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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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STEVIE WONDER

The Jazz Soul + Tribute to Uncle Ray

Soul Jam 600829

 

 


The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie Wonder

1. Fingertips

2. The Square

3. Soul Bongo

4. Manhattan at Six

5. Paulsby

6. Some Other Time

7. Wondering

8. Session Number 112

9. Bam

Stevie Wonder - Harmonica, piano, organ, drums, bongoes

James Jamerson - Bass

Joe Hunter - Piano

Earl Van Dyke - Organ

Benny Benjamin - Drums

Marvin Gaye - Drums, piano

Norris Patterson, Thomas "Beans" Bowles - Saxes, flutes

Herbie Williams or Russell Conway - Trumpet

Paul Riser or George Bohannon - Trombone

Additional sidemen unknown

 

Tribute to Uncle Ray

10. Hallelujah I Love Her So

11. Ain't That Love

12. Don't You Know

13. The Masquerade is Over

14. Frankie and Johnny

15. Drown in My Own Tears

16. Come Back Baby

17. Mary Ann

18. Sunset

19. My Baby's Gone

20. I Call it Pretty Music but the Old People Call it the Blues

21. I Call it Pretty Music but the Old People Call it the Blues

22. Little Water Boy

23. La La La La La

24. Contract on Love

Stevie Wonder - Lead vocals, piano, organ, harmonica, tambourine

Eddie Willis - Guitar

James Jamerson - Bass

Joe Hunter - Piano

Earl Van Dyke - Organ

Richard Allen or George McGregor - Drums

Norris Patterson, Thomas "Beans" Bowles - Saxes

Herbie Williams or Russell Conway - Trumpet

Paul Riser or George Bohannon - Trombone

Clarence Paul - Vocals (track 22)

Female vocalists unidentified

 

Some readers may query why I am reviewing a Stevie Wonder album in the jazz section. The answer is suggested in the title of the first of the two LPs on this CD. Stevie Wonder could most readily be clasified as a soul artist but he always had an element of jazz in him. This may have arisen from such influences as Little Walter and Ray Charles, who both had jazz in them. Stevie Wonder has recorded some marvellous jazz solos, such as the one on Isn't She Lovely? (which has become a jazz standard). His first hit Fingertips, Part 2 had him improvising a bluesy solo on harmonica.

Stevie's versatility is shown in the all-instrumental Jazz Soul album, where he plays harmonica, piano, organ, drums and bongoes. Most of the tracks were written by Clarence Paul and Henry Cosby, although Stevie collaborated with Paul on Wondering and Session Number 112, while Soul Bongo was the work of Paul and Marvin Gaye (who was just one of Motown's staff musicians and backing vocalists at this time). The sound quality is sometimes unhappy: Some Other Time sounds particularly abrasive.

Although Stevie is adept on so many instruments, he seems most at home on the harmonica in such tracks as The Square and Paulsby, where the style is decidely jazz. His drumming on Manhattan at Six is enthusiastic rather than subtle, but he carried all these talents into later life, becoming an expert multi-instrumentalist as well as composer and arranger. Not bad for a twelve-year-old!

His age is evident in the other LP on this disc, which was also released in 1962. Tribute to Uncle Ray spotights Wonder as a vocalist - with a somewhat shrill and immature boyish voice as it had not yet broken. Yet he already had a feeling for the blues, so that his tribute to Ray Charles makes a respectable job of several of Ray's hits as well as a few Motown tunes. It sometimes seems out-of-place to hear a young lad singing a grown-up song like Hallelujah I Love Her So. He has a very wide vibrato on This Masquerade is Over but he interprets the song with feeling. The backing band plays sympathetically, unlike the raucous accompanists on the Jazz Soul album, who threaten to swamp Little Stevie.

The five bonus tracks comprise the two parts of Stevie's first single, I Call it Pretty Music, his second single La La La La La, and a couple of B sides.

These are by no means Stevie Wonder's best recordings but they should interest listeners who want to trace Stevie's development, as they already show immense promise. And they foreshadow the glistening career one of the most talented musicians in soul music - indeed, in all music.

Tony Augarde

www.augardebooks.co.uk



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