Express (“You’ve Got To Do Your Best”).There are guitar and keyboard (especially electric piano) riffs everywhere, and the mix of saxophone and horns make the song compelling.
Jazz Dispensary – Super Skunk is another gem in this special funk series from Craft Recordings. The re-mastered 180-gram sound mix (Joe Tarantino/Mastering; Jeff Powell/Take Out Vinyl) is excellent with good stereo separation. The track sequence is fluid. Vinyl aficionados will appreciate the opaque red vinyl pressing and the eye-popping cover and sleeve artwork by Masaki Koike.
Side A: Make Me Feel Better; Pyramid; Feelin’ Alright; The Houston Express; Finger Lickin’ Good
Side B: New-Found Truths; Fat Mama; Las Cuatro Culturas; You’ve Got To Do Your Best