Recorded on May 21, 1970, at Detroit's Club Mozambique, this was shelved and remained unreleased until it was retrieved for CD issue in 1995. It's odd that Blue Note decided to sit on it for so long, because it ranks as one of Lonnie's better sets. The band, featuring George Benson on guitar, is relaxed and funky without being in your face about it, and unlike much soul-jazz of the time, most of the material is original, Smith having penned six of the eight numbers. Although the riffs often owe a lot to James Brown, this is definitely at least as much jazz as soul, with Lonnie taking a rare vocal turn on "Peace of Mind."
Recorded in 1970 but not released until 1996, Live At the "It Club" shows the Three Sounds pulling out funky, gritty rhythms out of their basic bluesy hard-bop sound. The group's funky influences are most noticeable in the rhythm section of drummer Carl Burnette and bassist Henry Franklin, who had been playing with Harris for only a short time when this set was recorded. The rhythm section pushes Harris, making the music loose and swinging – the groove matters more than anything on the album. Occasionally, the energy of the Three Sounds lags, but Live at the "It Club" is an enjoyable piece of grooving soul-jazz.
Most John Patton albums are hard-driving, edgy soul-jazz and funk, and the title of Accent on the Blues makes the record seem like it would be no different than his other sessions. Of course, that isn't the case. Accent on the Blues is among the most atmospheric music Patton has ever made. While it stops short of being free, it's hardly funky soul-jazz, and that may disappoint some fans of his rip-roaring style. Nevertheless, the album is a rewarding listen, primarliy because it displays a more reflective side of his talent, demonstrating that he can hold his own among the likes of guitarist James Blood Ulmer and saxophonist Marvin Cabell.
This previously unreleased live set, which has been issued on Blue Note's Rare Groove Series, will bore anyone who listens closely. The repertoire is dominated by lengthy funk grooves that are quite danceable but never develop beyond the obvious. Altoist Lou Donaldson was using a baritone horn at the time that gave him a generic and unappealing tone, the obscure trumpeter Fred Ballard does his best to no avail and the enthusiastic rhythm section (guitarist Melvin Sparks, organist Leon Spencer, Jr., and drummer Idris Muhammad) keeps the grooves repetitious. Bob Porter's liner notes (which colorfully give readers the history of Newark jazz of the past 30 years) are superlative but, even with the inclusion of a fast blues, musically nothing much happens.
Set Us Free, Reuben Wilson's final album for Blue Note, was issued in 1971. Since that time it has become an immortal and much sought classic by beatheads for a single track: "We're in Love." DJ Premier sampled it liberally – for its Hammond B-3 vamps, backing vocals, and decorative percussion – for use on rapper Nas' smash "Memory Lane." Hip-hop fans suddenly had to hear more, and as a result not only is Wilson active again on the circuit, but there has also been terrific interest in his catalog.
Move Your Hand was recorded live at Club Harlem in Atlantic City on August 9, 1969. Organist Lonnie Smith led a small combo – featuring guitarist Larry McGee, tenor saxist Rudy Jones, bari saxist Ronnie Cuber, and drummer Sylvester Goshay – through a set that alternated originals with two pop covers, the Coasters' "Charlie Brown" and Donovan's "Sunshine Superman." Throughout, the band works a relaxed, bluesy, and, above all, funky rhythm; they abandon improvisation and melody for a steady groove, so much that the hooks of the two pop hits aren't recognizable until a few minutes into the track.
All the rave reviews about this album are justified; this is a superb, sizzling, and very soulful live recording from 1970. According to the liner notes this recording was made "almost as an afterthought" by Blue Note. But afterwards, the label decided not to release the show, keeping it in the Blue Note vaults until it finally saw the light of day in 2000. But patience is rewarded; this is a fantastic album.
On Evolution, Dr. Lonnie Smith returns to the Blue Note Records label with a unique project that enhances his legacy as one of the premier masters of modern music. With three new Smith originals (“For Heaven’s Sake”, “African Suite” and “Talk About This”) and exciting new arrangements of tunes such as Monk’s “Straight No Chaser”, “Play It Back” and “Afrodesia,” The Good Doctor and his cast offer plenty of surprises and invention along with a serious groove.