Pop music--and a hit movie--figure prominently in the two LPs comprising Gene Ammons's Fine and Mellow. Recorded in 1972, two years prior to his death at 49, the repertoire reflected a renewal of interest in Billie Holiday's signature songs thanks to a hit movie from that year, Lady Sings the Blues, as well as an awareness of the '72 pop charts, and an uptick in funk grooves generated in part by electric keyboards and wah-wah guitar.
Ammons's robust tenor saxophone tone on three Holiday-associated standards, plus Michel Legrand's title track from the Lady Day biopic (one of three with-strings selections herein), is indeed fine and mellow. But as a soloist who knew his blues-saturated ABCs of R&B, he could preach with the best of them, as on "Tin Shack Out Back," and "Lady Mama," whose hard funk is anything but ladylike. And for a very cool surprise, turn immediately to "I Can't Help Myself." Motown has never had it so good 'n' greasy.
Lady Sings the Blues, Play Me, Ben, Fly Me, Fuzz, Fine and Mellow, Strange Fruit, Big Bad Jug, God Bless the Child, Tin Shack Out Back, Lady Mama, I Can't Help Myself, Lucille, Papa Was a Rolling Stone
with Joe Beck, Ron Carter, Billy Cobham, Ernie Hayes, Hank Jones, Idris Muhammad, Maynard Parker, Sonny Phillips, Mickey Roker