Willis "Gator" Jackson

Boss Shoutin'

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The '60s were certainly an interesting time for jazz. On one hand, you had avant-garde and free jazz explorers who were determined to make jazz as abstract as possible. But the '60s were also full of soul-jazz musicians and organ tenor combos who made groove-oriented accessibility a high priority. While free jazz explorers like Cecil Taylor and Albert Ayler insisted that you accept them on their own terms -- period -- Willis "Gator" Jackson had a very different outlook. If you were a James Brown, Stax, or Motown lover in the '60s, Jackson wanted to convince you that there was some jazz that you could get into. And Boss Shoutin' is that type of jazz. This 1964 session (which employs Frank Robinson on trumpet, Carl Wilson on organ, Pat Martino on guitar, George Tucker on upright bass, and Joe Hadrick on drums) is jazz that R&B fans can easily absorb. Accessibility is the rule on everything from the hard-swinging "Que Sera, Sweetie" and the jazz-blues number "Shoutin'" to the ballad "Your Wonderful Love." It is also the rule on "St. Louis Blues," which receives an unlikely Latin boogaloo makeover; in Jackson's hands, the W.C. Handy standard starts to feel a lot like Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man" and the Afro-Cuban soul-jazz that Pucho & the Latin Soul Brothers provided in the '60s. Did Jackson's organ tenor recordings of the '60s give jazz the type of mass appeal that it deserved? Regrettably, they didn't -- not since World War II has jazz really enjoyed mass appeal and been all over the pop charts (which isn't to say that a Diana Krall or a Grover Washington, Jr. cannot hit big now and then). Nonetheless, Jackson's Prestige LPs did reach their share of R&B fans, and Boss Shoutin' is well worth obtaining if you prefer your jazz on the funky side.

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