Album Remarks & Appraisals:
All About Jazz - C. Michael Bailey
Curtis Mayfield's solo work and his work with the Impressions are highwater marks in popular music, representing the Chicago soul music constituency popular in the 1960s and '70s. His influence is yet to be fully realized or understood today, making his creative corpus a very tantalizing source of material for modern players. Jazz Soul Seven, an all-star septet under the erstwhile leadership leadership of drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, pays a fully-realized tribute to the music of Mayfield on Impressions of Curtis Mayfield.
This is the highest caliber of music made by the highest caliber of musicians. Arrangements are dense and funky, capturing well the essence of Mayfield's generous gift while constantly feeding new ideas and sound combinations for consideration. Mayfield's touchstone, "People Get Ready," offers a case in point. This piece could have been arranged in any number of ways, all being more than acceptable. But the arrangement allows pianist Russell Ferrante to play a skewed gospel vibe, one that does not fully resolve itself into traditional harmonies. He still manages to find the soul and funk supporting the other's solos. The effect is fresh. Trumpeter Wallace Roney's muted-bell is as sophisticated as tenor saxophonist Ernie Watts's solo. Guitarist Phil Upchurch takes the band out on a wordy guitar note, after adding damped filigree to the song's interior. This is a most excellent cover of a most excellent song. ... read more...
All About Jazz - Mark F. Turner
While he may not be as recognized as Stevie Wonderor James Brown, Curtis Lee Mayfield left an indelible mark on American popular music as a pioneering instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, and R&B producer. His compositions - including the score for the iconic blaxploitation film Super Fly (1972) - are compelling, incorporating the heritage of urban soul and gospel music and providing socially conscious messages - commentaries on the Vietnam War, inner city poverty, drug abuse and the tumultuous struggles of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. His legacy is celebrated on Impressions of Curtis Mayfield by the Jazz Soul Seven, a band of ace jazz stars whose members include older and younger "groove aficionados" such guitarist Phil Upchurch and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington.
The band's depth and sophistication imparts Mayfield's genius with equal doses of soul and swing in sweet rebirthings of popular tunes ("Move On Up") and forgotten jewels ("Beautiful Brother of Mine"). The melodies are unspoiled, allowing for creative liberties such as Upchurch's smooth fretwork on "Keep On Pushing" or the Yellow jackets's pianist Russell Ferrante's perfectly phrased comps on the gospel-influenced "People Get Ready." The rhythmic foundation of the band is exemplified by the resilience of bassist Robert Hurst and Carrington's wonderful swing-walk drumming on the killer version (no pun intended} of "Freddie's Dead." ... read more...
Personnel: Phil Upchurch (guitar); Ernie Watts (saxophone); Wallace Roney (trumpet); Russ Ferrante (piano); Terri Lyne Carrington (drums); Master Henry Gibson (percussion).
Audio Mixer: Tom Luekens.
Liner Note Author: A. Scott Galloway.
Recording information: The Bakery, North Hollywood, CA.
Photographer: Markus Cuff.
Arranger: Phil Upchurch.
Curtis Mayfield wasn't quite like anyone else, whether it was penning and singing the timeless hits of the Impressions ("It's All Right," "Move On Up," "I'm So Proud," "Keep On Pushing," "People Get Ready," "Gypsy Woman") or writing, arranging, and singing the sturdy, elegant funk explorations of his solo years ("Freddie's Dead," "Superfly"), he was always his own message to the world. This wonderful set features seven already accomplished jazz musicians (guitarist Phil Upchurch, drummer Terri Lynne Carrington, bassist Bob Hurst, trumpet player Wallace Roney, saxophonist Ernie Watts, keyboardist Russ Ferrante, and percussionist Master Henry Gibson) re-imagining some of Mayfield's classic compositions in a jazz ensemble setting. Calling itself Jazz Soul Seven, this remarkably versatile and fluid group of musicians has created a beautifully balanced and nuanced tribute to Mayfield, with classics like "People Get Ready," already a majestic recording in the original version by the Impressions, stretching in shining new directions. Mayfield had jazz elements in his own recordings from the start, so this set seems like an easy extension of his initial soundscapes, smooth, easy, and with an onward rhythmic energy. ~ Steve Leggett
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