There are no stinky sounds here on Jazz Dispensary’s new Record Store Day special edition called Super Skunk, but it sure does have a lotta stanky good jazz vibrations going on. As we’ve learned with past editions from the boutique sub-label-of-a-sort from the good folks at Craft Recordings, the team at Jazz Dispensary seem to know where the best stuff is lurking in the parent company’s vast catalog. In case you didn’t know, Craft Recordings is the audiophile imprint managing all the relatively recent high quality reissue releases from Concord Music which owns the full lines of music from legendary record labels like Prestige, Fantasy, Buddah, Kama Sutra and their many subsidiaries like Cobblestone and Milestone.
Super Skunk mines sweet slow booty shaking grooves you can enjoy while sitting with your favorite adult beverage, slow dancing with a special someone or just kickin’ back to listen. What is so interesting about this mix is not only the diversity of musicians and styles but also the generations it crosses. We get everyone from The Bar Kays to jazz legends like Cannonball Adderley, Woody Herman and Gary Bartz. And then there are a whole batch of artists I’ve never heard before such as Art Jerry Miller, Catalyst, Rabbits & Carrots and The Pazant Brothers & The Beaufort Express.
Not surprisingly, many of these artists had one-off albums that have become sought after jams for the DJ and sampling community. Some of these records are a whole lotta rare, so Super Skunk is a great way to get a taste of whats inside before splurging on a pricey collector’s piece. Of course the frustrating part for somewhat introspective music fans like myself is the harsh reality of the record business — especially back in the day when a lot of this music was made — and how extremely talented musicians were either overlooked or cast off in a remote corner of the company’s business while other artists captured the limelight.
Fortunately, there are some thoughtful folks at Craft Recordings who have seen the light and are making sure that this music is rescued from obscurity for new generations to discover. Hopefully the surviving artists and their families are making something off these reissues. So how does Super Skunk sound? As with all the Jazz Dispensary releases there is a remarkable consistency from track to track which is no small feat given that these recordings were made across different studio scenarios, budgets and time frames. Kudos to the mastering engineers on Super Skunk! Happily, the opaque red vinyl pressing is well centered and quiet so all that fun audiophile stuff is good. Super Skunk features a really neat die-cut cover concept, this time around by by GRAMMY-winning designer Masaki Koike (with original illustrations by Humberto Howard). Super Skunk is a very high quality release!
So what are some of my favorites on Super Skunk? Well, the first big surprise is Woody Herman’s cover of Herbie Hancock’s “Fat Mama” (from The Raven Speaks album) That a musician who was a noted big band leader in the 1930’s and ’40’s could transcend the times creating sounds like this in the 1970s is quite a feat — many of his generation gave up in the 50s when Rock ’n Roll kicked in, much less embracing space funk of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s! Rabbits & Carrots delivers a really interesting Latin soul-funk blend. The group wavers a bit getting their groove together — in best garage band fashion — but when it all gels there is much smoke happening on this track (“Los Cuatro Culturas”), so I can hear why it was included. I’m going to have track down albums by Gary Bartz (“Make Me Feel Better”) now as well as Catalyst (“New Found Truths”)
By: Mark Smotroff