Johnny Lytle

Moon Child [1962]

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In the 1960s, jazz went in a variety of directions. On one hand, you had free jazz and avant-garde explorers who were extremely abstract and uncommercial; on the other hand, you had accessible soul-jazzers and organ combos that tried to attract the young listeners that jazz was losing to rock and R&B. Johnny Lytle was a prime example of the latter; accessibility and commercial appeal were things the vibist considered positive. That isn't to say that his albums were dumbed down --Moon Child is accessible and groove-minded, but it's also a swinging, creative collection of soul-jazz/hard bop. Produced by Orrin Keepnews in 1962, this vinyl LP has a lot going for it. Lytle is expressive and appealing on well known standards that range from Nat Adderley's "Work Song" to Hoagy Carmichael's "The Nearness of You," and he fares just as well on swinging originals that include the title song, "The Moor Man," and "The House of Winchester" (which was written in memory of vibist Lem Winchester). Gratefully, Lytle has a solid team to help him make this album come alive -- one that includes organist Milt Harris, bassist Steve Cooper, and drummer Peppy Hinnant. Conga giant Ray Barretto is added on lyrical performances of "Moonlight and Vermont" and "The Nearness of You," bringing Afro-Cuban touches to those standards. Moon Child was out of print for many years, but, in 2001, Fantasy pleasantly surprised us by reissuing this album and 1963's Got That Feeling! back to back on the same 75-minute CD. And that's a good thing, because Moon Child is a perfect example of how instrumental jazz can have commercial appeal without losing its integrity.

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