Pressing Issues: “Big” John Patton, Got a Good Thing Goin’ (1966 Blue Note Liberty stereo)

Original Pressing: Blue Note, BST 84229 (1966)

Musicians
John Patton (org), Grant Green (g), Hugh Walker (d), Richard Landrum (conga)

Cover design: Reid Miles
Liner notes: Alan Grant

Recorded by Rudy Van Gelder at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, April 26, 1966.


Sometimes I hear a record for the first time and wonder, How have I never heard this record before?, so perfectly does it reflect my personal aesthetic. Examples of such albums have included Blues and the Abstract Truth, Idle Moments, and True Blue. And now I can add this one to the list.

Organist “Big” John Patton led nearly a dozen sessions during his time with Blue Note, with this one coming right around the middle. Where labelmate Jimmy Smith regularly mined the traditional organ trio format (i.e., organ, guitar, drums) during the sixties, this was Patton’s only such release during that decade. (And yes, I am categorizing Got a Good Thing Goin’ as an organ trio. The presence of Richard Landrum’s conga alone does not a quartet make.) The result is so spectacularly successful that one wishes he’d made many more trio records with Grant Green, for they play together as if they’d created the format themselves.

While Patton does not possess the flashy chops of a Jimmy Smith—few do—he is absolutely a stylist in his own right. His improvisations—brimming though they are with much of the expected Hammond language (e.g., wide interval triplets, trills on minor thirds, sustained high notes at key moments)—still draw in the listener. By the lapels. Through his extroverted style and dynamic phrasing, Patton keeps the listener engaged and interested, even as he rarely seems to bother with his drawbars. All of this, of course, made him perfect for Blue Note, a label known for its roster of outsized musical personalities.

To be sure, Patton’s musical personality record is drenched in the blues, but it’s perhaps a slightly more modern-sounding product than say, Jimmy Smith’s contemporaneous releases. The intro to “Soul Woman”, with Patton’s evocative sustained chords, sounds as if it could have been written last week. Similarly, his arrangement of Marvin Gaye’s “Ain’t That Peculiar” has Green playing the tune’s appealing mixolydian melody in a manner that makes it’s source material sound almost dated by comparison. And that’s exactly the sort of thing you hear on Blue Note’s best records: Compositions that are both of their time and grasping inexorably toward the future. (Another example? Both the intro and the “A” section to “Mosaic” from Art Blakey’s album of the same name, which sound like something from a late-seventies Steely Dan record. Fagen and Becker were paying attention, methinks.) Simply put, there is an undeniable earthiness-cum-modernity to this record that is really appealing.

Grant Green has been referred to as Blue Note’s “house guitarist”, and with good reason. By the time he played on this 1966 session, Green’s discography included nearly 40 Blue Note releases1, both as leader and sideman, and on approximately 90 sessions overall (for all all labels). Not surprisingly, those dozens of sessions paid major dividends with respect to both Green’s growth as a guitarist and Rudy Van Gelder’s techniques in recording him. Case in point: Green’s playing on “Baby Face” Willette’s 1961 debut “Face to Face” (BLP 4068) sounds almost tentative by comparison, and his tone is often thin and brittle. Five years and all those sessions later, Green plays confidently and aggressively, with a tone to match.

Green’s performance throughout the session is as good as anything he’s ever recorded as a sideman. Of particular interest is that his genre-defining blues phrasing is accompanied by some tasty rhythm work. Unlike virtually every jazz guitarist in history, Green typically avoided playing chords (!), especially on his own sessions. In fact, one could select a half dozen of his finest releases and hear barely a triad. Yet, there he is, supporting Patton with some funky right hand patterns. (Ditto for his work with Willette.) No one would ever mistake his chordal chops for those of Joe Pass or Wes Montgomery. But as he was clearly proficient in the harmonic vocabulary of the day, I’ve never understood why he neglected this aspect of his playing to such an extent.

Having an enormous back catalog to sample from is one of the most exciting aspects of being a jazz fan. You just never know when you’ll find that record, the one that eluded your notice for so many years. The one that makes you wonder how you’d missed it for all those years.

Collecting Notes

  • Stereo pressing
  • “Division of Liberty” label
  • VAN GELDER stamp in run out
  • NM/VG++

For personal amusement, I occasionally snipe on auctions with a lowball bid, hoping to win the lottery. Ninety-five percent of those bids are crushed under an avalanche of more realistic offers. This was a rare win for me with this strategy. Given the choice, I’d usually opt for the mono pressing, and I probably will look to upgrade this copy. But this one will due for a while.

This title was one of 35 titles that were ready to be pressed at the time of Blue Note’s sale to Liberty Records in 1966, and has the Liberty labels.

Unfortunately, my copy is still in its original shrink wrap, and I can’t decide whether I want to remove it. An argument in favor of keeping it on is a red price sticker for $1.00, which would be a good price regardless of the consumer price index! Argument against keeping it on? It photographs horrendously, so the picture above is just a stock photo.

 

Do you keep vintage records in shrink wrap if you get it that way? What records were you unaware of, but have now become personal favorites? Let me know in the comments. Maybe you’ll help someone else find it, too!


1. I don’t know if this is a record for Blue Note sessions, but I intend to look into it.

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