Funky Jazz Harmonica
Olukayode Balogun | Leeds, England | 04/03/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It was around this time - spring break - back in 1983 that I got my first formal introduction to jazz via a visiting older cousin and his best mate. Alongside (at the time) current albums by people like Earl Klugh, Bob James, Grover Washington, Jr, Eric Gale, George Benson, The Crusaders, Lee Ritenour and Spyro Gyra, they were also heavily into this one, released in 1980, by former WAR harmonica player, Lee Oskar. Oskar had a couple of solo albums under his belt already, more notably 1979's Before the Rain and while it was easy enough on the ear, it didn't get the campus jumping in the same way this one did.
I knew already that the harmonica could be used as an instrument of improvisation, mainly from Stevie Wonder's phenomenal performance on "Isn't She Lovely" from his classic, iconic Songs in the Key of Life album (I'll never understand why that man never made a proper jazz record) but the idea of using it across an entire album was completely new to me.
But it's an idea that definitely worked. Joined by other heavyweights like Abraham Laboriel and Nathan East on bass and Paul Jackson, Jr on guitar, songs in the second half of the CD (or what was side B on my old LP version) like "Up All Night", "Song For My Son" and "Yes, I'm Singing" are entertaining enough but it was really all about the fabulous "Our Road". The haunting string intro to part 1, "Now That It Feels So Good" is followed by impressive solos by Barnaby Finch on synthesizer piano, then by Gary Grant on trumpet and then by Pat Rizzo on sax, all the while accompanied by the most awesome percussion.
And then The Love Center Choir arranged and conducted by Walter Hawkins add a carnival atmosphere and I always find it near impossible to not sing along to those immortal lines: "Now that I feel so good/ Tell everybody, tell everybody!" Flora Purim then gives a vocal and echoplex performance before Oskar eventually rounds things up with a wowing perfos rmance on the harmonica before the closing part 4, "Come On, Come On" isung again by the choir. It's almost 15 minutes long. It always seems much longer.
What an excellent record. It brings back so many memories of my fun-filled and incredibly naïve life as a young student, every time I play it. I enjoy it now just as much now as I did on that first day, back in spring, 1983. Highly recommended.
Mimi | Atlanta, GA | 11/27/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It's funny. It came to me one night while I watched my 3 year old daughter sleep, thinking about her future and her undiscovered talents at the same time reminiscing about my own lost talents - DANCE.
I discovered LEE OSKAR, in vinyl, when my dad used to play it when I was a kid. I was mesmerized and captured by "Our Road". I would play it in our living room, close the door, and allow the music to guide my body through the rythmic trance...all the age of 12. So much was my love for this song, that I had to share it with others...and I performed solo in a show and danced to my heart's content. This was one of the most special times of my life. I performed many times in front of an audience...and this time with Lee Oskar as the musical master, was one of the most special. Strange when I look back and see that at 12 years old, I could dig and appreciate the music of Lee Oskar. Thanks to the my dad who always had music playing. And now I look at my daughter, sleeping peacefully, and wonder if "Our Road", with Lee's captivating, soul arousing beats, will be danced again..deep down inside, I know it will."