The Afro-Blues Quintet Plus One
Band members Related acts
line up 1 (1964-)
- Joe De Aguero (aka Little Joe) -- vibes
- Michael Davis -- drums, percussion
- Jack Fulks - sax, flute
- Bill Henderson -- keyboards
- Norm Johnson -- bass
- Moses Obligacion -- congas, percussion
- 00 Soul (Jack Fulks)
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title: Introducing The Afro-Blues Quintet Plus One
Grade (cover/record): VG /VG+
Comments: stereo pressing; lots of light lines, but plays without noise of skips (play graded)
Catalog ID: 5927
True story ... If you've ever bought an album off the internet you may know that dealers will occasionally pack the purchase with old 'throwaway' LPs as stiffeners to protect the album. Well that's how I was introduced to The Afro-Blues Quintet Plus One. A German dealer used their 1965 self-titled LP as a stiffener. The band name and album cover looked kind of cool so I decided to give them a spin.
So here's the best biography I could find on this obscure outfit (I borrowed it from Robin Hemingway's liner notes on the back cover of the album):
"You're a jazz group. You've been together about a year. You play here; you play there; you start happening. You got a dancing, grooving beat that keeps people coming back. You're "out of sight." You're called The Afro-Blues Quintet Plus One. Yes ... The Afro-Blues Quarter are happening, with a unique, driving sound, carbon copy to none. An identifiable sound is hard to come by - in jazz or any other form of music - although the Afro-Blues Quintet has accomplished this feat in one short year of playing together. Built specifically around vibes and flute (sometimes alto saxophone) with piano, drums, bass and conga finishing the bottom to the top, theirs is a happy, rhythmic "Cosa Nostra' (our thing) of music. Although the Afro-Blues comprises 6 men one man is responsible for keeping the group at performance peal when sidemen leave and others take their place - one man holds everything together and was responsible for forming the group - the leader and vibist, Joe De Aguero. Young (22 years) to be leading such a solid musical unit, De Aguero believes "in having strong vats around me so that I can learn from them." He started playing vibraphone in Junior High School and continued during his studies at U/C/L.A. Fresh and sensitive, Joe's vibe-playing highlights the Afro-Blues Quintet Plus One. Complementing him are Jack Fulks on alto plus flute, Bill Henderson on piano, Michael Davis on timbales & traps; Norm Johnson on bass, and Moses Obligacion, conga. Unusual with a group such as this is that they don't confine themselves to just a regular jazz book, but offer up their interpretations of :other thing" standards like "Walk On By" and "Monkey Time." The original "Liberation" is a pulsating blues of Afro-Cuban jazz and "other thing" and has that "standard" sound. "Moses" so named for the group's conga player, has a gospel-like sound that finger pops right along. In these selections, as in the rest of the album, it's made quite obvious that the Afro-Blues Quintet Plus One are an ensemble to stand up and harken to. Joe De Aquereo and The Afro-Blues Quintet Plus One are happening .. you can happen with them."
So based on those liner notes (assuming they were even halfway accurate), the group formed in 1963/1964. They started playing L.A. clubs including a long term residency at the Sunset Strip club the Living Room where they attracted the attention of producers Hal Schwartz and Jack Millman who signed them to their Music Industries production company. The following year they signed with Fred Smith's Los Angeles-based Mira/Mirwood label. Similarly, those liner notes provided a pretty accurate description of these eight instrumental tracks. What it failed to capture was the fact the performances were actually quite funky, or the fact they seemed to have been recorded live. (You could hear background noise on several tracks and there was applause between a couple of the songs.) The combination of the group's willingness to take on and even incorporate Latin and soul rhythms in their jazz mix was quite appealing and quite different. Check out the groove they generate on their cover of Major Lance's 'Monkey Time'. About the closest comparison I can come up with be some of The Young Holt Trios earlier releases. Not that it seems to matter all that much in this day and age, but they were also a groundbreaking outfit for their racial line-up - five African Americans and one Latino. I doubt anyone would look twice today, but back in 1965 that wasn't the case.
the Afro-Blues Quintet Plus One" track listing:
1.) Moses (instrumental) (Joe De Aguero) - 3:05 rating: *** stars
One of two originals, the opener 'Moses' did have kind of a Gospel feel. It also sounded like it was recorded live in the studio with very little postproduction work. You can here some of the band chatter in the background. Nice melody with the vibes and sax carving out quite a groovy tune.
2.) Liberation (instrumental) (Jack Fulks) - 4:40 rating: *** stars
Fulk's flute served as the focal point for the first half of 'Liberation'. Maybe it's just my damaged hearing, but I swear this one rips off part of the Motown classic 'Heatwave'. Regardless, great funky performance. Mira tapped it as the single:
- 1966's 'Liberation' b/w 'Walk On By' (Mira catalog number 223)
3.) Monkey Time (instrumental) (Curtis Mayfield) - 5:02 rating: **** stars
Their instrumental cover of 'Monkey Time' was funky enough to give Major Lance a run for his money. One of the standout performances ... my only complaint is that I wished the song were even longer.
4.) Summer Time (instrumental) (George Gershwin - Ira Gershwin) - 2:17 rating: *** stars
Interesting to hear this classic tune speeded up and given the Afro-Blues Quintet Plus On treatment.
'Jericho' (their spelling, not mine), was the first disappointment in that it never went beyond cocktail jazz mode.
2.) Walk On By (instrumental) (Burt Bacharach) - 4:41 rating: *** stars
Unlike some of the other covers, it took a moment to recognize the original melody to Burt Bacharach's 'Walk On By'. De Aguero kept it in their version, but it was largely obscured in their up-tempo vibe-propelled cover. If you weren't terribly attached to the Dionne Warwick version, this one wasn't half bad with a really nice Jack Fulks flute solo (geez, never thought I'd compliment a flute solo).
3.) Together (instrumental) (Hubert Laws) - 3:44 rating: **** stars
'Together' found the band injecting a big dollop of Latin influences into the mix. Very hip and one of the best performances on the LP.
4.) In Crowd (instrumental) (B. Page) - 4:05 rating: ** stars
Their version of 'In Crowd' recalled Ramsey Lewis' soul-jazz catalog. Surprisingly nightclub hip, though I'd still go with the Dobie Gray version.
I've never bothered to track down the rest of the group's catalog, but it seems to consist of four singles and six increasingly lame follow-on albums:
1967's 'Afro-Rock' b/w 'Let My People Go' (Mira catalog number 236)
- 1967's ' La La La La La ' b/w 'Where Did Our Love Go' (Mira catalog number 245)
- 1967's '3/4-5/4-7/2 ' b/w 'Let My People Go' (Mira catalog number 254)
- 1966's "New Directions" (Mira catalog number MLPS-3010)
- 1967's "Discovery 3" (Mira catalog number MLPS-3013)
- 1968's "Next Album" (Mira catalog number MLP-3016)
- 1968's "Guantanamera" (Surrey catalog number SS-1037)
- 1970's "Afro-Blues Today" (Crestview catalog number CRS-3055)
- 1970's "The Best of the Afro-Blues Quintet Plus One" (Crestview catalog number CRS-3061)
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