The Lyman Woodard Organization: Joy Road +Belle Isle Daze Pt. 1
From Saturday Night Special (Strata, 1975)

Lyman Woodard is one of the many talented jazz artists to come out of Detroit who’ve managed to acquire a small but loyal cult following; think Marcus Belgrave, Phil Ranelin, Dorothy Ashby, Wendell Harrison, etc. (basically, anyone who ever recorded on Tribe or Strata). Woodard began his career in piano but switched to organ after hearing Jimmy Smith play the B-3 and the mid-1960s, he had formed his early bands, including a trio featuring guitarist Dennis Coffey of later “Scorpio” fame.

By the time for formed “the Organization,” in the mid 1970s, Coffey had been replaced by Ron English and the rest of the band was balanced out with Norma Bell on sax, Leonard King on drums, Lorenzo “Mr. Rhythm” Brown and Bud Spangler on percussion and last, and possibly least(?), Charles Moore on triangle (not to disrespect the triangle or anything). The group has been described as “jazz funk,” usually not a term held in much esteem by other jazz players though personally, this album in particular seems far more soulful than any kind of slap-bass-kind-of-funk. In other words, for supposedly fusion album, it doesn’t sound like many of the trite fusion LPs of the same era.

Partly because Strata is a much desired label, partly because the LP has one of the illest gangsta covers (for a non-gangsta album) ever, and mostly because the music is good, this album has become one of those “holy grail” LPs amongst collectors, going for upwards $200. Whether it’s worth it or not is purely subjective…but while I didn’t pay quite that much, I don’t regret what I did shell out for it.

Right now, the music on here is in the groove of what I’m really into, which is to say: mellowed out soulful jazz. I know other finds it cheesy and hey, diff’t strokes, diff’t folks. But I seriously like the Sunday afternoon feel of songs like “Joy Road” and “Belle Isle Daze.” These two cuts are not representative of the entire LP – there’s more uptempo stuff too but they are my two favorites.

In any case, if you like what you hear, don’t worry about shelling out $200. You can buy the LP on reissue for a mere $8.99.