Webster Lewis, The Club 7 Live Tapes

Adam Sweeting

By Adam Sweeting

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Pianist, writer and arranger Webster Lewis became best known for '70s disco hits like "Barbara Ann" and "On the Town," but he was also a collaborator with such modern-jazz eminences as George Russell, Bill Evans and Herbie Hancock. This 1971 live recording from Oslo, Norway — now expanded with additional unreleased tracks — was his first solo release, and catches him at the helm of a formidable quintet who run the gamut from shrieking free noise to funk, blues and fragile mood-painting.

Disco hitmaker indulges his jazzy side in Oslo.

It opens with the 20-minute odyssey of "Do You Believe," featuring Judd Watkins'spectacular pseudo-operatic baritone over a rolling groove that stretches out and breathes in with organic fluency. The shimmering impressionism of "Saturday Night Opening" is a showcase for Stan Strickland's haunting tenor sax, while "Space Rock" hints at the abstract explorations of Miles Davis's Bitches Brew. In "Qvote-Unqvote," Jimmy Hopps'percussion barrage faces off against a screaming horn apocalypse. And if that's not enough, there are two takes of Lewis'fabled arrangement of the Isley Brothers'"It's Your Thing" (frequently sampled by hip-hoppers). It's a classic, reborn.