In the late 1980s a Straight No Chaser inspired compilation dedicated to the music scene in Soho surfaced with the title, ‘From Route 66 to the Flamingo’. This was later expanded on CD and chronicled a period when the gritty Rhythm and Blues of Garnet Mimms and Ike and Tina Turner rubbed shoulders with the soul-inflected jazz of Cannonball Adderley and Jimmy McGriff on the dancefloor. This new compilation takes the vibe and mood a step further and covers individual years in far more depth. One of a series of three double CDs covering the period 1962-1964, the first offering divides up into a CD devoted to the emerging modern jazz scene in London with CD2 focusing on 45s of US musicians.
The second CD is arguably the more impressive and groups together some of the most prestigious of the independent jazz labels such as Blue Note, Impulse and Prestige. Fans of the ‘Jazz Juice’ series will have fond memories of Quartette Bien’s epic, ‘Boss très bien’, and it still ranks as one of the finest American attempts at a fast-paced samba-jazz number. More Latin-influenced flavours are to be found via Argentine pianist, composer and arranger Lalo Schifrin who offers up a percussive with strings accompaniment reading of the soothing yet absorbing piece, ‘The wave’. In a more Caribbean vein, Mingus band trumpeter Ted Curson supplies all the Latin fever required on, ‘Fire down below’, with blistering trumpet solo. An unexpected 45 from Lee Morgan on Riverside, ‘Raggedy Ann’, directly precedes his greatest commercial success with, ‘The Sidewinder’, and has a strong Jazz Messengers feel with Clifford Jordan ably supporting him on tenor saxophone.
Few pianists are capable of engendering a more soulful groove than Les McCann and ‘The shampoo’ is a superior example of the soul-jazz groove while alto saxophonist and leader Cannonball Adderley contributes a catch little ditty in, ‘Gemini’. Vibist Johnny Lytle became the darling of the 1980s jazz-dance scene and here, ‘The moon man’ features him on an explosive number with Ray Barretto on congas. Among the lesser known musicians, Larry Frazier and ‘After six’ impresses with lovely guitar licks and saxophone. Modal beats emerge on the Prestige 45 by John Wright, ‘Strut’. Guitarist Kenny Burrell teams up with Ray Barretto on a bossa reading of the evergreen, ‘Out of this world’, and this renews the pairing that worked so well on the classic Blue Note album, ‘Midnight Blue’.
The first CD focuses firmly on the bop-influenced local scene and British musicians and of course Tubby Hayes could rival any of his US contemporaries and here it is the interpretation of ‘Yeah’ that takes the breath away. Don Rendell was beginning to make waves on the jazz scene with his quarter and, ‘Manumission’ was equally potent on the dancefloor. Often, UK bands would record their own takes of soul-jazz favourites from across the Atlantic and this proved to be a winning formula for Tony Coe and his quartet who covered Cannonball Adderley’s, ‘Sack o’ woe’ to good effect. Plenty of rare and hard to find records including, ‘Good morning Judge’, from baritone saxophonist Ronnie Ross and the Jazz Workshop.
Compiled by Nick Duckett and with extensive sleeve notes courtesy of Smiler Anderson that are beautifully illustrated, the inner sleeve is worthy of an award in its own right and features exemplary discographical notes that other re-issue labels would do well to replicate. The genius of this type of compilation is that it captures a specific point in time and transports us back to a golden era of music that only a few were able to experience first hand first time round. For that accomplishment alone, we should be eternally grateful. Available also in vinyl format.