Jazz Dispensary – The Dank D-Funk Blend, Vol. 2 – Craft Recordings (2021) Record Store Day [6/12/2021, 7/17/2021]stereo orange-fire vinyl *****:
(Featuring tracks by Ray Barretto; Charlie Earland; Leon Spencer; Esther Marrow; Pleasure; Cal Tjader; Pucho & The Latin Soul Brothers; Johnny “Guitar” Watson)
Craft Recordings has become a vital force in the preservation of various musical legacies. With re-released albums on vinyl and digital, artists like Bill Evans, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Chet Baker, George Thorogood, John Coltrane, REM, John Lee Hooker, Vince Guaraldi (and a host of others) are reaching new audiences. This visionary label (a division of Concord Music) has become a major player. With an emphasis on higher quality re-mastering technology, Craft has re-introduced iconic musicians and era-defining albums. One of the unique partnerships is with Jazz Dispensary. This organization acts as curator for various collections of funk and jazz (sourced from iconic recording companies like Prestige and Fantasy). Additionally, these compilations feature superior “mind-expanding” artwork as part of this vinyl experience.
Just in time for Record Store Day 2021 (the vinyl collector’s Super Bowl), Craft Recordings and Jazz Dispensary have combined to release The Dank D–Funk Blend Vol.2. Like its predecessor, it is compiled by Nashville’s record store owner and funk/jazz aficionado, Doyle Davis. These eight tracks epitomize the mission of this one-of-a-kind series, full of rhythm, energy and style. Side A gets off to a rousing start with Salsa pioneer Ray Barretto’s 1969 jam, “Together”. The relentless tempo is laid down by timbales, congas and bongo. Dual trumpets infuse piercing accents. Switching to cool grooves, Charlie Earland’s “Letha” is funky 1970 jazz at its finest. Backed by Earland on organ (with guitar and drums), both Virgil Jones (trumpet) and Jimmy Heath (saxophone) deliver exceptional solos. Maynard Parker is up next on guitar before turning it over to Earland who mesmerizes with sustain technique and flexible notation. It is a muscular number with chord variations and soul gravitas. Leon Spencer’s organ hooks are at the core of the Marvin Gaye classic, “Mercy Mercy Me”. Grover Washington’s mellow tenor saxophone is a nice fit and leads into a terrific organ run that the listener hopes will go on forever. “Queen” Esther Marrow brings down the house with her vocal fury on “Things Ain’t Right”. An all-star group of session players (including Cornell Dupree, Ralph MacDonald; Richard Tee, Sheldon Powell, Frank Weiss and Snooky Young) add significant punch to match Marrow’s soulful intensity. This collection of music reflects the socio-political vibe of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.
If soul/funk is your preference, then Pleasure’s keyboard-laden arrangement of “Joyous” will fit the bill. With a higher-register vocal lead by Sherman Davis and textured back up singing, the polished delivery is reminiscent of bands like Earth Wind & Fire. This musical tapestry includes soaring jagged electric guitar (Marlon “The Magician” McClain), synthesized strings and a thumping bass (Nathaniel Phillips). Vibraphonist Cal Tjader covers The Rolling Stones anthemic “Gimme Shelter”. The smoother jazz outlines sublimate the tune’s innate menace. The pairing of Rhodes electric piano (Al Zulaica) is compelling. From the Sixties, the inimitable “Pucho & The Latin Soul Brothers do what they do best… dance music. Pivotal “boogaloo” timbalero Henry “Pucho” Brown leads the band in a tightly constructed, flowing amalgamation of percussion (timbales, congas, bongos), piano, trumpet, bass and saxophone. The finale (“You’ve Got A Hard Head”) showcases the guitar and singing talents of Johnny “Guitar Watson”. Soulful resonance, aided by steady repeat vamps brings a slow-burning intensity to the tune. Of course, Watson’s guitar solo is pure blues attitude.
This collaboration between Craft Recordings and Jazz Dispensary is exceptional. The re-mastered mix (Joe Tarantino/Fantasy Studios) and vinyl mastering (Philip S. Rodriguez/Elysian Masters) are vibrant and sound great. If the orange fire vinyl isn’t sufficiently eye-popping, then the surreal, psychedelic raised cover art (almost 3-D/optical illusory) will delight the senses. Jazz Dispensary – The Dank D-Funk Blend Vol. 2 is a prime example of why the vinyl record industry is resurgent.
Side A: Together; Letha; Mercy Mercy Me; Things Ain’t Right
Side B: Joyous; Gimme Shelter; Heat!; You’ve Got A Hard Head.
For this and other Craft Recordings Vinyl Releases, please visit Record Store Day website: