Phil Upchurch was a celebrated, in-demand sideman in R&B, blues, and jazz before he recorded Feeling Blue, his 1967 Milestone debut as a leader. He'd already worked with everyone from Jimmy Reed and Curtis Mayfield to John Lee Hooker and B.B. King, and would go on to accompany many more and release a string of killer solo albums. There is more than the seed of genius at work on Feelin' Blue. These ten cuts were recorded over two days in September and October with two different ensembles. Half the record is a collection of soul-jazz tunes played by an octet that included bassist Chuck Rainey, drummer Pretty Purdie, and Sun Ra's John Gilmore among the reed players, while the other placed him in the context of a quintet whose section included pianist Wynton Kelly, drummer Jimmy Cobb, bassist Richard Davis, and percussionist Montego Joe. Standout tracks here include the title, which opens the set with hard-swinging grooves and features the reeds going head to head with Upchurch's stinging lead lines, an intimate, beautifully articulated read of "Corcovado," the expansive bop of "Tangerine," a swirling take on "Up Up and Away," the lithe, airy "Israel," and the extended blues "I Want a Little Girl," which reflects Grant Green's influence. Yet, fine as it is, Feeling Blue was only a hint of the great things to come.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek