Willis "Gator" Jackson

At Large

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The 1960s were a very productive time for Willis "Gator" Jackson, whose Prestige output of 1959-1971 was impressively consistent. At the label the big-toned tenor saxman didn't try to be something he wasn't -- Gator liked his soul-jazz/hard bop accessible, hard-swinging, and straight-forward, and he excelled by being honest with himself and his audience. Spanning 1962-1968, At Large paints an attractive picture of Jackson's Prestige years. The CD, which Fantasy assembled in 2000, draws on five of Gator's Prestige albums (Shuckin', Swivel Hips, Neapolitan Nights, In My Solitude and Really Groovin') and finds him turning his attention to a variety of material. On this album, one hears Jackson successfully interpreting everything from Italian songs ("Arrivederci Roma") to spirituals ("Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" and "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen") to funky boogaloos ("Florence of Arabia"). The saxman also puts his spin on pop ballads that include "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" (the tune that became Tony Bennett's signature song) and "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" (which was a major hit for both country-pop singer Glen Campbell and soul innovator Isaac Hayes). At Large isn't the last word on Jackson's Prestige period, although it's easily recommended to anyone who is interested in 1960s soul-jazz.

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