Melvyn Price

Rhythm and Blues

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Michigan expatriate musician Melvyn Price recorded three records in the early 1970s in his adopted home of Sweden that have become classics in their own right. Price, a trombonist and conguero, recorded two rhythm albums for ballet dancers called Jazzbalettrytmer (Jazz Ballet Rhythm) in 1970 and Rhytmer II in 1971. They were quite popular in Sweden -- despite being orchestrated by primarily rhythm instruments. Encouraged, he attended Stockholm's University College for music education where he studied composition. In 1974, he dropped his classic album: Rhythm and Blues, on his own Mel-Dor imprint (named for himself and partnership with producer Doris Aronsson); that set made a minor splash at the time but has become the stuff of legend since. Price employed an international tentet for this set that included both electric and acoustic bass (Guy Roellinger and Bjorn Alke) saxophone (Ed Epstein), trombone (Price), piano and Rhodes (Bjorn Wolff), two trap drummers (Gunnar Nyberg and Frederik Noren), two congueros (Price and Jon Dill), various percussion (Luis Agudo), and trombone (Price). The album was never released Stateside until now. It has finally been issued on both LP and CD by Wax Poetics on their label imprint -- a side venture to their excellent magazine. These six tracks total under 35 minutes, but their impact is like grooved-out blunt force trauma, snaky, seductive bubbling rhythms ride herd over the entire proceeding, as tenor sax, piano, and basslines work their own magic that is equal parts jazz-funk, soul-jazz, Latin groove, and soul. While beatheads would probably single out the Afro-beat tinged "Behind Kungstradgarden," or the Afro-Cuban groove in "Happiness Is..." for their pronounced breaks, the entire recording is a seamless celebration of rhythmic invention, economic harmonics, and melodic sophistication -- the saxophones and piano solo with pulsing phrases on every cut. Check the side one opener "Voodoo Love Dance" for proof. Price's congas and some shakers open the tune, establishing a continually syncopated but hypnotic rhythm, before a second conga enters the mix to play alternate countermeasures as ballast. Then inexplicably the stereo effect drops out momentarily and the bassline begins to whisper in, and the piano offers some spooky, augmented minor seventh chords (à la McCoy Tyner) as a theme. When the saxophone begins its winding, funky entrance, the keyboardist has plenty to play off of and does in his solo. The effect is narcotic, but electric. The bluesy bridge in this number is to die for. The entire album is both propulsive and seductive; it sounds like nothing else before or since, and the new life it's been given by Wax Poetics is not only welcome, it's a gift; it is easily one of the great reissues of 2008.

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