New jazz rarities from the tastemakers at Dusty Groove | Bleader

New jazz rarities from the tastemakers at Dusty Groove


Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe


Last December Wicker Park record shop Dusty Groove launched an arrangement with the reissue imprint Real Gone Music that allowed it to start releasing music, as it had between 2007-'09, when it brought 22 titles of vintage jazz, soul, and Brazilian music back to life. Back then Dusty Groove was responsible for all aspects of the product, from making licensing agreements to handling distribution and promotion. Store owner Rick Wojcik has admitted those needs taxed his staff. With the present deal they're in the role of tastemaker and A&R visionary; Dusty Groove chooses the titles, and Real Gone Music handles the business, production, and distribution.

Three new titles released earlier this month nicely represent one of the things that distinguishes Dusty Groove's aesthetic tendencies: digging up overlooked gems. The latest titles were plucked from the vaults of Prestige (and the related Status imprint), a jazz powerhouse for decades. For many years Prestige was part of the constellation of jazz labels owned and operated by Fantasy (now owned by Concord Music Group), which reissued hundreds of great recordings under its Original Jazz Classics umbrella; these three titles, by bassist Ahmed Abdul-Malik, George Braith, and Stan Hunter with Sonny Fortune, are all appearing on compact disc for the first time. None of them could be considered essential recordings, but all have intriguing qualities and some terrific performances.

The liner notes are a bit subpar—each release includes small CD-size reproductions of the original art, including original liner notes, which require a magnifying glass to read easily—mostly tediously paraphrasing the original notes, and making some pretty glaring errors. The notes to the Braith title, for example, say the recording was originally released in April of 1967 right after telling us that the recording was completed on November of that same year. The Abdul-Malik notes include the borderline-offensive supposition that oudist Hamza Aldeen "was apparently not related to another oud player, Hamza El Din of Egypt." Yup, those Arabic oud players—they're all one big happy family.

An American who worked with the likes of Thelonious Monk and Randy Weston, Abdul-Malik occasionally plays oud himself on some of the records he made as a leader. But the tunes on his 1965 album Spellbound are mostly standards or themes from recent film scores (like the title track from the Alfred Hitchcock film), though there is an original piece called "Cinema Blues," which you can hear below. Aldeen's presence on a couple of tracks feels a bit perfunctory. He plays a solo intro on "Never on Sunday," from the Greek film of the same name (and originally written for bouzouki); on "Song of Delilah," from the 1949 film Samson and Delilah, he merely shadows the bass line. Nevertheless, in terms of straight-ahead hard bop, it's a lovely session featuring an unusual band, with a front line including longtime Duke Ellington trumpeter and violinist Ray Nance and the criminally overlooked reedist Seldon Powell. Chicago native Walter Perkins (Ahmad Jamal Trio, MJT+3) is on drums, and Boston's obscure Paul Neves is on piano.

Originally released in 1967, saxophonist George Braith's Musart—named for a subterranean New York jazz club he operated—is the most peculiar record in the batch. Braith is known best for a handful of albums he cut for Blue Note earlier in that decade, and for me he'll always be the guy playing two saxophones at once (a la Rahsaan Roland Kirk) on "Hot Sauce," the groovy opening track on the album Blue John by organist Big John Patton (in fact, he eventually designed the Braithophone, which fused two horns together), but he covers a lot of stylistic terrain here. "Del's Theme" opens the album with lush, wordless female vocals, while a take on the ballad "Laura" is hijacked by Afro-Caribbean hand percussion. He pulls out the double-sax technique on the shape-shifting title track—where the groove keeps getting dramatically interrupted by a jagged guitar line from Eddie Diehl—that reflects the friendship and influence of John Coltrane, including a touch of free blowing toward the end. According to the liners Braith was about to work in a new Coltrane group with Archie Shepp, Albert Ayler, and Pharoah Sanders when the plans were negated by Trane's sudden death in 1967.The twin-horn thing returns on "Evelyn Anita," a beguiling dose of funky boogaloo named after his sister. Below you can check out the album's lovely version of "Embraceable You," a duet with Diehl that really lets Braith's tart lyricism to shine through—and includes a closing double-horn flourish.

Trip on the Strip from 1966 is cobilled to Stan Hunter and Sonny Fortune, but the organ-playing former was a minor figure at best on Philadelphia's bustling soul-jazz scene, while the latter ended up becoming one of jazz's most reliable and respected post-Coltrane saxophonists; this album marked his debut. It's a solid if unremarkable session that cover all of the bases: a bluesy stormer with the title track, the funky groover "Corn Flakes," tender balladry on "This is All I Ask," and a de rigueur cover of the Beatles' classic "Yesterday" (tackled with a bossa nova rhythm to capture one more flavor of the day). The rhythm section of drummer John Royal and guitarist Sherman Suber gets the job done with little fuss and little flair. Fortune hadn't come into his own at this point, changing his sound and approach according to needs to each track, but his talent is clear. Below you can listen to his original "Sonny's Mood."

Today's playlist:

Ian Pace, Tracts (NMC)
Orthrelm, OV (Ipecac)
Tame Impala, Lonerism (Modular)
Rosinha de Valença, Cheiro de Mato (EMI, Brazil)
Phil Woods Quartet, Warm Woods (Lonehill)

Peter Margasak writes about jazz every Friday.

Comments (6)

Showing 1-6 of 6

Add a comment

Add a comment