On this episode of Sounds Visual spinoff series How Deep Is Your Crate, DJ Sesqui talks about Johnny Hammond’s 1975 jazz-funk classic Gears.
A talented organist/keyboard player, Hammond began recording in 1958, and after many successful years at the Prestige label, he cut a series of increasingly funky releases for Creed Taylor’s CTI label in the early ’70s. Gears, his first for the Milestone imprint, saw Hammond stretching out his soulful, economic style of playing over six extended workouts. The album is as much about the production and writing skills of the Mizell Brothers (their second collaboration with Hammond) as much as Hammond’s remarkable playing. The Mizells’ work with artists such as Donald Byrd showed them departing from commerciality to create a wild brew of very ’70s grooves: synthesizers and striking vocal arrangements that were both in-step with and ahead of their time.
Gears is like a text book for jazz-funk. The rhythm section of Harvey Mason and Chuck Rainey are right there on the one throughout, allowing Hammond, guitarist Craig McMullen and the horn section to go with the Mizell Brothers’ directions. (Bio courtesy BBC Music.)