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Rodney Franklin: You'll Never Know

Album Notes

Rodney Franklin is a perfect example of a jazz improviser who didn't live up to his enormous potential. The pianist/keyboardist's early albums were quite promising, but after that his work became increasingly uneven and erratic. And eventually people were asking, "Whatever happened to Rodney Franklin?" Recorded in 1979 and released in 1980, the artist's second LP, You'll Never Know, is his finest and most essential release. This LP has one foot in electric fusion and crossover jazz and the other in acoustic post-bop, but however you categorize the material, it is simply a fine jazz album. The record is best known for its single "The Groove," an infectious jazz-funk gem that enjoyed a lot of airplay on R&B stations -- which is a rarity for any type of jazz instrumental. Most of the LP's other tracks lack the immediacy of "The Groove," but are still quite appealing. Franklin shines as both a composer and a soloist on pieces that range from the mysterious "The Watcher" and the McCoy Tyner-ish "Return" to the pensive "Journey." Although Franklin was only 21 when this album was recorded, he had already developed his own sound -- one that was influenced by Tyner and Herbie Hancock, as well as George Duke, Chick Corea, and Lonnie Liston Smith. It's regrettable that an artist as promising as Franklin ended up dropping the creative ball in the 1980s, but that doesn't make You'll Never Know any less rewarding. ~ Alex Henderson


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