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By William Michael Smith
By Jef With One F
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There are too many albums in the 32 Jazz catalog to pick out a complete "best of" list, but these dozen records are good starting points.
Eddie Harris: Greater Than The Sum Of His Parts -- Double CD consisting of four Altantic albums released in the sixties. "If you want to know the most underrated guy, it's gotta be Eddie," producer Joel Dorn says. He's right; the pioneering saxophonist who had an eclectic mix of jazz, blues, funk, pop and lounge sensibilities never got his just acclaim when he was alive.
Various Artists: Songs That Made The Phone Light Up -- A collection of vocal tracks that should have been hits. Dorn selected songs that got listener response when he was a jazz disc jockey at WHAT-FM in Philadelphia, hence the title. If Nancy Wilson's "Save Your Love For Me" doesn't make you melt, you're hopeless.
Rahsaan Roland Kirk: Aces Back To Back -- Another four-album collection of Atlantic material, this captures one of jazz's most unusual artists. "I could talk to you about Rahsaan until next Halloween, and I couldn't tell you about Rahsaan," Dorn says. "He was so different, so unique, so original that it was hard for an average human to comprehend what he was doing because there is no context, no precedent in which to judge it." Recorded 30 years ago, Rahsaan's music still sounds like that of a pioneer. That's how far out he was.
Yusef Lateef: The Man With The Big Front Yard -- More Atlantic material, this time by the man who called his music "autophysiopsychic music." "He came out of swing and bebop," Dorn notes, "but Yusef was open to practically everything. The thing I liked best about Yusef is he had a world view before people even used that term." Like Kirk's, Lateef's music is out there, but the reference points are easier to spot.
Ron Carter and Houston Person: The Complete Muse Sessions -- Two albums of extraordinary duets from a premiere bassist and an underrated soulful saxophonist.
Various Artists: Jazz For A Rainy Afternoon -- Ballads, ballads and more ballads. Great for when you're in the mood for love. Seriously.
Les McCann: How's Your Mother? -- Newly unearthed recording of McCann's hard bop trio at the Village Vanguard in 1967. A very hot set of gospel- and blues-influenced jazz.
Grant Green: Iron City -- Something of a lost artist, Green was an underrated straight-ahead guitarist who incorporated funk influences late in his career. This is a good example of his later work.
Pat Martino: Cream -- A live recording from the early seventies, Martino's guitar playing is straight-ahead and blistering. Contains the most intense version of "Sunny" you'll hear.
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