You may have noticed that one of the best blogs around, My Favourite Sound, was recently out of commission while the crew was re-tooling the site. The great news is they're back up and running for 2009! One of the new features of their layout is a revamped request page and I've seen this particular hole in their extensive Willis Jackson discography for some time but haven't upped it since my copy is not-so-clean (there's only so much ClickRepair can do). However, months on and no one else has stepped up with this so I thought I would rip it regardless of quality since I hate to see JazzyPier, Celoduro and the crew go without for so long. Welcome back MFS!
Honestly, it's far from the best set by The Gator due to it swimming in sickly sweet strings, inane back up vocals and a sterile studio sound that would make even the most lenient jazzbo cringe. Willis ain't bad but he's bogged down in the elevator/supermarket territory that sucked so much soul out of the 70s. Although there's an occasional good groove and a break or two to be found here and there, don't look for much in the way of gut-bucket growls or boss horn blowing on this one. One look at the line-up makes you think it could be a corker but a second glance tells a different story once you notice the plethora of backup singers, more recording engineers than should be allowed in one studio and a sure sign of saccharine sonics: enlisting the producer's four year-old daughter for the proceedings. Yikes!
AMG Bio by Scott Yanow An exciting tenor saxophonist whose honking and squeals (although influenced by Illinois Jacquet) were quite distinctive, Willis Jackson was also a strong improviser who sounded perfectly at home with organ groups. He played locally in Florida early on, until joining Cootie Williams (on and off during 1948-1955). His two-sided honking feature "Gator Tail" with "Cootie" (which earned Williams a lifelong nickname) was a hit in 1948, and he started recording as a leader in 1950. Jackson was married to singer Ruth Brown for eight years, and often appeared on her recordings during this era. His extensive series of Prestige recordings (1959-1964) made him a big attraction on the organ circuit. Although generally overlooked by critics, Willis Jackson continued working steadily in the 1970s and '80s. In 1977, he recorded one of the finest albums of his career for Muse, Bar Wars.
Willis "Gator" Jackson - Tenor Sax Bob Babbitt - Bass Tony Bell - Guitar, Tambourine Bobby Eli - Guitar Ron Kersey - Keyboards Richard Rome - Keyboards Rocco Bene - Trumpet, Flugelhorn Bobby Hartzel - Trumpet, Flugelhorn John Wilson - Trumpet, Flugelhorn Peter DeAngelis - Tuba, French Horn Jack Faith - Flute Freddy Joiner - Trombone Jim Nelson - Vibraphone Charles Collins - Drums Larry Washington - Conga Jay Mark - Tambourine Thom Bell - Tambourine Phil Hurtt - Tambourine, Vocals (bckgr) Barbara Ingram - Vocals (bckgr) Carla Benton - Vocals (bckgr) Evette Benton - Vocals (bckgr) Lucille Dunbar - Vocals (bckgr) Kenny Present - Vocals (bckgr) Don Renaldo - Strings
1 The Way We Were 2 Lover's Eve 3 Sideshow 4 Brown Eyed Girl 5 Love's Theme 6 Fire 7 Lady Marmalade 8 Then Came You 9 Shame, Shame, Shame 10 Pick Up the Pieces
If you want to hear more from Jackson, especially his superior soul-jazz sets of the 60s and early 70s, do yourself a solid favour and head over to My Favourite Sound. In the meantime Soundological invites you to catch this later Gator HERE or HERE.