Hootin’ ‘N Tootin’ is a superb Blue Note soul jazz set that deserves to be better known and praised loudly. Although it was the only recording that he ever released as a leader, on the evidence of this set it is regrettable that this was Fred Jackson’s only opportunity to shine.
I picked up this CD on a visit to Japan a few years ago and the deal clincher for me was when I realised, somewhat to my surprise, that the great Earl Van Dyke was the Hammond organist on the session. EVD was later to become the foremost keyboard player amongst the session artists who made up the Motown house band, The Funk Brothers (who, as I was once assured when I had the good fortune to see them perform in London, cut more US Number One records than Elvis, The Beatles and The Stones added together). EVD, together with Wilbert Hogan on drums and guitarist Willie Jones were amongst Jackson’s fellow members of Lloyd Price’s band.
Fred Jackson played as a member of Little Richard’s touring band in the early 1950’s, before joining Lloyd Price and making his recording debut in 1961 on a BB King set. Shortly afterwards he played on Baby Face Willette’s acclaimed Blue Note debut Face to Face (which we will return to at a later date), before making his own recording debut with this session recorded in February 1962. A note on the Allmusic database states that Jackson recorded a single featuring John Patton on piano, presumably cut by Blue Note with an eye to the jukebox market that they used to publicise the label. However, this was never released, although Jackson did play tenor sax on Patton’s Along Came John and both tenor and baritone on The Way I Feel. Jackson made one further return to the studio as a leader and recorded material for a second album. However, whether due to slow sales of Hootin’ ‘N Tootin’ or the lack of enough material for a complete album, this material was only released in 1998 on a CD reissue. Sadly, these tracks are not on the Japanese CD that is in my collection, so I will have to track them down in due course.
Dippin’ In The Bag gets proceedings off to a good start with a brisk blues with Jackson running through a few interesting ideas, with nods to tradition. On reprising this album, the excellent guitar playing made me wonder whether it was Kenny Burrell, it wasn’t, it was Willie Jones.
Southern Exposure is an incredible track. A delightful guitar intro sets the tone before giving way to a plaintive slow blues and wonderfully expressive playing from Fred Jackson. But don’t take my word for it. What do you think (courtesy of marc higgins on YouTube).
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Earl Van Dyke’s accompaniment and solo has a very churchy, reedy and later sanctified sound. I am sure there are Hammondistas who could tell us exactly what settings he was using here. Sadly I can’t add anything myself.
Preach Brother features a return to the upbeat with some straight-ahead R&B saxophone from the leader. Wade in the Water (see last posting) gets a brief nod and there is another fine solo from EVD. The title track Hootin’ ‘N Tootin’ gives Jackson another chance to work out with Hogan’s cymbals providing a pulse beat to guide the feet throughout.
Easin’ On Down is a loping, pensive sort of blues offering a dialogue between saxophone and Hammond organ before Jones delivers a Grant Green, single note picking solo and EVD gets a go too. One to snap the fingers to. The sleeve notes suggest that That’s Where It’s At is “…designed to lure wayward twisters into the jazz fold”. All I can add is: ‘Come on in!’ although I’ve never been any good at doing The Twist. Listeners will note a further reference to Wade in The Water here too. Way Down Home is the closer
Although a cursory Internet search has revealed little about Fred Jackson’s later life, the good news is that I haven’t found any obituaries or record of a date of death. So if you are still with us Fred, I hope you are enjoying life in your ninth decade and thanks for a great album.
The band etc: Fred Jackson (tenor saxophone); Earl Van Dyke (Hammond organ); Willie Jones (guitar); Wilbert Hogan (drums). Recorded: 2 February 1962. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Recording: Rudy Van Gelder. Cover photos: Francis Wolff. Cover Design: Reid Miles. Sleeve notes: Dudley Williams. Originally issued as Blue Note 4094.