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Fuse One: Silk

Album Notes

At his worst, Creed Taylor had a way of smothering a potentially great jazz album by producing it to death. But when he didn't overproduce -- when he gave musicians the right amount of guidance and direction yet let them have enough room to stretch out and improvise -- Taylor created some real winners. One of them was Fuse One's Silk, an all-star jazz-pop-funk project that boasted Stanley Turrentine on tenor sax, Tom Browne or Wynton Marsalis on trumpet, Ronnie Foster on electric keyboards, Stanley Clarke on electric bass, Eric Gale or George Benson on electric guitar, Sammy Figueroa on percussion, and Leon "Ndugu" Chancler on drums. With Taylor doing the producing and Clarke serving as musical director, congenial pieces like Foster's "Sunwalk" and Chancler's "Silk" offer a healthy blend of jazz, R&B, and pop elements. It's interesting to hear a 19-year-old Marsalis letting loose on Chancler's Latin-flavored "Hot Fire" (which originally appeared on George Duke's Reach for It album in 1977), and note how he sounded in 1981 -- at that point, he wasn't emulating Miles Davis and had a big, brassy sound along the lines of Clifford Brown and Freddie Hubbard. Considering how strident a jazz purist Marsalis would become, it's surprising to hear him playing crossover. Not that Silk is "watered down" or anything like that. Though the material proved to be accessible to pop and R&B fans, it's also quite creative and doesn't toss jazz considerations to the wind. Unfortunately, this LP remains out of print and has yet to be reissued on CD. ~ Alex Henderson



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