Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Mr. Willis "Gator" Jackson's In The Alley (Muse Records, 1977)

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Willis Jackson

''In The Alley''
( LP Muse Records, 1977 )
Catalog # MR 5100

Willis "Gator" Jackson (April 25, 1932 – October 25, 1987) was an American jazz tenor saxophonist. Born in Miami, Florida, Jackson joined Duke Ellington alumnus Cootie Williams's band in 1949 as a teenager, after being discovered by Eddie Vinson. During the 1950s he participated in R&B and jazz recordings, primarily as a session musician. He also toured as leader of the backing band of singer Ruth Brown, whom he married. Jackson joined Prestige Records in 1959, making a string of jazz albums which proved to an influence on the burgeoning soul jazz movement. During this era, Jack McDuff and Pat Martino became famous through association with Jackson. Jackson's main influences were Lester Young and Illinois Jacquet.
Jamaican ska innovator Prince Buster has cited Jackson's song "Later for the Gator" as one of the first ska songs.
Jackson died in New York one week after heart surgery, in October 1987, at the age of 55.

A1 Niamani
A2 Gator's Groove
A3 Blues, Blues, Blues
B1 Young Man With The Horn
B2 More
B3 In The Alley

Personnel & Credits:
Willis Jackson, Tenor Saxophone
Sonny Phillips, Piano
Carl Wilson, Organ
Jimmy Ponder, Guitar
Jimmy Lewis, Bass
Yusef Ali, Drums
Buddy Caldwell, Congas and Percussion
Produced by: Fred Seibert
Engineers: Malcom Addey and Fred Seibert
Art Direction/Design/Photography by Hal Wilson

Recorded at: Dimensional Sounds Studio, N.Y.C.
Format:Vinyl, LP

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''Gator's Groove''

From The Liner Notes:
The “Gator” is back and Muse has got him. Willis Jackson and Muse… a natural if you have been into what is happening you know that Muse has recently turned us on to such greats as Clifford Jordan, Richard Davis, Woody Shaw, Buster Williams, Houston Person, the up and coming David Schnitter and others who are causing jazz listeners to exclaim, “That is great; who was that?” This new and exciting album by Willis will keep that sound and trend moving along.
Willis “Gator Tail” Jackson’s road has not been an easy one. Willis was with The Cootie Williams band when he had his first hit record, “GATOR TAIL”. the song naturally gave him his nickname. Jackson was leader, for a period, of a big band that featured his wife at the time, Ruth Brown; an outstanding vocalist. Willis then formed the smaller groups which included artists like Jack McDuff, Pat Martino, Mickey Tucker, to name a few. Still there were those know-it-alls and chest-thumpers who would say that Willis was a Rhythm and Blues player; not a jazz player. Well, I agree with Willis who said that “rhythm and blues and jazz are just words. It only counts at the horn.” What comes forth is the real happening, so judge for yourself. I did and Willis passed the test. If you hear a taste of the blues, well, Willis put it best — “Jazz has roots and blues is the roots. Maybe they understand this: the blues, you got to have it, that’s the roots of it. Some people read a book and decide they know who’s what, but you’ve got the live the music, you can’t read it.” This is what he said in 1974 and it also takes care of now.
A few more things about Willis’ background, he was born in Miami, Florida. At age seventeen, he was playing around town with a couple of musicians named Blue Mitchell and Cannonball Adderly; on to Cootie Williams and “GATOR TAIL”, the small groups and his own very successful recordings.
This is the “Compleat” Willis Jackson. This is the Gator-Tail Willis Jackson groove on the track, “GATOR’S GROOVE”. “IN THE ALLEY” is the Willis Jackson who takes up where “HEADED AND GUTTED” and “WEST AFRICA” albums leave off. He tried his hand at disco, but that is not the “Gator” that I know and love.
We have a beautiful jazz audience in Denver and many of them are in the process of “getting into it”. It is not like Los Angeles, New York or Chicago, where jazz has been around forever, or so it seems. Jazz is relatively new in Denver. Yet, when I played a track by Willis Jackson, featuring his GATOR HORN, (remember that?) a listener phoned to give me a complete rundown on the Gator Horn and closed by saying, “When is he coming back?” Well people, the “Gator” is back.
Willis is working with some outstanding musicians. Other than guitarist Jimmy Ponder, who has released some albums as a leader, the other names have regional followings and will not be too familiar until you hear them “get it on”. Sonny Phillips will make his presence known with some of the finest piano playing that has been heard in quite awhile, as well as writing one of the tunes, “NIAMANI”, a barn burner! Yusef Ali, the drummer contributes “GATOR’S GROOVE” which, incidentally, was the title of an album that Willis did back in 1969. Carl Wilson really strokes the organ and I am sure that your ears will come away completely satisfied with Wilson’s actions. Carl may not have the big name such as Jimmy Smith, Jack McDuff, Jimmy McGriff, etc., but he sure has the talent. You will also be turning the names, Jimmy Lewis and Buddy Caldwell, in your minds. Listen and your shall hear!! So what are you waiting for? Do as I did — rush over to the turntable, drop “IN THE ALLEY” on the spindle. Listen to “Gator” go to work. Yes Indeedy, Mr Tweedy!! Gator’s back and Muse has got him!
Bill Neal - KADX-FM the JAZZ STATION - Denver, Colorado

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"In the Alley" and "Niamani" are the highlights of this typical but often exciting outing by veteran tenor Willis Jackson. The music includes blues, romps, a ballad, and funky vamps. Jackson is assisted by pianist Sonny Phillips, organist Carl Wilson, guitarist Jimmy Ponder, bassist Jimmy Lewis, drummer Yusef Ali and percussionist Buddy Caldwell. This worthy set has not yet been reissued on CD.
By Scott Yanow (AMG)

On Line:
Jazz Music Archives

Original post:27/02/2008

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