Various Artists

Inner Peace: The Supreme Sound of Producer Bob Shad
WeWantSounds WWSCD 007 CD

Although presented as a hearty helping of Jazz that celebrates the spiritual and rapturous side of contemporary improvisation, this CD also solves another important conundrum. What happened to accomplished Bop and Hard Bop players in the 1970s that had neither the inclination nor the interest to cast their lot in with the rigorous avant-garde or showy fusion movements of the time?

Initially hooked into the network of Jazz clubs and big-band-oriented studio work Rock’s hegemony in those fields turned these seasoned players into the equivalent of seafarers who couldn’t find berths in which to sail. To resolve the problem, these veterans adapted the electric pianos, electric basses and guitars of Rock and R&B groups to create the funky grooves preserved on the 11 cuts here. While this transitional style would soon harden into Disco and/or Smooth Jazz as simple melodies, relentless beats and overblown arrangement began to dominate the scene, in retrospect these players got their revenge when parts of the music subsequently became so-called deep cuts sampled by Hip-Hoppers. Like reading the novel on which a popular film is based, the musical details of these tracks deserve to be heard as much more than mere source material.

Despite the electronic jingle-jangle and often overdone drum beats permeating the background of these selections, two accomplished saxophonists make brawny tough tenor statements. During “In The Back, In The Corner, In The Dark” Harold Land (1928-2001) in a front line with trumpeter Oscar Brashear, plays with enough cojones to suggest a tune that could have slid faultlessly into Horace Silver’s most accomplished song book. Similarly with “Cigar Eddie”, Hadley Caliman (1932-2010) expands a groove piece anchored by Bill Douglass’ electric bass into a vibrating essay of masculine emotionalism with expressive comping provided by Larry Vuckovich’s piano. Overdubbing delicate flute and determined alto saxophone runs, Sonny Red (1932-1981), backed by pianist Cedar Walton, creates an expressive interlude; bassist Herbie Lewis and drummer Billy Higgins straddled Bop and Blues on “Love Song”, but the flute chirps are a bit overdone. More amusedly the little-known tenor saxophonist Dave Hubbard (1940-2016), whose acoustic quintet includes Albert Dailey on electric piano, spins out some knotty, rhythmic inventions in his solo, but unfortunately the track fades out during that showcase.

Another equally obscure saxophonist, Charles Williams (b. 1932), comes up with a foot tapping boogaloo on “Iron Jaws” with band including Randy Brecker on flugelhorn, Frank Wess on tenor saxophones and Don Pullen on organ (!) as well as a cohort of electric guitars and percussionists. With riffing horn and coordinated organ and electric piano pulses framing his cheerful expression Williams has created a notable foot tapper with some stop-time excitement. But his alto work which seems to take equally from David Sanborn and Johnny Hodges, slips into R&B sameness before the end. With admittedly lesser aims, another non-star, saxophonist Buddy Terry (b. 1941) emphasizes R&B over Jazz on his “Inner Peace” composition. Finger-snapping thanks to Ernie Hayes’ organ, Larry Willis’ electric piano and the drumming of Bernard Purdie, some dated wah-wah effect almost sink it, but the groove triumphs in the end.

Other better-known Jazzers such as drummer Roy Haynes (b. 1925) and saxophonist Frank Foster (1928-2011) are represented here as well. But the pseudo-George Benson guitar on Haynes’ “Senyah” and overwrought arrangement on Foster’s “Requiem for Dusty” despite the many well-known names in his 14-piece aggregation, spell studio big band dance music not swinging Jazz.

None of these tracks should be relegated to obscurity and with the talents gathered in the studio, none of the music is ever less than professional. But the sounds should be regarded as example of making-do for players who were then out of step with musical trends. Lacking emotional commitment, except in a couple of cases, Innerpeace shouldn’t be heard as a Jazz anthology, but as superior Jazz-oriented pop music. Within these limitations it can be enjoyed. After all it still has the musical guts that would soon be surgically removed in Smooth Jazz.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. In The Back, In The Corner, In The Dark 2. Senyah 3. Iron Jaws 4. Inner Peace 5. Cigar Eddie 6. Requiem for Dusty 7. Mebakush 8. B.C. 9. Love Song 10. Libra’s Longing 11. Infinity

Personnel: 1. Oscar Brashear (trumpet); Harold Land (tenor saxophone); Bill Henderson (electric piano); Buster Williams (bass) and Leon “Ndugu” Chancler (drums) 2. Marvin Peterson (trumpet); George Adams (tenor saxophone); Carl Schroeder (piano); Roland Prince (guitar), Don Pate (electric bass); Roy Haynes (drums) and Lawrence Killian (percussion) 3. Randy Brecker (flugelhorn); Charles Williams and Chris Woods (alto saxophones); Bubba Brooks and Frank Wess (tenor saxophones; Paul Griffin (electric piano); Don Pullen (organ); Cornell Dupree and David Spinozza (guitar), Gordon Edwards (bass); Clyde Lucas (drums) and Ray Barretto and David Carey (percussion) 4. Buddy Terry (tenor saxophone); Larry Willis (electric piano); Ernie Hayes (organ); Jay Berliner (guitar), Wilbur Bascomb (bass); Bernard Purdie (drums and Lawrence Killian (percussion). 5. Hadley Caliman (tenor saxophone); Larry Vuckovich (piano); John White Jr. (guitar), Bill Douglass (bass) and Clarence Becton (drums) 6. Marvin Peterson (trumpet); Cecil Bridgewater (trumpet, flugelhorn); Dick Griffin (trombone); Kenny Rogers (alto saxophone); Frank Foster (tenor saxophone); Harold Mabern and Jan Hammer (piano); Earl Dunbar (guitar); Stanley Clarke and Gene Perla (bass); Richard Pratt Omar Clay and Elvin Jones (drums) and Airto Moreira (percussion) 7. Eddie Henderson (trumpet); Pete Yellin (tenor saxophone and flute); Kenny Barron. (electric piano); Stanley Clarke (bass); Billy Hart (drums) and Dom Um Romao (percussion) 8. Dave Hubbard (tenor saxophone); Albert Dailey (piano); Jimmy Rowser (bass); Harold White (drums) and Buck Clarke (percussion) 9. Sylvester “Sonny Red” Kyner (alto saxophone and flute); Cedar Walton (piano); Herbie Lewis (bass) and Billy Higgins (drums) 10. Sal Marquez (trumpet, flugelhorn); Yusef Rahman (trombone); Charles Owens (tenor saxophone, flute); LaMont Johnson (piano); Mike Deasy (guitar); Stan Gilbert (bass); Ray Pounds (drums) and Pondaza (percussion) 11. Shelly Manne (percussion)