(Editor’s note: Over the next few weeks, you’ll see some new voices joining us here at Soul Sides. Today is the debut of Dave Ma, who runs his own outstanding music blog, Nerdtorious, and he’s offering his take on the new 2-CD anthology chronicling the best of the Perception/Today catalog. –O.W.)

Dizzy Gillespie: Matrix
From The Best of Perception & Today Records (BBE, 2012)

The new anthology, The Best of Perception & Today Records, opens with Dizzie Gillespie’s “Matrix”, a song penned by Gillespie’s pianist, Mike Longo. Gillespie’s rendering is harder, funkier than Longo’s original and that may be why artists like the Beatnuts and others lifted it as sample fodder. It’s also likely the only Gillespie song to ever anchor a Gap ad.

The compilation — released by BBE and compiled by DJ Spinna — isn’t just recognizable samples however; it covers the short but expansive history of Perception Productions, who, along with its subsidiary Today, ran for a mere five years as the ‘60s entered the ‘70s yet supported an impressive hodgepodge of acts in such a short run. Along the way, they captured both marquee names in the twilight of their craft and young, bold musicians who’d forge full careers thereafter. Giants like Gillespie and Astrud Gilberto certainly added acclaim but also added equally big recordings; Gilberto’s revered “Gingele” is an obvious standout as is the fluttering, mid-tempo funk number, “Alligator” where we hear Gillespie in a rare, contemporary setting.

Astrud Gilberto: Gingele
From The Best of Perception & Today Records (BBE, 2012)

Having towering figures aboard were surely something of a coup but small acts recruited for ‘one-off’ releases were equally exuberant. Wanda Robinson, a Baltimore-based poet recorded for the label in which “Instant Replay” and “A Possibility (Back Home)” are included. “Find The One Who Loves You” by the Eight Minutes, a group aiming to ape the sound and success of the Jackson 5 ultimately made slower, intimate songs as the label tried cornering markets other than jazz. Pop singer Bobby Rydell’s “Honey Buns” is a bright spot and apparently unlike any of Rydell’s previous work. Swooping, stabbing strings on “I Keep Asking You Questions” by Black Ivory, a group fronted by a young Leroy Burgess, lend their own take on the emerging Philadelphia Sound.

Bobby Rydell: Honey Buns
From The Best of Perception & Today Records (BBE, 2012)

More great moments are peppered throughout. Julius Brockington’s version of “Rock Steady” by Aretha Franklin is a surprise and one of the comp’s strongest cuts. The signing of Bill Curtis, legendary drummer for the Fatback Band, adds “Dance Girl” and “Nijia (Nija) Walk” to the selections. Others like Debbie Taylor’s “Too Bad To Tell”, Tyrone Washington’s “Submission”, and James Moody’s “Heritage Hum” round out the already stout release.

Tyrone Washington: Submission
From The Best of Perception & Today Records (BBE, 2012)

With jazz, soul, and funk (and overlaps of the three) coming from such a diverse cast, it’s hard to tell you’re essentially hearing a jazz label adapt to shifting musical trends. Later releases stubbornly held on with undercurrents of jazz but the majority of the songs defined its makers and certainly are some of the finest of its era.

–Dave Ma of Nerdtorious

  1. It’s crazy how many groups took horn licks off this one song.