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Orange Sunset: Funky Soul Jazz Essentials From The Jazz Dispensary


One of the more fun Record Store Day releases this year is an album called Orange Sunset issued by Craft Recordings’ wonderful Jazz Dispensary subsidiary.  Mining all things soul jazz and groove, the folks behind albums like this clearly have their heads in the dance clubs and remix-ology (if you will) — there is a thread of continuity connecting the swinging cuts here. 

Half the fun of getting an album like Orange Sunset is not only listening to the sequence but also digging down and finding the albums the producers pulled these tracks from.  Not surprisingly, many of these pieces have been sampled by the remix community (which you can figure out from the great website WhoSampled.com)

Anyhow, lets explore what is on Orange Sunset:

“Everything Counts” is by David Axelrod from his 1974 album Heavy Axe which clearly — given the prices its going for online — has some street buzz going on for its grooves (click here for the Discogs link). This has has some snake-y synth bass lines weaving beneath its low soul grooves.  The album includes no less than George Duke and Johnny Guitar Watson with production by Cannonball Adderly. 

“Funky Junkie” by The Blackbyrds is from this soul-funk-fusion jazz band’s self titled debut. I guess this album, from 1974, is the one to get as later ones by this group have left me a bit curious but indifferent (I have several in the collection, so I keep revisiting them). I need to spend more time exploring them, for sure… A punchy layered saxophone hook provides a bed for some sweet blowing by Allan Barnes as the band chants in the background.

“Shifting Gears” by Johnny Hammond is a slinky Shaft-on-speed like groove with some great drum breaks and relentless Fender Rhodes vamping.  This was on a 1975 release from the Fantasy Records subsidiary Milestone Records and it clearly didn’t sell a lot. I’ve never seen this one anywhere. It goes for some coin on Discogs (click here). 

“Don’t Leave” by Roger Glenn is a sweet smooth slow groover that falls somewhere between Barry White and Issac Hayes in terms of vibe, with room for flute and vibraphone textures. 

The son of jazz trombonist and vibraphonist Tyree Glenn, Roger only had one album out in 1976 and it clearly has some collector or sampler buzz driving up its street price (click here). Glenn apparently is alive and well and thriving in the San Francisco Bay Area. Here’s his website link and Facebook page

“24 Carat Black (Theme)” by 24 Carat Black is another one of those obscure one-off bands that tapped into something special but was only discovered by DJs and samplers years later.

This is a cool vibe track with a lot of air and space in it plus some sweet echo-drenched electric guitar stabs.  At times it feels like a Miles Davis excursion by way of a TV detective drama backing track from the mid 1970s.  Good stuff. And of course original pressings are commanding collectors prices these days (click here)

“Righteousness” by the great Merl Saunders — who I’m a fan of from his work with Jerry Garcia — is from the one early album of his I don’t have, so I have to rectify that.

Didn’t realize how collectible Merl’s records have become! (click here).  Some wonderful players on this including the grand Martin Fierro on saxophone (who played with Merl and Jerry a lot over the years). Not surprisingly, this track has a slow funky vibe not unlike the grooves he brewed with Garcia over the years. Some smokin’ distorted Clavinet soloing here!

“Goodbye, So Long” by Funk, Inc. is a nice album closer that feels like what might happen if Bill Withers tried to record an Issac Hayes styled extended groove.

A tight horn riff, a slow burner groove and a simple but punchy bass line make this one work. They recorded on Prestige Records which by the mid 70s was owned by Fantasy Records. I need to keep my eyes out for their albums when I’m out digging through crates and garage sales once the pandemic is over. 

So there you have the inner joys of an album like Orange Sunset. Carefully and lovingly curated grooves which play well together like a sweet DJ set, all pressed on surprisingly quiet and good sounding colored vinyl.

What’s not to like?

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