Willette, Baby Face: Face To Face (Tone Poet Series) LP
Releasing his debut album, Face To Face, in 1961, this son of a preacher rode in on the wave of aspiring jazz organists that proliferated in the wake of Jimmy Smith's breakthrough in the late 50s. Grant Green was happy to be a sideman on Roosevelt "Baby Face" Willette's maiden session and he was joined by drummer Ben Dixon. To give the studio date a different flavor from Grant's First Stand, saxophonist Fred Jackson, noted for his raspy tone, was added to expand the group to a quartet.
As "Swingin' At Sugar Ray's" reveals, Willette attacked the keyboard with a percussive ferocity, even though his touch was exceptionally light and staccato-like. The evocative late-night blues of "Goin' Down" then gives way to the lone cover, a soul jazz deconstruction of "Whatever Lola Wants." The title tune is driven by a catchy, blues-based riff while the driving "Somethin' Strange" is another blues-drenched number played with great energy and enthusiasm. Earthy blues elements are also perceptible in vigorous closer, "High 'N Low." For fans of soulful organ jazz, Face To Face was a significant release because it introduced an exciting new Hammond B3 practitioner – one who had his own distinctive sound and brought a new dynamism to the genre.
The Blue Note Tone Poet Series was born out of Blue Note President Don Was' admiration for the exceptional audiophile Blue Note LP reissues presented by Music Matters. The label brought Joe Harley (from Music Matters), aka the "Tone Poet," on board to curate and supervise a series of reissues from the Blue Note family of labels. Extreme attention to detail has been paid to getting these right in every conceivable way, from the deluxe gatefold jacket graphics and printing quality to superior mastering (all analog direct from the master tapes) by Kevin Gray to superb 180-gram audiophile LP pressings by Record Technology Inc. Every aspect of these Blue Note/Tone Poet releases is done to the highest-possible standard. It means that you will never find a superior version.
"The LPs are mastered directly from the original analog master tapes by Kevin at his incredible facility called Cohearent Mastering. We go about it in the exact same way that we did for so many years for the Music Matters Blue Note reissues. We do not roll off the low end, boost the top or do any limiting of any kind. We allow the full glory of the original Blue Note masters to come though unimpeded! Short of having an actual time machine, this is as close as you can get to going back and being a fly on the wall for an original Blue Note recording session."
- Joe Harley