Essential tracks highlights tracks that arguably should be found somewhere in any serious jazz collector's library. This segment is also meant to inspire readers to seek out foundational tracks from the various sub-genres of this great music.
"Earth Tones", Kudu Records release "Mister Magic", 1974
The title track of this 1974 release, Grover Washington Jr.'s fourth on Kudu records, is easily the most memorable of his career. The vast majority of the tracks on Washington's releases to date had been covers of popular songs and movie themes. They all had the distinctive style, edge, and funk that differentiated Kudu Records from Creed Taylor's prime label CTI records. The arrangements weren't as tight, controlled, and elegant on Kudu, making them very radio friendly to the stations that were bridging the gap between straight R&B and the more hard core jazz stations. The latter were fighting the ideological wars between straight ahead jazz and fusion.
"Earth Tones" opened the album in a direction almost no one was expecting. This Bob James composition and arrangement introduced the jazz world to a completely different side of Washington. Compared to his previous work, Washington wasn't simply coloring outside the lines, he was coloring the cover and the spine of the book. This complex piece with swelling harmonics and shifting time changes was adventurous in the direction of the many cursed "fusion" tracks of the day, but stayed well within the pocket and compelled you to just listen to see where is was going. Brilliant solo work by Washington, James, and a number of up and coming legends. The star studded personnel lineup for this release included Eric Gale on guitar, Randy Brecker on trumpet, Harvey Mason, Sr. on drums, and John Faddis on flugelhorn. Time to break out this Grover classic and listen to some of those "other" tracks on this masterpiece.