Scott Bradford: Rock Slides (LP) 1969

Scott Bradford
Rock Slides

Probe 4509

Recommended ****

As the title suggests, this is rock-influenced jazz, soul-jazz with some heavy rock leanings,opens with two Bradford compositions, the group at first easing into it like a tank rolling over rocks, but the machine quickly kicks it into gear, pounding out some chunky rock-hard rhythms, the rhythm section creating a unique and muscular motor to power the thing along, two bass players, two percussionists, Phillip Catherine pick-axing away at the rock with his guitar, the horns helping punch it home.  While there’s a lot going on, the group is obviously working on one thing, driving the music like a bulldozer through a rock quarry.  Bradford’s organ helps establish that soul-jazz groove, and Nathan Davis offers some of the most wild contributions of his career, blowing his sax like he’s John Henry swinging his hammer, swinging and spinning around the rhythms.  If it sounds like it might run out of gas on the second cut, the whole thing climaxes with the third cut, a Davis number called “Mid Evil Dance,” a cat named Vinagre coming in on Afro-Cuban percussion to help deepen the groove so he can dance around in it.  Side two gets reflective and less interesting with Nathan switching to flute, but the pace picks up again for a second Davis contribution to close the set.
While jazz-rock fusion quickly focused on increasingly annoying music in the 1970s, this is another date to show that the fusion of these two musical styles at first created lots of interesting music.  Rock is just rock’n roll, and rock’n roll is R&B, but this album suggests that rock has its own sound, something that sounds like a boulder rolling.  This isn’t a great set, but it’s got a raw rock power that’s missing from the crystalized fusion that followed the 60s.  While that stuff was like polished sapphires, this rolls out chunks of raw granite.  — winch

(author of Kalamazoo: Growing Up Sideways in the 1970s)

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