Bobby Timmons

The Best of Bobby Timmons

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Pianist/composer Bobby Timmons is known today, if at all, as the composer of some of the most memorable, hummable, funky soul-jazz tunes on the planet -- and that achievement alone should have put him in the jazz hall of fame. Unfortunately, the soul-jazz tag doomed Timmons' reputation with critics who could only hear things through bop or avant-garde ears; their neglect contributed to a career slide that ended with his early death from alcoholism at only 38. As it happens, a good deal of what made Timmons tick can be summed up on one disc, which this item does unusually well. Timmons' irresistible soul-jazz standard "Moanin'" properly leads off the CD, chronologically and in terms of impact. It then flits back and forth between classic Timmons' tunes like "This Here," "Dat Dere," "Soul Time" and selected standards like "Old Devil Moon" and "Born to Be Blue." Most of the time, his preferred milieu was the piano trio, very often with Sam Jones (bass) and Jimmy Cobb (drums) keeping time, and trumpeter Blue Mitchell making the groups a quartet on two tracks. Though soul-jazz was the specialty of the house, Timmons also proved to be an adept bebopper in the Bud Powell tradition. In order to undermine the funky piano stereotype some more, we hear him on vibes as well as piano on "Someone to Watch Over Me," and the disc closes with another, one-of-a-kind take of "Moanin'" where Timmons plays what sounds like a clumsy theater organ. The compilers also insert four unaccompanied tracks to round out the picture -- including "God Bless the Child," where Timmons tries, with limited success, to put in some little Tatum figurations into the mix and a fine, brief "Lush Life."

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