At the beginning of the summer I featured "Hot Sauce
," one of my all-time favorite soul-jazz jams by organist Big John Patton, as a 12 O'Clock Track
. One of the things that makes that performance so irresistible is the groovy, supercatchy solo by guitarist Grant Green, a musician who knew how to repeat and break apart a single phrase with more imagination, grit, and soul than just about any electrist in the history of jazz. Although Green had impeccable skill as a postbop player, he always thrived in organ combos, and by the late 60s he was finding his way around the harder funk trend that had oozed into the jazz world thanks in part to the massive influence of James Brown. Green's 1970 album Alive!
(Blue Note) might not count as one of the great jazz albums of all time, but for damn sure it's one of the funkiest. Recorded at the Cliche Lounge in Newark, New Jersey, the music was powered by the furious drumming of Idris Muhammad—who died on July 29 at the age of 74—and the tasty organ work of Ronnie Foster (the group also included tenor saxophonist Claude Bartee, vibist Willie Bivens, and conga player Joseph Armstrong). When the album was reissued in 1993, I would listen to it over and over again. The whole thing is insanely funky, opening with the early Kool & the Gang jam "Let the Music Take Your Mind" and closing with a chill take on "Down Here on the Ground," a Lalo Schiffrin theme from the film Cool Hand Luke
that was made famous by guitarist Wes Montgomery on a 1968 album of the same name. But the track I loved best was Green's loose version of the Don Covay hard-funk gem "Sookie, Sookie," and it's today's 12 O'Clock Track.