Two complete LPs from the defunct Famous Door label are reissued on this single CD, both featuring underrated horn players from the late '40s. Herbie Steward was one of Woody Herman's Four Brothers, but by the time he recorded in 1981 he was playing alto, soprano, and clarinet rather than tenor. Although he had been a studio musician for years, he could still swing well, as shown on such songs as "Take the 'A' Train" (taken as a waltz), "The Song Is You," and "Gone With the Wind." He is heard in a quintet also featuring guitarist Eddie Duran and either Smith Dobson or Tee Carson on piano.
This two-fer combines two of trumpeter/flügelhornist Clark Terry's albums for the Impulse! label: 1964's The Happy Horns of Clark Terry and 1967's It's What's Happenin'. Generally considered one of Terry's best '60s outings, The Happy Horns of Clark Terry is a jaunty, swinging affair that finds Terry joined by such names as saxophonists Phil Woods and Ben Webster, bassist Milt Hinton, and others. Featuring a lively take on Duke Ellington's "Rockin' in Rhythm," Bix Beiderbecke's "In a Mist," and even an Ellington medley, the album is a must-hear for Terry fanatics.
This album is billed as 'acid jazz', and if that's defined by hard-funkin' horns combined with modern beats, then this is certainly it. But it certainly doesn't fall into the usual image of acid jazz, as being sort of mellow and ambient. This is anything but mellow; in fact, it's easily the most lively of the JB Horns albums. Part of the reason the formula works so well here is that the drum programs are fortified with traditional funky instruments like the clavinet and Fender Rhodes. And Maceo himself gets down on the Hammond organ on several occasions in addition to blowing his horn. I would definitely recommend this CD to any Funkateer who loves hearing Maceo, Fred and Pee Wee blow their horns, particularly if they don't mind a little of that hip-hop flavor. It's a little less organic-sounding than their usual works, so jazz-oriented Funkateers might balk at the album's overall sound. It's slick, but not so slippery that you can't get both hands on the funk.
Robert Cray adds a bit more soul to the mix on this album, which features the Memphis Horns most prominently. Most of the songs are Cray doing what Cray does best–slow, soulful, done-me-wrong (or, alternatively, I-done-wrong) songs chock full of great guitar. No complaints there, and when he adds a bit of vocal growl here and there, as on the album opener "The Forecast (Calls for Pain)" (also featuring some excellent bass from Richard Cousins), and the slow shuffle "Holdin' Court," it keeps things interesting. This album indicates a slight shift in Cray's direction; although he's always included a touch of soul in his blues, here it's more pronounced than before, a tendency he continued in subsequent recordings.
The daughter of the late bluesman Johnny Copeland steps up to the plate with this, her debut album for the Alligator imprint. Although only 19 at the time of this recording, Copeland comes to this album with a mature style and vast amounts of assuredness. While comparisons to Koko Taylor and Etta James will be plentiful, Shemekia has enough tricks up her sleeve to make this a disc well worth checking out. Eight of the 14 tunes aboard are co-written by producer John Hahn and strong musical support is summoned up from guitarist Jimmy Vivino, with guest turns from Joe Louis Walker and "Monster" Mike Welch, while the Uptown Horns show up on three tunes, including the title track. Highlights are numerous on this disc, but special attention should be paid to Copeland's "Ghetto Child," a nice cover of Don Covay's "Have Mercy"; Walker's "Your Mama's Talking"; and the strutting "I Always Get My Man." This is one very impressive debut.