Gary Bartz – The Shadow Do (1975/2022) [Official Digital Download 24bit/192kHz]

Gary Bartz – The Shadow Do (1975/2022)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/192 kHz | Time – 38:28 minutes | 1,51 GB | Genre: Jazz
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Craft Recordings

To many jazz purists, the fusion of funk, soul, and jazz that evolved from the late ’60s through the mid-’70s quickly shifted from interesting diversion to unabashed sacrilege. Watching the open-ended improvisation adventurousness of bebop, “the new thing,” and free jazz give way to four-on-the-floor rhythms, simplified melodies, and–gasp!–verse-chorus-verse vocals was too much to bear for the self-proclaimed keepers of the flame. While a lot of this vitriol was the run-of-the-mill grousing of gatekeepers and traditionalists who hate it when a beloved art form succumbs to mainstream tendencies, to be honest, it’s kind of understandable that a song like “Gentle Smiles” would set even the most open-minded jazz fan on edge. Basically a slowburn funk ballad—complete with a chorus that fuses William DeVaughn’s “diamonds in the back” lyric with a cloyingly nonsensical chant of “play saxy on me”—the cut nods to the jazz tradition in only the most cursory of ways beyond Bartz’s lugubrious sax melodies. “Gentle Smiles”—and pretty much all of the rest of The Shadow Do—reads more like funk with a few jazzy elements, rather than the other way around. In 1970, this would have been a cool move from many jazz musicians, especially as a logical evolution from mid-’60s soul-jazz. But in 1975? After two Earth Wind & Fire albums? After six Crusaders albums? After “Walking in Rhythm?” Worse than sacrilege, it seemed that Gary Bartz had committed the far more sinful act of being boring. On first listen, the unapologetically straightforward arrangements and gleefully dumb lyrics of The Shadow Do sound like the rote grasping of a musician who’s utterly lost in the present, trying to get his groove back. However, like so many other once-maligned works of the era now seeing their reputations rehabilitated, this is an album that—though certainly not deep—is far from boring. Bartz can’t help but bring his exploratory approach to any music he works on, and so while this is absolutely an in-the-pocket funk album, it also boasts plenty of toying with form. A cut like “Make Me Feel Better” resembles a leftover Allen Toussaint jam, but Bartz has fun with both its structure and delivery. Meanwhile, the pre-disco “Mother Nature” leans heavily on Michael Henderson’s basslines, Hubert Eaves’ clavichord, and a batch of tree-hugging lyrics that are as adorably dippy as they are incongruous with the funk at hand. It’s a dichotomy that rears its head throughout this Mizell Bros. produced oddity. And while The Shadow Do definitely deserves reconsideration, it’s not for its jazz bona fides, but instead for its success at masking its resolute weirdness behind a shiny, funk sheen.

1-1. Gary Bartz – Winding Roads (03:18)
1-2. Gary Bartz – Mother Nature (06:34)
1-3. Gary Bartz – Love Tones (05:15)
1-4. Gary Bartz – Gentle Smiles (04:23)
1-5. Gary Bartz – Make Me Feel Better (04:40)
1-6. Gary Bartz – Sea Gypsy (06:17)
1-7. Gary Bartz – For My Baby (04:58)
1-8. Gary Bartz – Incident (02:59)


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