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California Concert by Various

For those who don’t already own one of the previous versions of this album’s release, now is the perfect time to pick up this incredible recording. The lineup included amazing trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, soulful saxophonists Stanley Turrentine and Hank Crawford, continually underappreciated flutist Hubert Laws, young-at-the-time guitar firebrand George Benson, soul jazz keyboard legend Johnny Hammond, Miles Davis alum bassist Ron Carter, the powerful Mahavishnu Orchestra drummer Billy Cobham and multi-percussionist Airto Moreira. Together they turn it loose creating some of the best jazz of the decade.

First released on vinyl after this live concert’s performance on July 18, 1971, the original two disc set included only part of this evening’s music from this meeting of some of the best jazz musicians working the straight-ahead and soul jazz movements of the day. Only containing four and a half of the songs performed that evening, the music released was incredible, but ultimately unsatisfying, especially with Freddie Hubbard’sRed Clay” fading out just as George Benson started his solo. The subsequent single disc CD release in 1990 was, in many ways, no better. While “Red Clay” was restored to its full length, the tune "Leaving West" was left off.

Now, finally, the entire concert has been reproduced on two CDs with the tunes in the order in which they were performed. There are so many highlights it’s hard to list them all, so a few will have to suffice. Hubert Laws’ playing on the James Taylor hit “Fire And Rain” is transcendent. Encompassing sections of free-jazz with extended flute technique usage to straight blowing, this disc is worth picking up for this track alone.

“Red Clay” includes not just a burning solo from the tune’s composer, but also one of Turrentine’s patented everybody-get-on-up solos, followed by a ripping Benson solo. Percussion enthusiasts will especially want to check out Airto’s work on “Leaving West” and Cobham’s extraordinarily dexterous and rocking work as he pumps up each soloist in turn during the opening version of Coltrane’s “Impressions.” It’s such a shame that now, after 40 years, this track is finally coming to light as it’s never previously been released. Hubbard’s immensely deep toned flugel playing is on display during “Here’s That Rainy Day” and Hammond rocks on the Carole King “It’s Too Late.”

Even if not for the incredible playing the historical significance of this recording makes it extremely worthwhile. The 1970s were full of record labels pulling together as many of their label signees as possible for extended live jam session concerts, witness Columbia’s Montreux Summit and the Atlantic record label offering featuring Don Ellis among others, but they were all influenced by the incredible success CTI Records founder and this recording’s producer Creed Taylor had with this and his subsequent In Concert and CTI Summer Jazz recordings, also well worth picking up. Before this disc is discontinued and the used prices soar, buy it now.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Various
  • CD Title: California Concert
  • Genre: Soul / Funk Jazz
  • Year Released: 2010
  • Record Label: CTI/Sony
  • Rating: Five Stars
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