Charles Kynard's name is an obscure one to those not interested or educated enough to be enamored with '60s and '70s organ-driven soul-jazz -- which at the dawn of the 21st century, was being played by generations whose parents were children at best when this music was in its heyday. But he was an essential player and the proof is in the caliber of players he could draw to play on any given session. Two of those sessions are released here, on one CD as Fantasy's bid to issue two-fer recordings of long out of print classics. The first five tracks of this bad-assed soul groove set were issued under the Soul Brotherhood title in 1969; the rest were released as Reelin' with the Feelin' that same year. The musicians on Soul Brotherhood were: the enigmatic jazz drummer Mickey Roker, guitarist Grant Green, tenor saxophonist David "Fathead" Newman, trumpeter Blue Mitchell, and electric bassist Jimmy Lewis. From the title track, Kynard has the proceedings firmly in hand, his sweeping right hand carries both the middle and the high registers of the instrument in a flighty idiomatic spiral of harmonic invention that never leaves its root in the blues. Lewis is merely a time keeper, but a funky one, and that's all Green needs when it's his turn to solo, with his arpeggios and stinging trills and 16th notes slipping all over Kynard's top-heavy surface. Green glides and slips and flies through the mix as Newman and Mitchell cover the fills with a harmonic front that swings in soft blue. The same goes for "Blue Farouq," which begins as a soul-blues strut by the horns; Green comps, laying back, and Kynard is down in the deep with his left hand seeking to fill the whole thing with enough water for the mosquito -- Mitchell -- to get steamed up and fly. And he does this with as inspired a solo as he ever played. He took the 12-bar blues and caught its tail moving just far enough behind the beat to stretch the whole thing out. Honking lines of feeling and slippery hooks smatter notes all over the palette before Newman straightens it all out with an in-the-pocket groove for three or four choruses. The lineup for Reelin' with the Feelin', a much funkier record, was Joe Pass on guitar, Wilton Felder on tenor, Carol Kaye on electric bass, and Paul Humphreys on drums. From the title track, we gather this session is a blast of hard funk and groove where the blues are all built into shuffles and strolls and distorted by electricity -- Kynard's organ is so overloaded in the mix it's hard at times to tell what instrument he's playing, he's kickin' it that hard. With Kaye's bass lending an even deeper bottom that plonks instead of pops, and Pass chunking his already fat chords into morasses of distorted noise, this is the most down and dirty of groove records issued during the period. Check out Kaye's "Soul Reggae" (which must have been the composer's impression of what that music sounded like -- and was the first American composition to have that word in the title -- it sounds little like the Jamaican variety), but the time signature is an odd one with the accents on the odd beats. A strange and wooly groove is created in the mix. The Caribbean-flavored Felder solo and Pass comping is more calypso than anything else, but it's effective as hell and takes the whole tune further out into some ocean of weirdness than can be defined here. Through it all, one never feels out of the groove's loop, Kynard, Kaye, and Pass lock us in tight for the entire ride. When Kynard does solo, he just loses it, whipping up and down the keyboard, beating the funked-up accents and opening them up for more mud to pour through. The entire disc closes with Wilton Felder's "Stomp," a fast-paced run-though of outer-space funk and roll. The Jimmy Smith grooves of old are still in evidence but they're placed at the edges. Now a distorted organ with a deeper low end lays a bottom for Pass and Felder to just go out and blow from. Pass is so smooth and fluid here, he's like a shot of Don Q 151 that's been lit afire. The dueling harmonies of Felder and Kynard are a development that opens the door for Felder's solo that carries the blues through hard bop and modal and into the grooved-out funk side of the '60s. As Kynard restates theme, Felder just romps all over it, carrying out a series of arpeggios in intervallic constructions that leave Kynard no choice but to start his own solo in the middle -- he's more than up for the challenge. Two handed chomping chords accented by high-end sharps carry him back to Felder and Pass who take the theme out in a flurry of notes and chords too out even for funk to contain. Whew! This is, of all the groove records of the late '60s, the one that pushes all the boundaries. Now that the DJs and mixologists can get their hands on this, it'll be party time in the sample room. In the meanwhile, don't settle for a watered-down transmutation; this is art, go out and get your own copy.
The Soul Brotherhood Review
by Thom Jurek