Willis "Gator" Jackson

Together Again! [Together Again/Together Again, Again]

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It was confusing enough that Willis Jackson, with Jack McDuff as sidekick, recorded first an album titled Together Again!, and then a different album with the similar title Together Again, Again. Combining both of these on a single-CD reissue, and titling the whole caboodle Together Again!, is downright pitiless. But to preface appraisal of the music with a gotta-make-this-clear explanation, this 2003 reissue, though titled Together Again!, is not the same as the original album Together Again!, though it contains every track from that LP. Instead, it collects every track from Together Again! and Together Again, Again, though not presented in their original running orders. Rather, the 13 tracks are sequenced in the chronological order in which they were recorded, from May 1959 to December 1961. More important than untangling this discographical train wreck is appreciating the music, which is solid if typical early soul-jazz. The combos (always including Bill Jennings on guitar) can either bop energetically, get bluesy (on Jackson's "This'll Get to Ya"), skirt R&B ("Backtrack (Twistin' Train)"), or wind down for smoochy, slightly smoldering stuff like "Angel Eyes." Tenor saxophonist Jackson and organist McDuff might be the spotlighted performers in the marketing, but actually it's a pretty integrated full-band, small-group sound. There's not much original material from Jackson, though (and no original tunes from McDuff), with a New Orleans-tinged version of Hank Williams' "Jambalaya" the most unexpected cover choice.

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