Re-issue of mainstream hard bop/soul jazz tenorist Gene Ammon's last album from 1974.
John Eyles 2003-04-01
Even when it was first released in 1974, this album was an anachronism. The opening track, "Sticks", sounds as if it comes from a late-50s Horace Silver session with Blue Mitchell & Junior Cook.This definitive take on funky, foot-tapping soul-jazz sets the tone for the album. Ammons is joined by a fine bunch of like-minded players- Nat Adderley on cornet, Kenny Drew on piano, Sam Jones on bass, Louis Hayes on drums, Ray Barretto on congas and Gary Bartz on alto sax. They share his straightahead attitude; for all of them, the watchwords were swing, melody and emotion. The only slight exception is the younger Bartz, whose soloing sounds as if he's toeing the line and keeping himself in check, rather than cutting loose into freer territory.
One of the few elements that would fix this session in 1973 is the inclusion of Gilbert O'Sullivan's "Alone Again, Naturally" (yes, that one. Can you think of another jazz treatment of it?). It's the weakest track here, being pleasant but relatively lightweight. Its structure does not allow for the powerful ensemble riffing that give the best soul-jazz its power and appeal. By contrast, Duke Pearson's "Jennine" and Ammons own "Geru's Blues" are perfect vehicles for the band sound, allowing for some full-tilt blowing guaranteed to set the pulses racing.
This was Gene Ammons' last album (he died soon after, of pneumonia). Often, last albums or sessions can be disappointingly anticlimactic (Doo Bop, anyone?). This one, though, makes a fitting finale, encapsulating much that was good about Ammons. Ironically, the very last track he recorded was the atypical Gordon Jenkins ballad "Goodbye". With the focus firmly on Ammons at his most restrained and soulful, it makes a poignant end piece.