RIDING THE RHODES



Pete Jolly: Leaves + Springs
From Seasons (A&M, 1970)

Leroy Vinnegar: Twila
From Glass of Water (Legend, 1973)

One of these days, I’m going to get around to writing a whole set of posts celebrating the electric piano. I actually wrote, along with Eothen Alapatt, a long feature about the history of the Rhodes and its maker back in 2000 but it no longer is available online and I’m trying to find a new home for it. Until that day…

The funny thing is…I always assumed Pete Jolly’s Seasons was a Rhodes album but as it turns out, he’s actually using a Wurlitzer, the main competitor of the Rhodes amongst jazz players. Ok, no big deal, either way, the electric piano sound just marinates this entire album in warm, liquid keys. “Leaves” beautifully expresses how lovely a tone you can achieve, especially with all the reverb thrown on. Makes me sad this song is less than two minutes long. I wouldn’t have minded some longer noodling (and I typically am not a big fan of noodling).

“Springs” isn’t as abstract, bringing aboard a solid rhythm section lead by Chuck Berghofer on bass whose presence is just as prominent as Jolly’s. Ugly Duckling fans will likely recognize this cut too and I can see what drew Young Einstein’s interest in terms of the striking piano melodies (again with that reverb) and Berghofer’s bassline twine.

By the way, Seasons is another one of the Dusty Groove’s new series of reissues and there’s at least one more (their reissue of La Clave’s self-titled LP) that I want to talk about. Good stuff, all around.

In any case, with the Leroy Vinnegar, I’m almost positive this is, in fact, Rhodes (the two pianos have similar but not identical sounds), with Dwight Dickerson manning the keys. Glass of Water boasts a gorgeous set of jazz tunes, including a few funkier/soulful numbers though “Twila” (which begins the LP) is a personal favorite. Very “Sunday afternoon listening” if you know what I mean.

Whenever I do get to my Rhodes Week, I’ll have some other electric piano goodies to pull out the woodwork, including songs by Shelton Kilby, Romano Mussolini and, of course, the great, late Weldon Irvine.

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