PRESTIGE WEEK, DAY FIVE

Charles Kynard: Winter’s Child

From Wa-Tu-Wa-Zui (Prestige, 1971)

I first discovered keyboardist Charles Kynard through his trio of albums on Mainstream – slick n’ funky tunes all around. I gradually moved backwards and then began to listen to his Prestige titles. Which is better is subjective…there’s not a huge difference between the two – though his very first Prestige titles, recorded in the mid/late ’60s are more straight-ahead than soul-jazzy.

Labels aside though, “Winter’s Child” is my favorite Kynard song off of any album by him. He’s playing, I believe, a Wurlitzer electric piano (I favor Rhodes myself but I’m not too picky here) and there’s something about its soft touch and tones that helps make this song incredibly soulful to me. Moreover, the interplay between bassline, brass and keys at the beginning and the end seal the deal.

PRESTIGE WEEK, DAY FOUR

Sonny Stitt: Turn It On

From Turn It On (Prestige, 1971). Also on Legends of Acid Jazz

Stitt is a Prestige veteran since Day One – having recorded almost a dozen albums for them during the label’s first years. He then took a decade off and return to Prestige in the early 1960s and began recording for them regularly after that point.

This 1971 date features Idris Muhammed on drums which explains why the rhythm section is so firmly in the pocket. Compared to yesterday’s Billy Butler cut, “Turn It On” isn’t quite as overtly funky but this song is unquestionably anchored in a firm, catchy rhythm. Stitt blows nicely here too – nowhere near as cheesy as a lot of Hosuton Person’s albums from the same era. If I had to pick a definitive Prestige soul-jazz sound – this comes as close as anything else I can pick out.

Tomorrow: Charles Kynard raises a winter’s child.

PRESTIGE WEEK, DAY THREE

Billy Butler: Blow For the Crossing

From Guitar Soul (Prestige, 1969)

I’ve featured Billy Butler before on Soul Sides – taking a cut from one of his other Prestige albums, This Is Billy Butler. He recorded a total of four albums with the label but played on many others, including with King Curtis, Gene Ammons and especially Houston Person.

“A Blow For The Crossing,” catches your attention the instant it opens with Butler’s distinctive guitar licks and then it shifts into Specs Powell’s building drum break. The song moves with grace and patience, building steam so to say (the fake train whistle is a nice effect), and it’s able to maintain that rich groove the whole way through. Butler’s playing blends a more classical guitar-playing approach but with definite influences from the world of rock. And that effect Butler achieves – is it steel-pedel guitar? A bottleneck style? – is so distinctive and mesmerizing.

Tomorrow: Sonny Stitt turns it on.

PRESTIGE WEEK, DAY TWO

Pucho and the Latin Soul Brothers: Heat!

From Heat! (Prestige, 1968)

In the 1960s, Prestige also dabbled into the growing Latin jazz scene. They weren’t major players per se – not as prolific as Fantasy which had Cal Tjader and Mongo Santamaria on their roster – but Prestige’s secret weapon was Pucho and His Latin Soul Brothers. Regarded as one of the most important Latin/soul/jazz/funk fusionists of his time, Pucho recorded seven albums for Prestige from the mid-to-late ’70s, Heat! being one of the best in the bunch.

What I love about the title track is how smooth it moves. Pucho’s timbales lay down an irresistable groove and the horn section snakes in with what sounds to me to be some heavy Ethopian jazz influences but once the sax comes in, the sound is undeniably soulful. Delicious.

Tomorrow: The guitar soul of Billy Butler.


ELSEWHERE

  • Cosmo Baker has scanned all his old “Diggin’ in the Crates” columns from On the Go.
  • Frequent Soul Sides’ reader T. Havas is on his own audioblog jump-off.
  • Another new audioblog: Eclectic Boogaloo. Every Tuesday, he posts a cover song – I can feel that.
  • Nina Gordon (of Veruca Salt) does a cover of “Straight Outta Compton.” It’s no “Gin and Juice” by the Gourds but truly, it does make you pause for a second.
  • PRESTIGE WEEK, DAY ONE

    Bobby Timmons: Tom Thumb

    From Soul Man (Prestige, 1966)

    n. widely recognized prominence, distinction, or importance

    Begun in 1949, Bob Weinstock’s Prestige Records would become one of the most influential independent jazz labels of the next 20+ years. Especially in the 1950s and ’60s, Prestige was seen as more adventurous than Blue Note, more high-spirited than Verve and many major artists, from John Coltrane to Miles Davis to Sonny Rollins recorded significant work for Prestige before moving on to become even bigger icons.

    This is all lovingly compiled onto the 4-CD Prestige Records Story anthology but what I’m interested in focusing on is Prestige’s lesser-known legacy in the world of soul-jazz. From the late ’60s through early ’70s, Prestige and Blue Note were producing some of the best soul/funk-influenced jazz out there. The Blue Note catalog runs arguably larger, especially thanks to voluminous output from folks like Lou Donaldson, Reuben Wilson, Grant Green and others but Prestige was nothing to sniff at either. Their studio players included some of the best in the business, including drummers Idris Muhammed and Bernard Purdie (both of whom recorded solo albums for the imprint), guitarists Ivan “Boogaloo Joe” Jones and billy Butler, keyboardists Johnny “Hammond” Smith, Charles Kynard and Leon Spencer, saxophonists Sonny Stitt and Rusty Bryant, etc. etc. Straight up heavyweights.

    Oh, and Prestige also has one of the all-time great logos for a record label.

    For the next seven days, I’m highlighting one offering from Prestige’s sprawling catalog a day. I’m running it chronologically so we start in 1966 with Bobby Timmons’ “Tom Thumb,” a jazz-dance classic that predates the more formal soul-jazz era but you can clearly draw a connection between Timmons’ swinging sound on this cut and where Prestige would eventually end up.

    Timmons made a name for himself more as a songwriter (“Dat There”, “This Here,”) but he also had an impressive career as a bandleader too, recording extensively for Blue Note, World Pacific, and Riverside, among other labels. His first album with Prestige was in 1960 and between 1965 to ’67, he recorded seven albums for them. Soul Man was never one of his bigger hits but “Tom Thumb,” has since been “discovered” by jazz dance freaks and its easy to hear why: the track just moves beautifully. I wrote about it back in March of ’04 (and this is the only “repeat” song from Prestige I’ll run this week). I had this to say about it then:

      “This is a smooth, slick dance number – nothing you’d mash out to but super slinky and sexy (lot of “s” words come to mind for some reason). It’s a longer song – about six minutes – but I never get bored for an instant, grooving through it. It’s like the best Saturday afternoon in the park you can remember.”

    Tomorrow: The latin soul sound of Pucho.