Bobbi Humphrey: Blacks and Blues
From Blacks and Blues (Blue Note, 1973)
Donald Byrd: Wind Parade
From Places and Spaces (Blue Note, 1975)
Both available on The Mizell Brothers: Mizell
As one of Blue Note’s main producers during the mid-1970s, the Mizell Brothers sound was so distinctive that you could spot their signature on a song within the first few bars. I’m sure there’s a better way to put this but their style was what I would call proto-disco soul; take a listen to a song like “Wind Parade” and you can definitely hear how disco would evolve out of this particular aesthetic: the vocals, the long, building tracks, the shiny studio sound, etc. The Mizells park their sound somewhere between Saturday night and Sunday afternoon if you follow me.
Their work for Donald Byrd’s Spaces and Places is probably amongst their best known (though their production for the Blackbyrds is equally popular) and songs like “Wind Parade” and “Fallin’ Like Dominoes” are indisputable classics of mid-70s soul-jazz. My favorite Mizell’s related track though is Bobbi Humphrey’s sublimely mellow “Blacks and Blues” – I love how it foregrounds Jerry Peters’ beautiful piano work at the front end and Humphrey’s flute floats in with a nice subtlety as does Fonce Mizell’s clavinet. It’s a great arrangement – memorable from jump and a song you can come back to a dozen times over and never tire of.
By the way, this Mizell anthology that Blue Note has just released includes at least two previously unreleased tracks (though I wasn’t really blown away by either) from Donald Byrd and Gary Bartz respectively. Worth noting for completionists or just the curious. Also, Blue Note is sponsoring a contest tied into their recent releases (including the Mizell comp and that Axelrod anthology I put up last time).