Sunday, October 19, 2008

CD of the Day - "Grover Washington, Jr.: All The King's Horses"

CD of the Day
Grover Washington, Jr.: "All The King's Horses" (Kudu/Verve) 1973/2008

Originally recorded in May and June, 1972, it was Grover's second LP for Creed Taylor's Kudu label, the follow-up to "Inner City Blues". Creed decided to repeat the same formula and most of the same musicians (except Idris Muhammad, who couldn't do the date and was replaced by Billy Cobham and Bernard Purdie) of the previous album. It worked well, becoming a #1 album in the Billboard Jazz Chart. It also reached the Black (#20) and Pop (#111) albums charts in the same magazine. Now, "All The King's Horses" re-appears on Verve's "Originals" series, with the digipak cover reproducing the original Bob Ciano artwork, even keeping the original catalog number Kudu 07 in the CD front cover. The master Pete Turner did Grover's photos.
The program, cut at Van Gelder Studios, includes nice covers of hits by the two main pop-soul-r&b singers of the time: Aretha Franklin (who had penned the title track for her Grammy-winning album "Young, Gifted & Black) and Roberta Flack ("No Tears, In The End," from the "Killing Me Softly" LP, and "Where Is The Love?", from the first "Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway" date).
Both of Flack's hits had been co-written by bassist William "Bill" Salter and percussionist Ralph MacDonald, who played congas on Grover's versions; Airto took care of the other percussion instruments. "Where Is The Love?" is one of the album highlights, including what guitarist Eric Gale considered his best solo ever. Instead of developing one of those blues-inflected solos he was famous for, Gale opted for a bop-oriented phrasing. "In the middle of the solo, Creed Taylor started to speak in the mike directly to my earphone: 'play the blues, Eric, play the blues". But I pretended I wasn't listening and kept the direction I wanted," Gale once told me. "It was the last track to be recorded and there was no time to record another take, because Van Gelder had another client waiting to enter the studio. Creed would need to book another 6-hour studio session just to re-record my solo, so he left it there."
Other great tracks are Bob James' challenging arrangement of Billie Holiday's hit "Lover Man" (good solos by Grover on alto sax, David Spinozza on electric guitar and by my friend Marvin Stamm on flugelhorn), and Bob's inspired adaptation of a theme by English composer Henry Purcell (1658-1695), retitled "Love Song 1700," featuring Gene Bertoncini on acoustic guitar, Bob on harpsichord and a string trio comprised of David Nadien on violin, Emanuel Vardi on viola and George Ricci on cello.
The less attractive moments are the jazz ballad standard "Body and Soul" (thanks to a truncated editing and an abrupt fade-out) and Bill Withers' laidback tune "Lean on Me".
Besides all the aforementioned musicians, the all-star cast also includes Richard Tee (organ), Ron Carter (bass), Gordon Edwards (electric bass on "No Tears" only), Cornell Dupree (guitar), Pepper Adams (baritone sax) and multi-reed instrumentalist George Marge, who plays flutes, alto sax, English horn & oboe. And Bob James plays Fender Rhodes too, of course.
This new remastering, by Kevin Reeves, is far superior to the previous CD issues.

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