The late jazz vibraphonist and soul jazz pioneer Johnny Lytle is best known for a pair of records he cut in the middle '60s for the tiny Tuba imprint out of Detroit, The Loop and New and Groovy, but all of his recordings are worth hearing, from 1960’s Blue Vibes for Jazzland all the way through to 1991’s Moonchild for Muse. Both The Loop and New and Groovy remain out of print in the United States, but are readily available as a twofer on a single disc for a very decent price (from BGP via Ace Records in the UK). The popularity of these records on the Acid Jazz and club scenes in the 1990s saw DJ Russ Dewbury bring Lytle to the UK as part of his Jazz Bops series in Brighton, to play in front of 1500 plus.

The wild thing is that Lytle cut some of the best work of his life during his later years for the Muse label. Albums like Fast Hands, Happy Ground and Possum Grease affirmed Lytle’s astonishing technical abilities on the vibes, in both hard bop and soul jazz traditions. When Muse ceased their operations in the early '90s, producer Joel Dorn began reissuing various titles on his own Label M and 32 Jazz imprints, sometimes as single titles and sometimes as compelling twofers. A stellar example is the 32 jazz title called Easy Easy, that compiled Lytle's Fast Hands and Happy Ground albums. The former touched on the more athletic side of progressive jazz with some killer grooves, while the latter operated from the hard-grooving, soul jazz end of the spectrum with some more progressive ones tossed in.

These late albums both featured Lytle in expanded lineups that included saxophonist Houston Person (on both dates), with accompaniment by by guitarist Melvin Sparks, and organist David Braham on one date with drummer Idris Muhammad, and keyboardist Mickey Tucker on the other with a few percussionists, to mention just a few players. Samples from Easy Easy are included below. Some enterprising concern needs to pick up the mantle of the Muse catalogue, because there are too many classic dates lying fallow. This is just one of the more notable ones.

  • Sister Silver

  • Tomorrow

  • The Man

  • Happy Ground

  • Little Sunflower

  • Melinda