Reuben Wilson ‘Set us free’ (Blue Note Rare Groove) 3/5

In recent time there has been an extensive re-evaluation of soul-jazz organist Reuben Wilson and of his incursions into jazz-funk for Cadet. While the high point of his career remains ‘Love Bug’ cut for Blue Note in 1969, Wilson went on to record a series of albums for the label including this offering in 1971. In contrast to previous albums, ‘Set us free’ was more expansive in its use of instrumenation with added percussion courtesy of congocero Ray Armando, jazz harp, reeds, vocals from female trio Essence and the arrangements of Wade Marcus. The title track is an Eddie Harris composition wh ich is an excellent vehicle for Wilson to stretch out. By this time soul music was in full flight and it should come as little surprise that Wislon should cover two popular songs of the era, ‘Mr Big Stuff’, a hit for Jean Knight and Marivn Gaye’s ‘Mercy mercy me (The Ecology)’, which had only recently been released at the time. Soul fans will find much to appreciate in these covers with vocal chants from Essence embellishing the sound. There is some easy listening material as on ‘We’re in love’ and blues-inflected pieces such as ‘Sho-nuff mellow’ with guitar solo which is, perhaps, the most faithful to the overall Wilson sound. Tim Stenhouse