Category Archives: Creed Taylor

Moon Germs: Joe Farrell

Joe Farrell Moon Germs cover

In late March last year (2014) I posted a comment on London Jazz Collector’s site in response to a piece he had written about an album produced by Creed Taylor here. I was asking if anybody could recommend any Creed Taylor productions that avoided over-orchestration and fellow regular LJC contributor, Eduard Linshalm pointed me in the direction of Joe Farrell’s Moon Germs.

Although I purchased a copy almost immediately, it has taken a year to get round to presenting a consideration of this set here. Over the last year I’ve looked at classic recordings, broadened the site’s scope to look at new releases and also tried to take in a few live performances. Sets like this one, produced in the early 1970’s and veering towards jazz-rock fusion have been overlooked here because I’ve wanted to alternate between classic and contemporary recordings.

So here we go. Great Gorge starts off with a well-crafted tune played on soprano sax over a heavy duty funk background. It then moves on to a post-hard bop improvisation. Herbie Hancock delivers a fast, dexterous solo on keyboards while Stanley Clarke on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums add an intricate texture in the background, before we return to the tune and it’s funky background in a brief reprise.

The title track, Moon Germs, follows. It has a busy feel with a superb bass line delivered by Stanley Clarke and, to my ears, is vaguely similar to Freedom Jazz Dance. You can hear it courtesy of YouTube:-

To play either click on or touch the arrow

Times Lies is a Chick Corea tune which starts out as a waltz, albeit with a very pronounced bass line, before Farrell pays respects to John Coltrane’s Chasing The Train in his solo.

Bass Folk Song sees Farrell pick up his flute on a tune which has something of a calypso feel to it.

Creed Taylor is in the producers chair and the album was recorded at the Englewood Cliffs Studio with Rudy Van Gelder as engineer.

Moon Germs has been rated as one of the stronger jazz recordings on CTI and, in my opinion, it benefits from just being a quartet recording on which the strings and and orchestration of many other CTI recordings are absent and the production is restrained. Farrell displays a mastery of the soprano saxophone, which is not easy to play well and this recording makes me want to hear what he was like on tenor. Stanley Clarke’s bass playing is at the heart of this set and I will also listen out for other recordings by him. Thanks for the recommendation, Eduard.

Chicago born Joe Farrell recorded four albums on CTI and sat in with many other jazz, fusion and rock artists ranging from Elvin Jones and Charles Mingus to Hall and Oates and Laura Nyro. He was also an early member of Chick Corea’s Return To Forever. He died of a blood disorder in 1986, aged 48.

The band etc.: Joe Farrell (soprano saxophone, flute); Herbie Hancock (piano); Stanley Clarke (bass); Jack DeJohnette (drums). Recorded: 21 November 1972. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Produced: Creed Taylor. Engineer: Rudy Van Gelder. Cover photos: Pete Turner. Cover Design: Bob Ciano. Reissue sleeve notes: James Isaacs. Originally issued on CTI in 1973.

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All The King’s Horses: Grover Washington, Jr

Back in October I mentioned that, as a teenager, in the early 1970’s on a visit to London, I ‘discovered’ Dobell’s record shop on London’s Charing Cross Road. It was there that I purchased my first two jazz albums. I’ve already written about The Crusader’s Hollywood. This Grover Washington set was the other one that I excitedly brought back on the north bound train with me.

At the time the record was newly released and may have been well reviewed in Blues and Soul magazine which I used to buy each week. Although I knew it was a Creed Taylor production what I didn’t realise until recently was that it had been recorded at the Rudy Van Gelder Studio with the great man himself acting as Studio Engineer.

The record itself is a mixture of soul and jazz with a curious nod to Henry Purcell in the form of Love Song 1700. Overall this LP is an early 1970’s milestone on the highway that leads to smooth dinner jazz. No fewer than 46 musicians are credited on the sleeve, including a 12 man violin section and the sole female contributor, Margaret Ross, on harp

No Tears, In The End is a promising opening number with Grover playing in an old school RnB style. A sudden shift down the gears for All The King’s Horses complete with smoochy sax guitar interplay follows next. Where is the Love is a straightforward rendition of the Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway hit and the side closes with Body and Soul, where a very full arrangement includes the violins and the harp.

Bill Withers Lean on Me is given a reggae treatment with good contrast between Grover leading on sax over a very respectful and MOR sounding brass choir. It has a pleasing short guitar solo from Eric Gale and Washington stretches out slightly towards the end but the track doesn’t get close to the big league. See what you think courtesy of Corneel Van Driel on YouTube.

To play touch or click on the arrow.

Lover Man is given another big arrangement with a Bondish interlude that boasts a good trumpet and flugelhorn solo before a return to the head and a flourish to end on. Love Song 1700 is a very polite sounding Bob James arrangement which even features a couple of appearances from a recorder, hardly the most jazz of instruments.

So there we have it. From Hollywood and All the King’s Horses, my collection grew and arguably contains a great many sets that present greater fire, complexity and interest. All the King’s Horses is OK to listen to once every so often, which I do for old times sake. It features expert musicianship and is well recorded but ultimately its undemanding nature means it is not an album that will ever set the pulses racing.

Perhaps sometime later this year we’ll take a look at Grover Washington’s earlier Inner City Blues on which his reputation was founded but it may be some considerable time before we get round to Mister Magic and Feels So Good which are also in my collection. I can guarantee that we will not be taking a look at Winelight here though, unless there is the most unexpected demand and at least ten positive comments! As for me, I’m off to pan fry a couple of delicious pieces of sea bass and perhaps dig out some more dinner jazz.

Post fish postscript: Love Song 1700 was requested twice before the food was served. There was consensus that it was well produced but pushed at the limits of downwithit jazz. I then dug out Inner City Blues and thought that it was a more rewarding album than ATKH.

My copy of All the King’s Horses is a UK pressing of Kudu KUL5, with minor pops and scratches that bear witness to numerous plays over the last 40 years, albeit by one careful owner.

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