A classic Mizell Brothers production and one of the early reissues in the Soul Brother repertoire, we’re extremely proud and excited to announce the second pressing of Johnny Hammond’s seminal 1975 jazz-funk offering Gambler’s Life, redone and reissued from the original masters on CD and LP some 21 years after it was initially released on our label!
‘Gamblers Life’ preceded the more famous ‘Gears’. Every bit as strong, Gambler’s Life was released on a subsidiary of CTI in 1975 and has an edgier feel and a distinctive Johnny Hammond register, an amalgam of fusion, jazz-funk and soul with a street-wise urban energy, almost a confluence between a blaxploitation soundtrack and a CTi styled jazz album. Cuts like ‘Rhodesian Thoroughfare’ and the heavily sampled ‘Gamblers Life’ and ‘Back To The Projects’ allow the Mizells to show off their crisp, funky sound and vintage production skills that broke boundaries in soul and jazz in the 70’s for artists like Johnny Hammond, Donald Byrd and Bobbi Humphrey. Their inimitable signature is all over the album, and it really is ground-breaking, genre-defining, unbelievable sounding stuff.
‘Yesterday Was Cool’ is a driving jazz funk tune, while ‘Starborne’ is a 70’s Donald Byrd like cut that really works on the dancefloors, a seriously groovy joint underlaid with oscillating synths, subtle percussive influences and masterful, funky keyboard playing from Hammond, as well as possibly having one of the finest intros of any instrumental piece of jazz-funk ever recorded. On a jazzier tip, check out ‘Virgo Lady’, a song that Hammond dedicated to his wife who was of the same astrological sign. The rhythm section of Harvey Mason (drums) and Chuck Rainey (bass) are on fire and Melvin Wah Wah Watson (Ragin) is all over the album with his distinctive rhythm guitar.
Gambler’s Life was an album where Hammond wanted a clean break from his organ playing days and actively pursued new musical territories playing acoustic piano, synthesisers and Fender Rhodes rather than his trademark organ, an instrument that he had become so synonymous with even his stage name contained a reference to it (Hammond B3 Organ – Johnny “Hammond” Smith). In the liner notes, he details: “Jimmy Smith, “Groove” Holmes (…) are going to be waiting to hear my organ come in, but it won’t. I’m strictly piano on this one. I practiced ten and twelve hours a day. I ate and slept it. For three months, I ate and slept it. I will probably never play the organ again in my life. I have made the transition and I love it. I have always wanted to play the piano. I played piano and sang in the choir when I was a kid in Louisville.” To his credit, his time spent practicing appears to have clearly paid off: Hammond’s performance on electric keys is impeccable, a sound that he would successfully bring to his later Milestone albums.
This album is a landmark album in jazz-funk, one of the best offerings of the genre and a staple for producers and samplers. We couldn’t recommend this album highly enough.