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Stop And Listen (1961)

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Grant Green

Probably the greatest set in Baby Face Willette's all-too-slim discography, Stop and Listen matches the organist with the hugely sympathetic team of guitarist Grant Green and drummer Ben Dixon (the same trio lineup who recorded Green's debut LP, Grant's First Stand). With no saxophonist this second time around, it's just Willette and Green in the solo spotlight, and they play marvelously off of one another. As a soloist, Willette has a nimble, airy touch, and though he owes no debt to the modal style of Larry Young, he has a greater melodic imagination than many of his instrument's straight blues players. What's more, his playing is far less in-the-pocket than his inspiration, Jimmy Smith's; Willette can really make a groove percolate, whether he's soloing or adding keen rhythmic interest with his left hand (witness the throbbing slow blues of "Chances Are Few" or the marching beat of "Soul Walk"). Green is in prime form as well, in particular contributing some unbearably lovely solos to the standard "At Last." Nearly every selection is memorable, with other highlights coming from Willette's manic original "Jumpin' Jupiter," a breezy treatment of "Willow Weep for Me," and Nat Adderley's jauntily swinging "Worksong." There's nary a bit of sleepy meandering on this set of grooves; each musician is plugged in and ready to wail. With Blue Note's extraordinary stable of talent, it's a shame that Willette never led another session for the label, which makes Stop and Listen that much more essential for soul-jazz fans. ~ Steve Huey