Saturday, March 4, 2017

Review: Pat Patrick & The Baritone Saxophone Retinue "Sound Advice" 2015 Art Yard Records

Pat Patrick and The Baritone Saxophone Retinue "Sound Advice" Art Yard Records Front Cover

This album is a must-own release for students of Sun Ra, not as a rarity, but as a bonafide part of the cannon.

Side A:
Stablemates (Intro)
Funny Time
Eastern Vibrations
Side B:
East Of Uz
The Waltz
Stablemates, pt. II

The 1977 LP release of Pat Patrick and The Baritone Saxophone Retinue's "Sound Advice" has always been a rare and sought after release for hardcore Sun Ra collectors. So rare in fact that for the last 25 years the only copy I ever heard was from a cassette dubbed by one of the lucky few owners of this unique and thoroughly compelling album.

This represents Laurdine "Pat" Patrick's only full-length release as a co-leader, along with the Arkestra's Charles Davis, as well as the The Baritone Saxophone Retinue's single recording. Patrick had released just one previous 7" single under his own name - "I Ain't Done Nothin' To You," backed with "Hot Springs" - on the Aladdin Records label in 1955. 

In addition to his almost 40 year association as the second original member of the Sun Ra Arkestra, Patrick co-wrote the #1 hit "Yeh Yeh" (Mongo SantamarĂ­a, Lambert, Hendricks and Ross and Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames) and arranged Mongo SantamarĂ­a's Top 10 hit version of the Herbie Hancock composition "Watermelon Man," and played as a sideman with John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk and Babatunde Olatunji.

It seems significant that "Sound Advice" was originally released by Sun Ra's label, El Saturn Records. Other than 1968's "I Wish I Had A Wishing Ring" by Lacy Gibson, it is the only other release of the 100 plus titles in Sun Ra's catalog that didn't have Sun Ra's direct involvement as a performer or arranger.

For me, the significance is that this record feels like a long-lost Arkestra release. Live lo-fi recording? Check. An obscure previously unreleased Sun Ra 50's compositions called "East of Uz?" Check. Pressed in super-small quantities and impossible to find? Check. Spirited, sophisticated, and wildly swinging jazz that sounds like nothing else? Double check!

The fact that this album was recorded and released in the 1970s is puzzling. Compounded by the slightly removed far-away sonics of what appears to be a 2-channel stereo microphone recording, "Sound Advice" sounds like walking into a Chicago night spot in the late 1950s and opening the door on Sun Ra's Arkestra itself. The songs, the arrangements and the melodic and harmonic content all conjure the sound of the vintage Arkestra. 

If you put this side-by-side with Atavistic's release of "Music From Tomorrow's World," recorded live at Chicago's Wonder Inn, in a blind listening test, you'd be hard pressed to not think it was possibly the same band if you didn't know any better.

This album is a must-own release for students of Sun Ra, not as a rarity, but as a bonafide part of the cannon. It makes me reassess how important and influential the original members of the Arkestra - like Pat Patrick - were to the overall personality of the band. Sun Ra was - of course - the leader, but I think that history has severely underestimated the importance and influence the individual musicians had on the music's magic and power.

One might think that a horn section made up of entirely baritone saxophones - with a touch of flutes - might be a novelty, but rest assured it is not gimmicky, but visionary. In fact, it's the most exciting baritone playing I've ever heard on record. The tight, swinging drum and bass accompaniment gives the band solid momentum and support, with the piano providing beautiful counterpoint and some great solos. The baritones are arranged with breadth and variety, and not boomy or squonky.

Art Yard Records did an incredibly admirable job with their 2015 release on LP and CD, as they have done with every single one of their releases. They were clearly working with a pretty clean vinyl copy as their master, but it is the best I've ever heard the album sound and a welcome replacement to the tape and CD-R copies most collectors have had access to in the past. The mastering is tasteful, with a light musical touch, and doesn't have audible artifacts of heavy-handed compression or de-noising.

Special kudos should be given for the limited-edition vinyl edition with sumptuous hand silk-screened artwork by L. Todd/House Of Traps, complete with double-sided inner sleeve notes and inner and outer poly sleeves. It is one of, if not THE, most beautiful and artistic record jackets in my collection. It makes the album feel as special and precious as it truly is.

- Christopher Eddy, Sun Ra Arkive

Pat Patrick & The Baritone Saxophone Retinue "Sound Advice" Art Yard Records Back Cover

Here's what Art Yard's Peter Dennett has to say about the release in an interview for FactMag:

Q: That record was something of a holy grail in the Ra catalogue, and you’ve also managed to unearth another huge piece which is set for release soon, right?

A: Yes! Recently I’ve signed some contracts with Deval Patrick, the governor of Massachusetts. His father, Pat Patrick, was one of the main players with Sun Ra, and also worked with John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk. He wrote music with Mongo Santamaria, the song ‘Yeh, Yeh!’” is a famous example. There is a record that he wrote that came out on El Saturn around 1980, that is now going on Ebay for 2500 dollars, which is just crazy.

So anyway I’ve set this thing up with the estate of Pat Patrick, and that record will come out properly later this year. It’s already been bootlegged, a year and a half ago, by someone in Europe I think, they were selling the bootlegs for between 170 pounds and 250 pounds – they must have made tens of thousands just by selling 100 records or so. So this is the thing, it’s about getting that music back out there into the world, doing it the proper way – I’m looking forward to putting that out properly.

Pat Patrick & The Baritone Saxophone Retinue


Pseudonymous G said...

Thanks for the tip! Though worth noting that "Watermelon Man" is a Herbie Hancock tune - Patrick might have arranged it (I think he was Mongo S's music director at the time). Otherwise, thanks, got to pick this up!

Christopher B. Eddy said...

@Pseudonymous G - thank you for your correction. Duly noted and updated. I appreciate it.