Although the Pazant Brothers were a respectable, predominantly instrumental funk outfit of the late ’60s and early ’70s, they never got the chance to record much. Their one and only LP, 1975’s Loose & Juicy, is considered a classic amongst fervent funk collectors, and the album at once crystallized and distilled their distinctive sound into an LP filled with New York Latinized rhythms, James Brown-influenced chicken scratch guitar, and admirable use of New Orleans-tinged wailing horns, married with upbeat funk rhythms. Their music would be sampled decades later by artists like Main Source, Cypress Hill, and KMD.
Led by the world-renown musical tandem Edward (saxophone) and Alvin Pazant (trumpet), the Pazant Brothers cut their teeth playing with the likes of heavyweights such as Lionel Hampton, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie and Art Blakey. Ed and Al Pazant’s musical heritage runs long and deep. Growing up in the musically rich southern town of Beaufort, South Carolina, the brothers were immersed from a very young age.
Alvin was stimulated by all of the musical activity around him, both within the family and out on the streets. “See, you’d hear brass bands, military bands, jazz groups, rock n’ roll outfits, blues singers everywhere.” Al remembers. But it was hearing Louis Armstrong on wax that really pushed him to make the trumpet his instrument of choice. “It was a done deal after that,” he says. The brothers would go onto study music at university. Ed became a “woodwind specialist” and got his lucky break when none other than Lionel Hampton took notice of Ed’s skills and hired him for his orchestra, a gig that would last fourteen years. Al also joined the Hampton school of swing upon finishing college, reuniting with his brother.
This was the beginning of many years of professional collaboration for the two siblings, who formed their own band, The Pazant Brothers in 1964. The band began playing at the legendary Small’s Paradise, and immediately became a hit around New York City, particularly Harlem, where there was a plethora of clubs and musicians. “Competition was always tight, so you had to be at the top of your game, constantly,” Al recalls. The Pazant brothers became known for their versatility and their ability to swing. In 1966, the duo was hired by Pucho and the Latin Soul Brothers, a relationship that carried through on a dozen classic albums. Over the next several years, the Pazant Brothers released about an album’s worth of tracks for the GWP label, mostly on obscure 45s (one credited to the Chili Peppers) and ultimately recording under the name the Pazant Brothers & the Beaufort Express on rare singles for the Vigor and Priscilla labels. That was the name they also used when Ed Bland signed the band to Vanguard for their only album, 1975’s Loose and Juicy. The Pazant Brothers continued to record and perform over the next few decades.
The list of notable artists that either one or both of the Pazants recorded and/or performed with over the last forty years is a lengthy one, including Lionel Hampton, Frank Foster, Illinois Jacquet, Dizzy Gillespie, Pucho, Bernard Purdie, Sonny Phillips, Phil Upchurch, Kool & the Gang, James Brown, the Dells, the Manhattans, Country Joe & the Fish, the Doors, Roberta Flack, Melba Moore, Jo Thompson, Della Reese, Mighty Sparrow, Reuben Wilson, Melvin Sparks, Eddie Floyd, Eartha Kitt, Sun Ra, George Gee, the Boston Pops Symphony, the New Orleans Symphony and, of course, the Cotton Club All-stars, which the Pazant brothers led starting in 1978. They dazzled audiences across the world, from Spain to Japan, Italy to France, Nigeria to England. Moreover, they played for three U.S. presidents, Gerald Ford, George Bush, Sr. and Bill Clinton.
This episode is dedicated to the memory of Ed Pazant, who passed away in 2017.
Biography courtesy Richie Unterbeger of Allmusic.