Selection: Keep On Movin’ On (Vick)
. . .
Shirley Scott, organ, mellotron; Harold Vick, alto/tenor saxophone; Billy Higgins, drums; Jimmy Hopps, cowbell; recorded at Blue Rock Studio, New York City, November 1974, engineers: Eddie Korvin, David Horowitz; mastered by David Crawford at Generation Sound.
Hammond B3 organ soul jazz? Mrs Turrentine? What has got into to you LJC, first flute, now.. .this?
Yes, but, yes, but, I was strangely taken with this track. and found myself coming back to, it again and again, groovin’ along. Generally I don’t listen to organ-combo soul jazz, but Scott has a very soulful easy flow, initially taking a back seat to Harold Vick’s excellent saxophone, playing his heart out for the first five minutes of the nine-minute track. How’s that for modesty, Shirley gives first half of her time to her sideman.
The principal theme is a latin-tinged call and answer between I guess the answer a multi-tracked horn, voiced over a swaying Hammond vamp. In classic soul-jazz form, the key is long held, until the mounting tension is relieved by shifting the key. This is held too, until resolved by a further key change. It creates an elongated modal structure over which Vick can stretch out after the main theme is done. I like the way this plays out.
When Shirley does take off, it is indeed in a very soulful groove, more gentle than the histrionics usually associated with Death-by-Hammond B3 school of organ players. She cooks and swings beautifully and her bass pedals deftly cover over the absence of a bass player. She was one of the few women jazz players in a field then dominated by men, so kudos to her, but more kudos for her uplifting playing.
Another word about Harold Vick. Vick recorded just one album as leader for Blue Note, BLP 4183 Steppin’ Out (1963) dominated by Blue Note’s 2nd favourite soul jazz organist, “Big John” Patton. Vick had a natural affinity with organ soul jazz, working with Brother Jack McDuff and Jimmy McGriff , so it was unsurprising to find him partnered here with Shirley Scott. Initially I thought of Vick as a competent but perhaps lightweight tenor player. His passionate driving play here shows hints of more, perhaps not the premier division – Coltrane – Rollins – but you don’t need three Michelin Stars to cook up a great tasty meal. I add Harold Vick to my list of horn players to look out for.
Billy Higgins has become one of my favourite drummers, solid as a rock but more propulsive than a rock, obviously. He pushes everything along nicely, with the help of a merciless cowbell strike from Jimmy Hopps that leaves you “slave to the rhythm”.
Allmusic awarded the album only 3/5 stars: “while it is nothing overly heavy or deep, it’s thoughtfully and sensitively produced and of its kind an almost perfect album” – covering all the bases, eh? Like a lot of Strata East, it is fairly rare, and sells for up to $200 at auction. I guess I really ought to get myself a copy.
Vinyl: Strata East SES 7430 released January 1975
Since I don’t actually own this album, I thought I would try something new at LJC: FakeJazzCollector. I think this is another LJC first.
It didn’t take long to find acceptable quality pictures of each label side, thanks to Popsike and Youtube. No etchings, that would be expecting too much. A picture of the back cover wasn’t too difficult to find either, neutralising the colour-cast, legible text, with just a little help from Photoshop. Almost as good as owning it, but not.
What I do own will be revealed below under “Collector’s Corner”
Today’s actual source: “Strata-2-East” Universal Sound, London, 1997
Strata East records are not much seen in the UK and they are pretty rare themselves in the US. There have been a spate of Strata East modern reissues recently, of pretty poor quality based on my sample of one, to be avoided. However I came across this compilation of Strata East recordings ( Years 1972-5), issued by Universal Sound, London,1997. The compilation is itself over twenty years old.
In the record-collecting heirarchy. the least desirable of all records is a compilation/sampler, but there are times when a sample of things you are unlikely to hear any other way has it’s attraction. I know nothing about Universal Sound. The name sounds like the music giant “Universal”, but isn’t. Unlikely a little-known record label in London would have access to original Strata East tapes, so no audiophile pretensions, but a home-grown DJ-type dubbing operation, ask no questions.
The tracks selected for the compilation are more from the funky side of Strata East. Two tracks by “The Descendants Of Mike And Phoebe” (pictured below left) – strange name for a group, but interesting, Bill Lee on bass, includes a nice rendition of the “Glass Bead Games” mesmerising Lee composition “Coltrane“. So let’s hear it from The Descendants..
Selection: Descendants Of Mike And Phoebe – “Coltrane” (Lee)
. . .
Such a lot of interesting material on the Strata East label, tantilisingly obscure, and out of reach, and sound quality of original Strata East albums is much better than this sampler (which is nonetheless fairly pleasant)
The DJ jazz funk community in London has long had a fascination with music from this period, Good on them for producing this in the late ’90’s, and introducing me to Shirley Scott and Harold Vick, which I would otherwise have overlooked. Now, the Oness Of JuJu, hang on, I’m still catching up. Some of the material on the sampler has not aged well, but there is also some good stuff spread over its four sides. So take a bow, Universal Sound, whoever they are/were.
Anything here for you? Strata East? Universal Sound? Shirley Scott? Harold Vick? Oneness of JuJu? Descendants of Mike And Phoebe? Or am I here on my own?
The floor is yours. Just be sure to sweep up after.
Jazz fan and photographer Harry M captured Shirley and Harold live at Montreux,1975, just a few months after the recording of “One For Me”. VIP front row seat, how marvelous! Thanks for sharing.
Shirley Scott, Harold Vick, Montreux 1975
Photos courtesy of Harry M
UPDATE 2: Descendants of Mike And Phoebe Revealed.
The Descendants Of Mike And Phoebe – A Spirit Speaks (Strata East, 1974)
“The composing and bass-playing father of film director Spike Lee led a family band through a funk-friendly jazz album dedicated to their slave ancestors. The line-up includes three of Lee’s
children siblings, flugelhornist Cliff, pianist Consuela and singer Grace, augmented by drummer Billy Higgins“.
By inference, Mike and Phoebe were the “ancestors” referred to. I assume there was fourth child, Spike, who chose not to play an instrument.