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Live At The Club Mozambique (1971)

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Clarence Thomas

Live at Club Mozambique was, according to Bob Belden's liner notes, rumored to exist for decades in Blue Note's Grant Green discography, but was never released. His explanation as to why is satisfactory -- Green's star had waned considerably -- and makes some sense, but the label had 15 unissued albums by the guitarist by 1971. This date recorded at the famed Detroit jazz club (Green was living in the city at the time) is the second such set of grooves to be issued from the club floor -- Lonnie Smith's was the first. The band consists of Idris Muhammad, Ronnie Foster, Houston Person, and the all but unknown Clarence Thomas, and the two tenor saxophonists (Thomas also played soprano here) laid out heavy, deep funk on the tunes that were chosen. Foster and Muhammad were symbiotic as a rhythm section. Foster's grooving under-the-cover basslines matched the soul groove style of Muhammad. They locked onto Green and couldn't be shaken loose. Obviously created for an inner-city audience and the jukebox crowd, this set was recorded a scant five months after Alive!, but bites a lot harder. The tunes include a simmering read of the Clarence Carter vehicle "Patches" with Green stretching the melody to the breaking point, and the horn section fills egg him on. "One More Chance" was written by the Corporation (the Mizell Brothers) and recorded by the Jackson 5. It's got that soulful ballad sweetness just over the top of some sparkling chops -- Thomas' soprano here is a perfect foil to both Green and Person. Green's reliance on those low strings for his melody is special; it's meaty and stays in the pocket, allowing for more ensemble interplay -- though his solo is a thing to behold, all knotty yet still full of warmth and vigor. When he starts twinning with Foster near its end, the joy just bleeds from the speakers. The read of "Walk on By" is soulful without being overly ornate. Thomas' "Farid" and the opener, "Jan Jan," written by M. Davis (not Miles), are for the hard jazz fans here. The horn charts are tight and elaborate in their fashion, and Green pulls out the stops layering blues, jazz, and soulful funkiness into each of his lines. And to hear this rhythm section simmer and pop is glorious. Highly recommended. ~ Thom Jurek