Personnel includes: Quincy Jones, Valerie Simpson, Bill Cosby, Marilyn Jackson (vocals); Jerome Richardson, Peter Christlieb (saxophone); Hubert Laws (tenor saxophone, flute); Wayne Andre, Garnett Brown (trombone); Marvin Stamm, Freddie Hubbard (flugelhorn); Toots Thielmans (harmonica, guitar); Milt Jackson (vibraphone); Bob James, Jakie Byard, Joe Sample, Bobby Scott (piano); Dick Hyman (electric harpsichord, piano); Paul Beaver, Edd Kalehoff (Moog synthesizer); Jim Hall, Eric Gale (guitar); Ray Brown, Carol Kaye (bass); Grady Tate, Paul Humphries (drums).
Producers: Ray Brown, Phil Ramone, Quincy Jones.
Recorded at A & R Studios, New York.
Quincy Jones had jazz fans wondering when he released his killer GULA MATARI album in 1970. That set, with a gorgeous reading of Paul Simon's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" with a lead vocal by none other than Valerie Simpson, pointed quite solidly into the direction Jones was traveling: unabashedly toward pop, but with his own trademark taste and sophistication at the forefront. Its follow-up, SMACKWATER JACK, marked Jones, along with Phil Ramone and Ray Brown in the producer's chair, and knocked purist jazz fans on their heads with its killer meld of pop tunes, television and film themes, pop vocals, and big-band charts. The personnel list is a who's-who of jazzers including Monty Alexander, Jim Hall, Pete Christlieb, Joe Beck, Bobby Scott, Ernie Royal, Freddie Hubbard, Jerome Richardson, Ray Brown, Jaki Byard, Toots Thielemans, and many others. But it also hosted the talents of new school players who dug pop and soul, such as Grady Tate, Bob James, Joe Sample, Chuck Rainey, Paul Humphries, Eric Gale, and others. And yes, Simpson was back on this session in an epic reading of Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin' On,'" that featured Carol Kaye and Harry Lookofsky on soulful, psychedelic jazz strings and a smoking harmonica solo by Thielemans. The title cut, of course, is a reading of the Gerry Goffin and Carole King number, done in a taut, funky soul style with Rainey's bassline popping and bubbling under the entire mix. Other highlights include a rocking version of the television theme from Ironside, and "Hikky-Burr," the now infamous theme from the Bill Cosby Show with a guest vocal from Bill. The version of Vince Guaraldi's "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" is one of the loveliest tracks here. The album's final cut is a Jones original that sums up the theme of the entire album. Entitled "Guitar Blues Odyssey: From Roots to Fruits," it travels the path of Robert Johnson and Skip James through toJimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton with stops along the way at Charlie Christian, Wes Montgomery, and Grant Green. This set has provided some key samples for rappers and electronic music producers over the years--and there's plenty more to steal -- but as an album, it is one of Q's true masterpieces.