Rusty Bryant — Fire Eater (1971)
Engineered by the great Rudy Van Gelder, sax legend Rusty Bryant’s 1971 album, Fire Eater, is a masterclass in jazz-funk. The session features an all-star lineup including Wilbert Longmire on guitar, as well as Bill Mason and Leon Spencer taking turns on organ, but it’s Idris Muhammad’s thundering drums that tend to steal the show, especially on the album opener and title track. It takes a good set of headphones to truly appreciate this one; the drums are hard panned right and heavily saturated, the sax tends to stay to the left with a tight close-mic, while the organ and guitar flow in and out of the middle section — each instrument truly has its own place in the mix.
Side B opens with “The Hooker,” a straight ahead blues number that is performed well but a little underwhelming compared to the rest of the (short, but substantial) tracklisting. It leads into “Mister S.,” which is a lot of fun, falling somewhere between game show music and ’60s Go-Go. Once again, Muhammad’s drumming is spectacular, but it’s Spencer’s highly lyrical organ sound that steals the show, giving the song its voice and character.
Charles Kynard — Afro-Disiac (1970)
Charles Kynard’s Afro-Disiac is an upbeat cross between James Brown and the swinging ’60s. Fueled by legendary players like drummer Bernard Purdie and guitarist Grant Green, the songs are playful while maintaining a high level of technical prowess. The album stays the soul-jazz course; at only 6 tracks it doesn’t have the room to stray into more experimental territory.
The longest track on the album is “Trippin,” led by bassist Jimmy Lewis. Some of Kynard’s best organ work is on this song, his ability to dip in and out of overdriven phrases makes for a delightful solo section. There’s also some songs with a tight groove akin to Bryant’s album, most notably Side 2 opener “Odds On.” The shuffling drum pattern and chromatic bass line gives Kynard plenty of room to work his organ runs. The lack of variety makes this album a little less interesting than Fire Eater, but the musicians are still playing at the top of their game, making it a worthwhile listen.
Both releases feature similar packaging, staying true to the original design and labels. I really like the labels on each record, showing a faithful recreation of the ’70s Prestige logo and colors. The vinyl itself is 180-gram and plays well with no surface noise detected. Each cardboard sleeve is medium weight and feels a little more substantial than most original ’70s sleeves.