Philip Upchurch: You Wouldn’t, You Couldn’t Be True
From Upchurch (Cadet, 1969)
Eddie Fisher: The Third Cup
From The Third Cup (Cadet, 1969)
Joe Pass: A Time For Us
From Guitar Interludes (Discovery, 1977)
Billy Butler: Twang Thang
From This Is Billy Butler (Prestige, 1969). Also available on: Legends of Acid Jazz
Soul Sides strums up a quartet of guitar soul today (why a quartet? We just thought four album covers in a square looked cool). We begin with Phil Upchurch and this album, depending on your perspective, either comes at the end of this Chicago guitarist’s early career or at the beginning of his mid-career (either way, he was more commercially successful prior and after) but Upchurch is arguably his best soul-jazz album (which probably explains why no one bought it). Charles Stephany produces it and the overall sound is surprisingly a little dense for a guitar-driven album (this is no Wes Montgomery or Grant Green album to be sure) but there’s definitely some solid soul and funk influences. On the former side, you could do worse with the angelic “You Wouldn’t, You Couldn’t Be True” , a super-mellow, sparse track that’s mostly just Upchurch and a choral accompaniment, with a dash of flute and slightest shuffle of a drum brush. Donny Hathaway actually plays piano on the album but clearly, not here. Regardless, I like the ethereal quality of this song – it’s like an invocation or prayer to some benevolent God.
By sheer coincidence, another Cadet artist from ’69 is on the next track: Eddie Fisher, a guitarist profiled in the latest Wax Poetics issue (#10). Like Upchurch, Fisher recorded twice for Cadet and I’ll be honest: The Third Cup is perfectly fine but Fisher’s The Next Hundred Years is incredible, one of my favorite albums, period (and yes, I’ll bring it to ya’ll on a future post). Upchurch actually gets more rocked out in a Hendrix mode but Fisher’s style is far closer to a Grant Green or Wes Montgomery and frankly, that’s the way I like it. “The Third Cup” isn’t as quiet as “You Wouldn’t” but it’s not a funk fest either: just intensely soulful with a kiss of the blues. Real Sunday afternoon music if you know what I mean.
Next is Joe Pass, easily one of the best known jazz guitarists out there and this comes off a curiously 1977 album that I never knew about until the other week (thanks to Cool Chris and B-Cause). 1/3rd of the album are solo interludes: pleasant but nothing to write home about…but then you get to “A Time For Us,” which sounds like one of the best David Axelrod songs he never produced: moody basslines, melancholy organ stabs and the choral touch are all pure Axelrodian but it’s Albert Marx in the producer’s chair.
We end with Billy Butler, the venerable guitarist whose career spanned well over four decades. At this particular moment when he recorded “Twang Thang,” Butler was leading his own group over at Prestige, backed by saxphonist Houston Person, drummer Rudy Collins and Ernie Hayes on keys. “Twang Thang,” is a classic soul-jazz groover, pushing forward on a slick bassline rhythm and Collins’ drums while Hayes twirls it up on the organ. Butler’s guitar lines are sparkling clean and I like how he doesn’t try to overpower his band but instead, slides in nicely with the rest of the elements. Butler’s got enough sizzler from a different Prestige album – “Blow for the Crossing” – which I’ll have to pull in at some point too.