EDDIE RUSS: ‘See The Light’ and ‘Take A Look At Yourself’ (Label: Soul Brother)

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EDDIE RUSS: 'See The Light' and 'Take A Look At Yourself'

Even though shaven-headed cult keyboardist Eddie Russ wasn’t able to achieve the prodigious commercial success enjoyed by fellow jazz-funk pianists Herbie Hancock, Bob James and Deodato in the 1970s, he’s still remembered for a couple of LPs he cut during that decade for the Nashville-based Monument label. Both those albums – ‘See The Light’ and ‘Take A Look At Yourself’ – have just been reissued on a single CD by Putney’s discerning purveyors of quality jazz, soul and funk, Soul Brother. Pittsburgh-born Russ mostly recorded and performed as a side man, serving time with jazz giants like Sarah Vaughan, Dizzy Gillespie, Stand Getz and Benny Golson. After recording a highly-regarded debut set called ‘Fresh Out’ in the early ’70s, surprisingly, Russ got a deal with the country music-associated label Monument, the parent company of John Richbourg’s Sound Stage 7 soul set up, and recorded ‘See The Light’ in Detroit in 1976 with producer Bob Crawford at the helm. It’s truly one of the great forgotten fusion albums of the ’70s and the fact that it never really generated a great deal of interest outside of the jazz-funk cognoscenti is mystifying. The opening cut is a great remake of Earth Wind & Fire’s Latin-tinged ‘See The Light’ but it’s the following track, ‘Zaius,’ which is the set’s standout – a fluid, breezy, Latin-infused tune with a great dance floor beat and plenty of funky Fender Rhodes playing from Russ (who also supplies a snaking Moog solo above the song’s addictive, percolating groove). The remaining four tunes on the set are winners too – especially the funkafied, disco-inflected ‘Stop It Now’ with its bubbling clavinet and the mid-tempo groover, ‘Tomorrow Is Another Day,’ featuring soulful vocals from Kitty Haywood. 1978’s follow-up set, ‘Take A Look At Yourself’ isn’t quite as compelling as its predecessor but features stellar contributions from Funk Brother axe-maestro, Eddie Willis, and horn players Marcus Belgrave and Kenny Garrett (the latter was only 18 at the time). The title track is a slab of propulsive Rhodes-led hard funk complete with astral synth lines and a female vocal chorus (courtesy of Jackie Holiday). Pick of the slower tunes is a remake of the Skip Scarborough-penned Emotions’ ballad, ‘Don’t Ask My Neighbour,’ also featuring Holiday’s alluring pipes. A great double header this and a must-own item for jazz-funk addicts.
(CW) 4/5