Rolling Stone (7/12/69, p.36) - "...a piece of musical alchemy, a marvelously intricate combination of the 'Memphis sound' and jazz lyricism..."
Personnel: Herbie Mann (flute); Roy Ayers (vibraphone, congas); Bobby Wood (acoustic & electric piano); Bobby Emmons (organ); Larry Coryell, Sonny Sharrock, Reggie Young (guitar); Tommy Cogbill, Mike Leech, Miroslav Vitous (Fender bass); Gene Christman (drums).
Flutist Herbie Mann's career has taken him in a variety of musical directions. This 1969 studio session is a perfect example of the range of Mann's stylistic interests. MEMPHIS UNDERGROUND is a clean break from bebop; in fact, this music could hardly be called jazz. It is really groove music, with a dash of Southern rock and country added to the mix.
Much of the record is made up of funky, one-chord vamps, and this has its charms. First of all, the Memphis rhythm section is first rate. Drummer Gene Christman lays down some tight beats that really support the soloists, all of whom play soulful, bluesy improvisations throughout. Vibraphonist Roy Ayers plays the jazziest licks, mixing in some advanced harmonic vocabulary with his otherwise pentatonic (rock-influenced) licks. Well-known soul hits "Hold On, I'm Comin'" and "Chain of Fools" are covered on this jam album, as is the traditional "Battle Hymn of the Republic." Overall, this disc has a strong late-'60's feel to it, which proves to be an endearing virtue.
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