John Patton – Soul Connection – Just A Memory/Justin Time – JAM 9165-2 (1983), 40:25 *****:
(Big John Patton, Hammond B-3 organ; Grachan Moncur III, trombone; Grant Reed, tenor sax; Melvin Sparks, guitar; Alvin Queen, drums)
Lovers of Big John Patton have longed for the CD issue of Soul Connection, a 1983 date that was released by drummer Alvin Queen’s Nilva label. Patton connoisseurs have cause for celebration, as Soul Connection is the Real Deal – a soul-jazz classic. Its horns-plus- organ mix is sonic bliss, as good as any classic 60s Blue Note Patton issue, but a revelation for those that thought that the 80s Hammond B-3 sessions paled in comparison. It has all the qualities that we Patton fans crave – soulful horns backed by Patton’s riffs and topped off with the funky guitar lines of Melvin Sparks and the in-the-pocket time keeping of the brilliant Alvin Queen. We are blessed to still have Sparks, Moncur, and Queen on the scene and anyone who thinks that Grachan Moncur III should be thought of as a mostly avant trombone player are in for a surprise. His blend with tenor saxist Grant Reed is top drawer, and the two horns blend brings to mind the early Crusaders work of Wilton Felder and Wayne Henderson. The Pacific Jazz label discography of the Crusaders had the Texas joyful soul funk that brought a smile to its lovers and a toe tap impossible to resist. The addition of a Hammond B-3 organ here puts that sound over the top on a soul jazz joy meter.
Patton is at his best here darting in and out and setting the stage for the horns to blend in and Sparks to offer his solos and comping. There is not a weak track on the CD’s five tracks. The title track kicks off with an immediate ensemble horn line propelled by Queen’s cymbal work and Patton’s “churchified” organ – which is the equal of Hammond king Jimmy Smith. Reed’s solo has a searching quality that brings to mind early Coltrane.
Pinto follows and again Moncur and Reed play as one before Big John steps in. Extensions provides an opportunity for Sparks to take center stage and Moncur follows with a muscular solo of his own. Grachan’s compositions, Space Station and The Coaster close out this superb session. For me, Soul Connection is the most pleasing soul jazz reissue of the year and can be recommended without reservation – truly a five-star classic!
TrackList: Soul Connection, Pinto, Extensions, Space Station, The Coaster
– Jeff Krow