“The Rough & The Smooth” is the fulfillment of a long held dream of mine to add “my two cents” to the timeless legacy of Soul Groove Jazz. This CD is not only a personal tribute to my primary jazz guitar heroes – the late Wes Montgomery, the late Grant Green, Kenny Burrell, George Benson and not to forget, the lesser known masters like the late Thornel Schwartz, Jimmy Ponder, Melvin Sparks, the late Ted Dunbar, Wilbert Longmire, Eric Gale and many others - but also to the jazz organ legends such as the late Jimmy Smith, the late Larry Young, the late Brother Jack McDuff, the late Jimmy McGriff, the late Richard “Groove” Holmes, the late “Big” John Patton, Rueben Wilson, Melvin Rhyne, Dr Lonnie Smith, the late Charles Earland, Booker T. Jones and others, the many great drummers, percussionists, horn men and the other great musicians, all too numerous to name, who each made, in their own very unique way, a massive contribution to Soul Groove Jazz Music .
The first instrumental record that I can remember hearing on the radio was “Green Onions” by Booker T & The MGs. This was back in the 60s when I was heavily exposed to the earthy sounds of Gospel music. I heard other similar sounding records back then, but “Green Onions” really grabbed my ear because of its catchy groove and unforgettable hook. What I also loved about that record was both its energy and gospel “call and response” type fervor. It was a sound that I could readily relate to having been raised in the church.
One day back in the 70s, as a teenager, I was hanging out with a friend and his father who had this amazing Blue Note record collection. It was at their home that I first heard the Jimmy Smith classic “Back at the Chicken Shack” and “The Sermon” plus other organ jazz solo efforts by Grant Green, Lou Donaldson and many others. To say I was floored was an understatement. This stuff was so hip, cool, “funky deep fried” and potent Of course, a whole new world was now opening up to me which of course led me to explore other recordings by CTI, Donald Byrd, Miles, Return To Forever and Weather Report to name a few. I can honestly say that the 70s was when I finally came of age musically, when the seeds were first sown with regard to “the jazz thang”.
By the late 80s/early 90s, I was spending countless hours listening to and studying this exciting art form. Whenever I heard that sound, I would stop whatever I was doing and listen intently imagining that I was playing this music live on stage!
It was during this period, that I composed my very first soul groove jazz composition titled “Blues Grinder”- a tribute piece to my Groove Jazz heroes. “Blues Grinder” was eventually recorded for my debut CD “The Antidote” (Universal Island). I must admit that when I first recorded “Blues Grinder”, I was a bag of nerves thinking of all the great groove jazz masters who I had grown up listening to in my formative years and how difficult an act they were and still are, to follow.
It was therefore very fitting that I was finally able to re-record “Blues Grinder” for this CD. I’ve performed “Blues Grinder” live countless times for many years now and it goes without saying that “Blues Grinder” is now in my DNA! I’ve always wanted to re-do “Blues Grinder” with a great jazz organist and I am blessed to have finally got my wish with the one and only Mel Davis, a native of Paterson, NJ who was introduced to me by none other than George Benson. Mel, to my mind, will forever be Paterson’s gift to the Hammond B3 organ.
In addition to “Blues Grinder”, I also re-recorded “In Full Swing” and “Vanston Place” for this CD - both originally recorded for my 2nd CD “Quiet Revolution”(Universal Island) back in ’93 and like ‘Blues Grinder”, both tunes are also in my DNA. I once had this dream that both Mel and I were playing these tunes together. So the very next time Mel and I got together, I showed him all the chord changes and away we went! Mel and I have wonderful synergy together.
Of course, for a recording to really happen, the drummer and the percussionist has to provide the perfect backdrop for both Mel and I, so having both Brooklyn, NY based (drummer) Buddy Williams and (Percussionist) Gary Fritz on this CD was a dream come true. Buddy is a veteran of over 3000 recordings. I grew up listening to Buddy’s playing on many of my favorite albums. Gary was a godsend, a natural. He grooves like no other and has recorded and performed with a great many artists too numerous to name. Needless to say, having horn guys Earl MacIntyre, Patience Higgins and Earl Gardner on board really proved to be the icing on the cake.
The other tunes on this CD: “Stop!” “Rough & Ready”, “Remember When”, “Medium Well” and the title track “The Rough & The Smooth” are all originals and were written specially for this CD. In recording these tunes, I wanted very much to recreate that funky vibe/hip sound that I first fell in love with. I wanted to bring out the realness in my music like never before. I wanted to honor the past and present legends and many unsung heroes of the groove in my own unique way.
I want to say “thank you” to them for their endless inspiration, for the thousands of hours of listening pleasure, for mixing the rough with the smooth in order to make this music possible. I want this CD to forever be remembered as both music for the head and for the feet and when I finally came of age as a musician and recording artist.