King Curtis: Live In New York (w/ Al Casey)
This is a snapshot in time - King Curtis on a 1961 evening, running through his current set. He was at a crossroads. He was playing at Atlantic for Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller who were working with the Coasters and the Isley Brothers. Also, he played for Phil Spector, who produced the Top Notes and Lavern Baker. The tape of this session lay on a shelf for some years, emerging only by chance. On the evidence, Curtis was as comfortable with jazz as with R&B artist. True or not, his influence on the popular mainstream has been great. When the tapes were received, a date of 1959 was given, but mid-1961 is more likely. For example, Curtis mentions Jay Walk as being his latest record and that was recorded in late 1960 or early 1961. Additionally, there's the personnel. We won't go into minute detail, but suffice it to say that Paul Griffin joined in 1961, having been with Sonny Till until then. Jay Walk opens the set with the 'Soul Twist'-style interplay between sax and guitar. The sax is dropped as Curtis vocalizes on Trouble In Mind, in Ray Charles style. African Waltz is given more of a backbeat than Adderley's version before another Ray Charles-style workout of What'd I Say. Another blues, I Have To Worry follows, before Curtis' unique version of The Twist. With Canadian Sunset and How High The Moon jazz hits us head on. They are given warm readings, before a return to R&B with the instrumental KC Special. It is always difficult to pinpoint the true sympathies of a musician such as King Curtis. Did he enjoy playing with Connie Francis or Andy Williams' Or even the Coasters and the Drifters. Perhaps he was really happiest with M-O-R material (he loved to play ballads) or was he really a frustrated jazzman' Who can say' It can be convincingly argued that sides like these provide a better insight into the artist at a point in time than any assembly of rare tracks from various sources. If that is so, then Curtis sounds pretty comfortable with his situation.