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Contemporary jazz 25 years ago – May 11, 1991

John Hilderbrand Avatar

Looking back at the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Albums chart from May 11, 1991, you see some of the first recordings from the post-MCA acquisition of GRP Records. Greenhouse by Yellowjackets, Love and Understanding by George Howard, and Healing the Wounds by the Crusaders were all in the top ten.

album cover to the 1991 recording Greenhouse by the Yellowjackets

Greenhouse was the first recording featuring new saxophonist Bob Mintzer. The music continued the trajectory away from pop-jazz that had most evident in their previous recording The Spin. Mintzer is still with the quartet as is founding member Russell Ferrante and, several years away from the band, William Kennedy.

Healing the Wounds was a complete surprise when it came in to the radio station where I was volunteering. No advance notice or hype. You could pull that off in 1991. Produced by Marcus Miller, Healing the Wounds featured band founders Joe Sample and Wilton Felder in great form. I still love the opening track “Pessimisticism.”

Also of note on this chart:

  • Iguana by Ray Obiedo cracked the top 10.
  • Arturo Sandoval’s first recording after defecting from Cuba, Flight to Freedom, was climbing fast.
  • Still a favorite of mine, Claus Ogerman featuring Michael Brecker, was in its ninth week on the chart.
  • Steve Laury, former guitarist of Fattburger, released his first solo recording, Stepping Out, which was on the rise.

Antigua Blue, the debut recording by Kilauea, was in at the beginning of what would be a 19-week stay on the chart. Here’s what I remember the talk was at the time. Dean Whitney, who had discovered Russ Freeman, had some Freeman songs. In an attempt to capitalize on the increasing popularity of Freeman’s Rippingtons, Whitney built a band to record the songs for his Brainchild label. All of the tracks on Antigua Blue are Freeman compositions. The disc even featured Ripps Brandon Fields, Steve Reid, Steve Bailey, and Tony Morales. What I’d heard was that Freeman was not at all pleased with this. The title Rippoffingtons was used. Antigua Blue was sorely missing Freeman’s production skills. Fortunately, Kilauea leader Daniel Ho found his voice, the band tightened up, and some good songs were on their next recordings.


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