The late John Patton (1935-2002), better known as Big John Patton, was among the number of the 1960s Sultans of the Hammond B-3 organ. While he didn’t achieve the heights of fame as Jimmy Smith, Charles Earland, Jack McDuff or Larry Young, he was a darn fine player with several albums on Blue Note to his credit. Recorded in 1983, a couple of years before the popular resurgence of soul jazz (and the emergence of the acid jazz movement it inspired), this years re-release of Soul Connection proves beyond any doubt that Patton deserved/deserves wider recognition.
While Patton had a soulful sound on the B-3 and could groove with aplomb (check out his 1966 Blue Note platter,Got A Good Thing Goin), Patton was somewhat more bebop-oriented than many of the other primo organ-izers. Patton swings and swings hard on Connection. What he lacks in BBQ-flavored soul sauce, he more than makes up for in fleetness and fluidity. The band here is, dare I say killer - Melvin Sparks, a vet of the soul-jazz scene, lives up to his surname; Grant Reed is a blues-rich tenor fellow in the Texas-tenor mold of Fathead Newman, and (especially) Booker Ervin and Grachan Moncur III, associated more with the edgier side of Blue Note in the ‘60s (i.e., recordings w/ Jackie McLean, Joe Henderson, etc.), is virtually a Lee Morgan of the bone (lyrical, surging, crackling, etc.).
Drummer Alvin Queen, on whose Nilva label this was originally issued, is a rock-solid, self-effacing presence - no solos, but he drives this session like a spark plug does an engine. Thoughtful and tres moderne without being ponderous, cookin’ like a Friday night chef, but far more than chill-out/party music, and loaded with exemplary musicianship, but free of any excess or water-treading, Soul Connection is 40 minutes of aces-high, five-star jazz. It’s my pick for best reissue of the year (thus far).