Legends of Acid Jazz: Billy Butler
documents two interesting records made by the unfortunately neglected studio guitarist Billy Bulter (1924-91). The man who gave the groove to Bill Doggett's perennial juke-box classic "Honky Tonk" released four solo albums on Prestige between 1968 and 1970. This CD combines the first ( This is Billy Butler
) and the last ( Night Life
) of these.
Butler's mellifluous sound easily bends itself to the groove he's working: bop, blues, soul-jazz, R&B, pop or boogaloo. At this point in his career, while other guitarists were following Jimi Hendrix's lead and experimenting with feedback, Butler was perfecting a Hawaiian "slack-key" sound. The result is attention to Butler's gifts as an economical player; mixing single-line strategies with chordal passages in always-clever turns of phrase. Here, Butler is best when he boogaloos as he does so well on the dance-floor classic "The Twang Thing" and the sinewy slide of "The Soul Roll." Tenor man Houston Person is right on cue and erstwhile Ernie Hayes funks wisely on his synth-like organ solos. Other strengths, as was true throughout Butler's career, are the soul-jazz grooves of "Work Song," "Bass-ic Blues" and "Peacock Alley."
The remainder of the disc, and the bulk of the entire second set, is unfortunately given over to ballads. Here, Butler can't escape sounding like part of a slick, more-talented-than-this wedding band. But when the tempos fire up, so does Butler. And he's certainly worth knowing more about. But the dancers are gonna wanna get a hold of "The Twang Thang" and "The Soul Roll," the two acid-jazz staples and, really, the only acid-jazz here.
Tracks:The Twang Thing; Cherry; Work Song; The Soul Roll; She Is My Inspiration; Bass-ic Blues; Nightlife; Wave; Watch What Happens; Peacock Alley; Prelude to a Kiss; In A Mellow Tone.
Personnel: Billy Butler: guitar (bass on "Bass-ic Blues"); Houston Person, Jesse Powell: tenor sax; Ernie Hayes: piano, organ; Johnny "Hammond" Smith" organ; Bob Bushnell: electric bass; Rudy Collins, Jimmy Johnson: drums.