Gator Makin' Gravy


Florida native Willis Jackson played tenor sax with a big sound and plenty of bite. Through recordings with Jack McDuff, Charles Earland, and other Hammond B-3 specialists, "Gator" became a master of the classic soul-jazz sound. Concord's digital Gravy combines two titles released in 1963, from Jackson sessions that spotlight the fledgling Pat Martino (18 at the time) on guitar, into one dynamic package.

Jazz fans will find several familiar tunes. Gator ravenously chews on "Stompin' At The Savoy," which the band swings in Latin and jazz styles like the classic it is. Recorded in cavernous echo so that Jackson's throaty tenor resounds wide and deep, this version sounds less about "The Good Life" and more about kissing it goodbye. "As Long As She Needs Me" slips back into this lugubrious groove before up-shifting into a deliciously inexplicable Caribbean dance.

Jackson contributes most of the rest. He pours out "Gra-A-Avy" like its title: Slow rolling, thick and meaty blues, scraping with his tenor the bottom of its hot funk pot. "Grease" starts off at a boil and for seven lusty minutes stays there. Jackson shreds both tunes with a "sheets of sound" style that's different from Coltrane's, while young Martino proves exhaustively soulful on guitar.

Jackson and Martino also burn up Soul Night Live! (2002) and Willis Jackson With Pat Martino ('95), both from '64; other toothsome sets include Gator's encyclopedic Legends Of Acid Jazz ('98) and Willis Jackson With Jack McDuff's Together Again! (2000) (all four from Prestige).