Willis "Gator" Jackson

After Hours

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Like Arnett Cobb, Willis "Gator" Jackson was a hard-blowing tenor saxophonist who had no problem making the transition from the honker school of the '40s and early '50s to the soul-jazz and organ combos of the late '50s and '60s. The '60s, in fact, were an extremely productive time for Jackson, who recorded for Prestige throughout that decade and got into the studio often. A 79-minute CD that Fantasy assembled in 2004, After Hours offers two of Jackson's '60s LPs back to back: 1963's Loose and 1967's Soul Grabber (both of which employ Carl Wilson on organ and underscore Jackson's fondness for the Hammond B-3). While Soul Grabber is heard in its entirety, one of the songs from Loose ("Y'all") was omitted due to space limitations. During the '60s, Jackson wasn't afraid to look in a variety of places for material -- his repertoire ranged from original compositions to Tin Pan Alley to Burt Bacharach/Hal David, Bobby Vinton and Motown. Jackson seemed to realize that worthwhile popular music was worthwhile music regardless of the source, and on After Hours, Gator finds the jazz potential in everything from "Secret Love" and "Sometimes I'm Happy" to Bobbie Gentry's "Ode to Billie Joe," Bobby Hebb's "Sunny" and Peter, Paul & Mary's "I Dig Rock and Roll Music." Jackson's tenor dominates the album, but on Bacharach/David's "Alfie," the saxman plays a custom-made instrument he named the "gator horn" (which he described as "somewhere between an alto sax, a soprano sax and a French horn"). Parts of this CD were obviously designed to reach soul and rock fans, but thankfully, Gator knew how to make some commercial moves without sacrificing his skills as an improviser. While After Hours falls short of essential, this is a solid, pleasing disc that Jackson's hardcore fans will enjoy.

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