Willis "Gator" Jackson

More Gravy

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When Willis "Gator" Jackson was recording for Prestige from 1959-1971, many jazz critics tended to dismiss his soul-jazz/hard bop as too simple and basic -- the same critics who felt that Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane were too radical and left of center faulted Jackson for not being left of center enough. The same critics who claimed that Jackson was unchallenging tore Archie Shepp apart because he dared to be challenging. So how did Jackson respond to jazz critics? He ignored them (presumably) and kept cranking out the sort of funky, groove-oriented soul-jazz/hard bop that his fans adored. Recorded in 1963, More Gravy may not have received an abundance of glowing reviews from jazz critics but is still a fine example of his Prestige output. This LP never goes out of its way to be difficult and abstract -- quite the opposite. Jackson wanted to be accessible, and he is exactly that on a program of funky jazz-blues ("Pool Shark," the title song) and heartfelt ballads ("Somewhere Along the Way"). The big-toned tenorman also provides a Latin-flavored number titled "Nuther'n Like Thuther'n," which successfully combines Brazilian and Afro-Cuban elements -- the tune has one foot in the bossa nova and the other in Latin jazz (which, in most cases, means Afro-Cuban jazz, although technically, you could argue that combining jazz with Colombian Cumbia or Dominican merengue is a form of Latin jazz). Thankfully, Jackson has rock-solid backing in trumpeter Frank Robinson, guitarist Pat Martino, organist Carl Wilson (an obvious Jimmy Smith admirer), bassist Sam Jones, and drummer Joe Hadrick. Martino was only 19 when this album was recorded, and he had already developed a fairly distinctive sound. Clearly, the Philadelphia guitarist had spent a lot of time in the shed. More Gravy is among the many Jackson albums that is well worth hearing.

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