When Doin' the Thang -- Ronnie Mathews' first session as a leader -- appeared in the jazz bins in the '60s, it would have been logical to assume that he was providing funky, down-home, R&B-drenched soul-jazz. Doin' the Thang sounds like the title of a soul-jazz release; also, one of the tracks is titled "Let's Get Down." And when jazz improvisers used that much African-American slang in the '60s, it often meant that they were going after the soul-jazz/organ combo market (which was relatively lucrative at a time when commercially, jazz had lost a lot of ground to rock and R&B). But this 1963 session isn't soul-jazz -- certainly not in the ultra-funky Jack McDuff/Richard "Groove" Holmes/Jimmy McGriff sense. Rather, the LP's focus is modal post-bop and non-soul-jazz hard bop. But even though the material isn't soul-jazz, Mathews' quintet is certainly soulful -- that is true on "The Thang" (a blues) as well as two Asian-influenced post-bop offerings that Mathews wrote: "The Orient" and "Ichi-Ban." And there is no shortage of soulfulness on the acoustic pianist's interpretation of Duke Ellington's "Prelude to a Kiss." The cohesive, hard-swinging quintet that Mathews leads on this vinyl LP employs Charles Davis on baritone sax, Eddie Kahn on bass, Albert "Tootie" Heath on drums, and a young Freddie Hubbard on trumpet. Hubbard, who was only 25 when Doin' the Thang was recorded, brings a lot to the session -- not only fire, guts, and passion, but also a big, highly appealing tone (one that owed a lot to Clifford Brown and Fats Navarro, but was still quite distinctive and original). With Doin' the Thang, Mathews' recording career as a leader was off to an impressive start.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson