B-side of Opus No. 3
(Written by John Neely)
The second and final release of 1962 on Motown’s new specialist jazz subsidary label, Workshop Jazz Records, featured two recordings from Chicago pianist and bandleader Earl Washington and a rotating group of musicians under the All Stars banner.
The A-side, the rousing Opus No. 3, had featured a bunch of jazz luminaries from the Count Basie band; according to the liner notes to The Complete Motown Singles: Volume 2, this B-side, also recorded at the behest of Chicago label Formal before being leased to Workshop Jazz, featured a different line-up of All Stars alongside Washington, namely John Avant (trombone), Herb Brown (bass), Walter Perkins (drums) and John Neely (tenor sax, and the piece’s composer.)
It’s not a patch on the A-side, much more formal – the tone set early on by the cod-military drum flourish which opens the record – and less joyfully free, which may explain why Gordy chose to push the lively, engaging A-side instead. This isn’t bad, per se, but it’s quite clear it’s a different band, and not an improvement; unlike the A-side, Washington himself is largely sidelined, save for a 20-second piano break at the one minute mark, and much of the record is instead given over to Neely’s faintly annoying free jazz sax noodling. Not bad, but not really exciting either; this is authentic jazz, for sure, but it’s also a bit generic.
There’d be no further Motown singles for Earl Washington or any of his All Stars, but he did get to cut two separate albums for the Workshop Jazz label (All Star Jazz, released in November 1962, and a belated follow-up, Reflections, in April 1964). Workshop Jazz also went on hiatus for a few months after this release, re-emerging to issue Washington’s LP in November and then some more singles the following spring.
MOTOWN JUNKIES VERDICT
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