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Wildflower

Hank Crawford

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Album Review

Hank Crawford's '60s sides for Atlantic rightfully established him among the preeminent soul-jazz saxophonists. For pure phrasing and feel, Crawford was in a class by himself. When Creed Taylor kicked off CTI in 1970, he brought Crawford on board immediately. This date from 1973 — one of eight cut between 1971 and 1978 — is Crawford's strongest for the label and one of the better records of his career, though jazz purists would never agree. Produced and arranged by Bob James with a smoking cast that includes Joe Beck, Idris Muhammad, Richard Tee, and Bob Cranshaw, as well as a brass section of crack New York studio cats, Wildflower is the album Crawford had been trying to make since 1971. Recorded in two days, the band provides a slick, right, colorful platform for Crawford's melodic improvisation that is rooted in the art of the phrase. One long note held on "Mr. Blues" or a series of carefully articulated verbal feelings, such as on "Corazon," may not step out of the groove, but make it both a deeper blue and as wide as the human heart's complexity. On the title cut, with a vocal chorus in the background, Crawford turns a pop melody into a torrent of raw emotionalism and savvy groove-conscious glory. James' charts are big but never obtrusive; they point in one direction only, to bring that huge soul sound out of Crawford's alto — check out the way the melody line breaks down into the solo in Stevie Wonder's "You've Got It Bad Girl," or the backbeat arpeggio exercises in "Good Morning Heartache." This record is so hot the only soul-jazz it can be compared to in both its contemporary form and funky feel are Grover Washington's Feels So Good and Mister Magic issues. In other words, Crawford's Wildflower is indispensable as a shining example of '70s groove jazz at its best.

Biography

Born: 21 December 1934 in Memphis, TN

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

With an unmistakable blues wail, full of emotion and poignancy, altoist Hank Crawford bridges the gap between that tradition and that of jazz more completely than any other living horn player. Born in Memphis, Crawford was steeped in the blues tradition from an early age. He began playing piano but switched to alto when his father brought one home from the army. He claims his early influences as Louis Jordan, Earl Bostic, and Johnny Hodges. Crawford hung out with Phineas Newborn, Jr., Booker Little,...
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