Willis "Gator" Jackson

Keep on a Blowin'

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In 1999, Fantasy reissued two of Willis Jackson's old Prestige LPs, Keep on a Blowin' (1959-60) and Thunderbird (1962), on this 78-minute CD for its Legends of Acid Jazz series. Spanning 1959-62, this reissue looks back on what was a very exciting period for the big-toned, breathy tenor man, who had moved away from the honking and screaming he had done in the late 1940s and early 1950s and had reinvented himself as a more mature provider of organ-combo soul-jazz. While Keep on a Blowin' (which features a young Jack McDuff on organ) is a straight-ahead collection of blues, ballads (including "How Deep Is the Ocean"), and standards, parts of Thunderbird (which employs Freddie Roach on the Hammond B-3) are more commercial and rock & roll-minded. But even on a remake of the surf rock ditty "California Sun," Jackson doesn't lose his jazzman's sense of improvisation. "The Man I Love" from Keep on a Blowin' is a real surprise -- Jackson begins the Gershwin standard as a lush ballad before unexpectedly switching to a fast tempo and approaching it as 200 mile-an-hour bop. This consistently rewarding CD is highly recommended.

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