Leo Wright: Soul Talk (1970) Vortex

Selection: Poopsie’s Minor (Wright)

.  .  . 

Poopsie’s Minor is a wickedly infectious rhythmic outing, simple blues structure with a hook in the tail. Gloria’s tasteful comping meshes seamlessly with Kenny Burrell’s chordal syncopation, forming a solid backcloth to Wright’s flowing aerobatics. Frankie Dunlop pushes everything along, the bass seat vacant as Gloria’s foot-pedals carry the lower register. How does someone play music with their feet?

Our friend Francois at Flophouse Magazine beat me to this review by a narrow margin, of around ten years, in 2013. Given the record is fifty years old, I’ll chalk that up as a “near miss”.

Track list

A1.State Trooper (Gloria Coleman) – 2:38
A2. Blue Leo – 4:43
A3. Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child (Traditional) – 4:29
A4. Soul Talk – 5:22
B1. Poopsie’s Minor – 4:46
B2. Skylark (Hoagy Carmichael, Johnny Mercer) – 5:20
B3. Blues Fanfare – 6:28


Leo Wright, alto saxophone, flute; Gloria Coleman, Hammond B3 organ; Kenny Burrell, guitar; Frankie Dunlop, drums, Tom Dowd engineer, recorded NYC, November 1, 1963, first released in 1970.


(Bio condensed from All Music): “A bop-oriented alto saxophonist, and talented jazz flautist. In addition to Dizzzy Gillespie and sideman work, Wright established himself as a leader in early ’60s, New York-based bands that included the likes of Ron Carter,  Junior Mance and Kenny Burrell. He recorded best-known album, Blues Shout, for the Atlantic label in 1960.
Wright toured Europe and decided to stay, eventually moved to Berlin, where he played in a studio band and worked freelance. He essentially retired from music around 1979, before re-emerging in the mid-’80s.
Wright died in Vienna, Austria, in 1991, age 57. His autobiography, “God Is My Booking Agent”, was published posthumously the same year. (God is unable to take your call right now. Please leave a message after the tone and the Supreme Being will get back to you soon as possible.  For more assistance, for Plague, press 1,  for Pestilence, press 2, for Famine, press 3, or hold the line and an agent will be with you shortly)

Unexpected star of this album is soul-organist Gloria Coleman, wife of tenor-toting George Coleman, a pairing not unlike Stanley Turrentine and Shirley Scott. Gloria had limited success with an Impulse title of her own, A47 Soul Sister with fellow sista, drummer Paola Roberts. Not one you see often:
Leo Wright belongs to the hard-driving alto school of Phil Woods, Lou Donaldson, and Sonny Criss: blues-drenched, soulful fleet runs, ride the rollercoaster wherever it takes you, and hold tight on those hair-pin bends, as fingers fly.
 Gloria holds her own with  church-like gospel chording, some  dramatic extended sustains, without overplaying or Jimmy-Smithing, death-by-Hammond B3. Burrell plays rhythm guitar with exquisite rhythmic timing.
The laminated heavy cover is tactile and wonderful to hold. This album was an unexpected delight, more Leo Wright please.

Vinyl: Atlantic/Vortex 2011 stereo

The recording is top notch, bright and detailed tonal range and dynamics, nicely crafted stereo sound stage. With the vinyl scene awash with mediocre transfers, mechanically defective pressings, and dodgy stereo, it is a pleasure to mount on the turntable a record made in 1970 that sounds a natural vinyl experience. Fifty-year old Vortex are good news, they knew how to make records, no hype-sticker required.

Harry’s Place

Harry M caught this fine shot of Kenny Burrell at Jazz Expo 1969. Personally, I loathe photos of artists “smiling at me” (a pretence, smiling at the camera). Burrell’s expression is authentic, pure concentration, he’s working, I can hear his music in this photo.  Another great shot, Harry.

Photo-credit: ©Harry M

Collector’s Corner

The vinyl section in record stores today is full of hype-stickered modern reissues, prominent among them the DOL collection, many on coloured vinyl. What’s it all about?

To get a fix on what record buyers think, I clicked over to the Hoffman public square. Sample of Hoffmen comments, a thread about DOL (Russian unofficial vinyl, widely distributed in Yrup) but similar discussion can be found about WaxTime, Doxy, countless other budget reissue labels, mostly the same type of comments, for and against:  

#65 I’ve learned the hard way with DOL. …absolutely awful. It’s all reprocessed stereo and all sounds like it’s been transferred from either a poor quality cassette complete with drop outs and distortion or poor quality MP3. The sound is inconsistent. The sleeve looks great. The vinyl quality sadly is superb which makes it worse. The sound is so bad I hate it. … I wish they were the CD transferred to vinyl! I could live with that…. This is total crap.”
MondoFanM   Bought Chet Baker Sings yesterday. Sounded great to me, but I’ve never heard the original.
Another comment: Chet Baker / Chet (yellow clear vinyl) on DOL. Impressive. Don’t know what to say, was expecting garbage,  but sounds excellent. Quiet vinyl too. 
And another: After wondering around about these reissues, I decided to give DOL a try… . I can’t tell about the sources, but the sound is really nice. Lacks a bit of low frequencies, but the sound in this album seems like this to me in every version I’ve heard, so that’s OK to me. The pressing quality is really good – surface noise is null, and the vinyl seems to be of a higher quality when compared to many other reissue labels.
smoke  Just playing their Ellington at Newport, and the news is good. …I’m hearing pretty glorious stereo on a nice flat piece of clean vinyl. I’d be curious to know if anyone has compared it to a regular pressing, but I’m very satisfied with the sound….
Pages and pages of comments, more of the same. In a nutshell, some people find them pleasing, quite satisfying, most often mention flat vinyl, no surface noise, but never heard an original.  Others find them terrible, comment about the poor sonics and low-quality sources. 
The discussion is about whether these records sound good. Both types of comments are  entirely valid from their perspective as listeners. If it sounds great  – or crap – to you, it does, that can’t be disputed. 
When I started out, I had little listening experience, and certainly not of “hi-end” equipment, that was years to come, but the other week I spent three to four hours with a couple of pals listening to some of my original pressings, on this beast:
A Vertere Acoustics turntable, creation of ex-Roksan founder Touraj Moghaddam, seriously hi-end. One of Touraj’s magic ingredients is total stability of power supply, no micro-fluctuations that cause micro-irregularity in platter rotation. You have to hear to believe the clarity in timbre that results.
 It doesn’t matter how good a recording is if you can’t get all the information out, provided it was captured in the first place. The information this turntable extracts from (original) vinyl is extraordinary. You hear more information about note attack and decay, colouring, dynamics, emotion, everything. The Vertere had analogue/tube audio amplification to match, the experience set a new benchmark for me in critical listening.
A lot of energy is expended discussing the quality of records, I do so myself. Not much discussing the listeners, which is all a bit personal, and what does anyone know about the listener anyway, and what they are playing the record on. To be fair, some hi-fi forum commenters list their hi-end equipment, but sonic bling is no guarantee of the judgement of the listener. Visit any hi-end audio show and notice the “rubbish” some “audiophiles” listen to listen to. Superb equipment can conceal lack of musical taste.    
This is how I think it works, on hearing a DOL reissue:
No offence intended to listeners of modest means, we were all there once. And of course some records are sonically crap, by any standard, no argument there. But you have to explain why different listeners report such a different account of what is ostensibly the same product, in this case “DOL reissues”.  We all have the same ears, no? No. It is all about what those ears are attached to, your stored experience. At one point, I had never heard an original pressing, nor a hi-end hi-fi, had no idea what I was missing, my opinion based simply on what I knew at the time, which – with hindsight – was not very much. 
Budget reissues are cheap (but you can’t hear price) and some are liked for being “silent” vinyl (judging what you can’t hear, rather than by what you can). Some worry about whether they are licensed ( licenses do not grant access to tapes – merely to royalty-collecting lawyers). At the other end of the spectrum are serious hi-end audio listeners who tell me they consider  Kevin Grey’s Tone Poet engineering is over-rated, compared with other engineers. Well, it’s a point of view. I have my own opinions, others are entitled to theirs.
Yeah, just another Original Pressing Fancy-Audio Supremacist.
I  keep hoping to find original quality modern reissues, but am constantly disappointed, even by “the best”, mastered from original tapes. I have gone back to seeking out vintage originals, and find them very satisfying, on my hi-end equipment. Well, most of them. Sadly, good equipment reveals poor vinyl transfers, unlistenable, bummer.  But there is variable quality even among the best. Some are more best. Also bummer.
Am I wrong on this? Do yellow vinyl digital-source DMM copies sound great? Call me out, floor is yours.

3 thoughts on “Leo Wright: Soul Talk (1970) Vortex

  1. The thing with those labels like DOL, Waxtime etc.. is that they are now priced at almost the same price as a original Blue Note Classic series record. Last time I was at the record store, I saw them in the bins for around €24,-. Which isn’t as cheap as they once where, which make a lot of buyers who are unaware, think they have a quality (original) product in their hands.

    For these prices you could get a BNC or a Japanese version on Discogs. So, with this increase in the MSRP people get misguided. Now Craft is releasing the OJC series, which is on the same quality level as the Tone Poet series but it’s not a solution to these grey label releases. To counter these grey market label releases, a official budget friendly series from CRAFT like the BNC series is a more reasonable solution.


  2. Yes, I agree. One experience that I distinctly recall was when I played a new 2016 reissue of a Bowie lp and afterward played an original of it and was surprised by the difference in emotion and feel, fullness of sound and the telling comparison of a digital mastered press and an analog.


  3. I do not have high end equipment, but my 50 year-old Dynaco speakers render a mighty fine sound from my Pioneer P-518 turntable with Ortofon blue cartridge through a Denon solid state amp. I have learned a lot from the LJC website and now count myself as an analog vinyl advocate. Case in point: I recently acquired Horace Silver’s “Silver Serenade” in a Liberty pressing (blue label, black flat) and was stunned by the intensity of the music. I had owned the cd for many years but it never captured my interest. The LJC has described this experience many times and I attest to the truth of the matter. We may be judged harshly as “purists” but we don’t just hear the difference, we feel it.


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