Gary Bartz

The Shadow Do!

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Not as known as the later Music Is My Sanctuary -- which was an even further departure, in its increased smoothness, from his Ntu Troop dates, and more popular by virtue of being released on Blue Note -- The Shadow Do! was the first time Gary Bartz sought production assistance from Fonce and Larry Mizell, the sibling duo who enlivened many sessions throughout the '70s with their soaring fusion of soul, funk, and (as Bartz would say) "the j-word." At this point, some j-word purists were hip to the Mizell program, what with dates from Bobbi Humphrey, Donald Byrd, and Johnny Hammond already in circulation. Checking the back of this Prestige release supplied all the info they needed to know: production by the Mizells, and four people credited with playing some form of synthesizer. Keyboardist Hubert Eaves, bassist Michael Henderson, guitarist Reggie Lucas, percussionist Mtume, and drummer Howard King help lend a sound that is a little funkier and heavier than most Mizell-guided sessions, but it's no less sweet. The second through fourth songs of side one exude joy and love, anchoring the album in a sense of contentedness so infectious that it might have even won over a few cold souls expecting straight jazz. Bartz's saxophones are at their melodic best, dancing, skipping, and trilling through the arrangements. He also sings lead, present on most of the songs, and though he probably didn't win any publication's best vocalist award, no one sounds like him, and the Mizells' own background harmonies are on-point as ever. [The Shadow Do! was reissued on CD at least twice in Japan, in 1993 and 2007.]

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