Auger Rhythms, the double-disc career overview of the last 40 years by Brian Auger, is, quite simply, a textbook case for what a career retrospective should be -- outside of a box set that is, though it would be great if Ghosttown Records would get around to that as well. Auger is not simply a musician who did one thing and perfected or milked it. Since the early '60s he has proven to be a restless, wandering musical spirit, and this collection is the proof in the pudding that his enormous talent and vision have warranted -- and continue to warrant -- his participation in multiple genres as a multi-instrumentalist, composer, bandleader, and arranger who has successfully blurred the lines between jazz, blues, R&B, funk, soul, fusion, and rock. All of Auger's periods are covered here, from his earliest days as a jazz pianist to the Trinity to the Oblivion Express to being a sideman on his children's recordings. Of the 28 tracks contained here, 13 of them are previously unreleased. One of these, "Inside of Him," is a new track from the Trinity years with Julie Driscoll, featuring her elegant, deeply moving voice on top of a standard jazz trio setting -- Auger's towering harmonics on the acoustic piano would have been just as welcome in a Billie Holiday set in the early '50s. The earlier work includes the beautiful original "Blues Three Four" from 1961 and a killer version of Bobby Timmons' hard bop-blues classic "Moanin'." The early jazz material showcases Auger as a consummate soloist whose rapidly developing sense of harmony and rhythmic inventions pointed the way for his R&B and fusion excursions. Disc one is simply revelatory. It's breadth and range are astonishing in that they document the inner and hidden life of Auger as well as his hits from the era.
The second disc here documents all the obvious choices, from "Freedom Jazz Dance" to "Happiness Is Just Around the Corner" to "Inner City Blues" to "Second Wind." But there are surprises here as well, the most notable of which is the alternate take of Wes Montgomery's "Bumpin' on Sunset," from 1974. Auger's kids, as one would suspect, are not slouches either. Auger Sr.'s playing on Karma Auger's acid jazz opus "Slide" is dirty, greasy, and funky; it's an elastic groove that doesn't quit. Likewise, daughter Ali, a jazz singer from the old standards school (with all the immediacy and sass of the young and hungry), performs with her father on the Frank Loesser nugget "The Lady's in Love," and Auger's arrangement and solo swing very hard against Ali's throaty contralto. The sound here is awesome, even on the early material; it's 24-bit remastered and quite warm. The package that comes in a foldout digipack is loaded with photos, a biographical essay by Tom Vickers, and a track-by-track analysis by Auger. Vickers is very fine in his appreciation, though there is one glaring error where he states that Julie Driscoll's career never recovered after she left Auger following a management fiasco with the notorious Giorgio Gomelsky. Ms. Driscoll is now Julie Tippetts, a brilliant and visionary vocalist in the vanguard jazz and free improvisational field. Vickers' remark is simply an ignorant statement by a critic with a prejudice. Auger Rhythms is being rolled out as the opening salvo in a complete program of Auger reissues. Featuring a wealth of material for the collector and a solid introduction for the novice, this is the Auger document to have.