When we talk of Soul Jazz, there is one man who’s name who always arises. It’s John Patton. Jazz lovers know his silky smooth flow on the organ, and although he didn’t get the attention guys like a Jimmy Smith or a Brother Jack McDuff got, “Big” John Patton was a musician that caught my ear early on. An often under appreciated musician by the masses, the phrase “real heads know the deal” comes to mind. I was introduced to Patton through my love of Grant Green and finding all recordings Green had released and played on. Blue Note was in the process of releasing their Rare Groove series so at the time younger Jazz enthusiasts like me could get a hold of recordings that you had no chance at getting it on vinyl, so you copped it on cd. You better believe any chance I saw some Grant out in the field on vinyl it was in my bag (The Latin Bit, Live!, Carryin’ On, etc). Through Grant I remember getting Blue John and Let ‘Em Roll. From there I found Reuben Wilson, Jack McDuff, Groove Holmes, and the list goes on. In a weird way, John Patton (along with Green) helped shape my Jazz tastes. I fell in love with Soul Jazz and the Jazz Funk period that eventually got revived in the 90’s as Acid Jazz, where a lot of these artists had a sort of rebirth.
“ Man, listen, it’s so sensitive and it will reveal its secrets if you try to get up in there and learn it; and learn the sound and contact. You can’t play it like a piano ’cause that’s another thing all together. The notes are the same but, see, that electricity puts another jammie on you, you know what I mean? You must deal with touch and so many other things.” -John Patton on his switch from piano to the Hammond B-3
John Patton was born in St. Louis, MO in 1935. Patton started out playing the piano and working with Lloyd Price. With Lloyd he learned his chops, but in the late 50’s started playing the Hammond B-3, moved to New York, and started a trio. This would be a huge turning point in his music career. It would be here he would get an education. Playing with Lou Donaldson, he debuted on Blue Note and would play with Sweet Lou until 1964. Here he would link up with Grant Green, who some say (along with drummer Ben Dixon) was one of the best Soul Jazz trios ever. I would agree. Patton played with Johnny Griffin, Harold Vick, Clifford Jordan, Red Hollaway, Art Blakey, George Braith, Grasella Oliphant, Harold Alexander, and many more. Later on in his career, as I’ve wrote about other musicians before, he would get experimental (and sometimes spiritual). Patton started to align himself with other experimental musicians like James Ulmer (on this track), John Zorn, and saxophonists John Gilmore and Marshall Allen, both known for their relationship and association with Sun Ra. You can’t get more experimental than that. While his Blue Note period, no doubt, is where you can find his best recordings, John Patton stuck to his guns in the 70’s with Soul Jazz and saw a bit of a revival in his music, an introduction to a younger audience in the 80’s, and re-released some of his early work redone as well as a few new records before his death in 2002.
This was a record I had never seen out in the field ever while digging, and I had missed it while digging through the racks of a certain NYC record store on a subzero December afternoon. In fact I was walking around with a copy of Rusty Bryant’s Soul Liberation when my digging cohort Pat Longo asked if I had this LP. Of course I didn’t and the conundrum started: Bryant or Patton? Well I initially chose Patton but the clerk made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, so I walked home with both. In fact it was an all organ day, grabbing a copy of Sam Lazar’s Soul Merchant on Argo for cheap as well. Let’s get back to Patton though. Accent On the Blues is not your typical hard drivin’ Big John Patton Soul Jazz recording. This record is full of Hammond, yes, but it’s got this atmospheric tone to it, and gone is the classic Jazz guitar of Green, replaced by another sound of James Ulmer and sax player Marvin Cabell (who throws down some mean flute as well). This tune, which was written by Eddie Harris and covered by everyone from Miles Davis to Phil Woods to Ray Barretto to Woody Herman to Bill Cosby (and the list goes on) is a definite scorcher. The whole record has this reflective, almost spiritual mood of Patton, who seemed to be steering just left of center to go for a different sound then his previous efforts. It doesn’t go full fledged Free Jazz, but it has some notes to it, and John Patton brings it all together for one great recording. I could only hope to hear music this good in 2012. Jazz is about freedom, and Big John Patton showed it on this track.