Thursday, September 03, 2009

Face to face with Baby-Face

There's always been a shroud of obscurity over ROOSEVELT "BABY-FACE" WILLETTE.
Even the liner notes of the organist's albums from the early 1960s cannot agree on his birthplace -- New Orleans or Little Rock, Ark., are both listed -- and I have yet to read about why he slipped from the jazz scene by the early 1970s.
If they knew his music at all, jazz fans probably heard Willette on either "Here 'Tis" by LOU DONALDSON or "Grant's First Stand" by GRANT GREEN.
Before switching to organ, Willette played piano with the R&B bands of King Kolax, Joe Houston, Johnny Otis and Big Jay McNeely.
Willette only cut four albums as a leader -- "FACE TO FACE" and "STOP AND LISTEN" on Blue Note and "MO-ROCK" and "BEHIND THE 8-BALL" on Argo.
I picked up the latter two in San Francisco a couple years ago.
Today, I listened to "Face to Face" while walking to work.
Based on what I heard, Willette should emerge from the shadows.
The album is exhilarating in its propulsive groove.


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