Gene Ammons

Black Cat

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One of Gene Ammons' best late-period albums, 1970's Black Cat is a bluesy, low-key album and a comparative anomaly: a primarily acoustic soul-jazz album! Ammons was experimenting heavily with the amplified, feedback-laced electric saxophone during this period, but for Black Cat he sticks to his familiar unamplified tenor, playing raunchy gutbucket lines over Ron Carter's warm, deep-toned bass, Idris Muhammad's laid-back drums, and Harold Mabern's twinkling piano (yes, piano, not the soul-jazz cliché Hammond organ). Most of the time, only guitarist George Freeman is plugged in, but even he plays with clean-toned restraint. The centerpiece tracks are the funky soul-jazz blues "Piece to Keep Away Evil Spirits" and the more danceable, groove-oriented "Jug Eyes," which would become two of Ammons' most popular tracks, but the surprises are a pair of pop covers, Gary White's "Long Long Time" (popularized by Melanie and Linda Ronstadt) and the Beatles' "Something." Most soul-jazz covers of pop songs sound like boring, uninspired feints towards radio airplay, but Ammons turns both of these melodic ballads into solo showcases for himself and Mabern that show off both players at their finest.

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