Joe Thomas – 1971 – Is The Ebony Godfather
The greatest album ever recorded by Joe Thomas – and a hip batch of funky flute tracks that ranks with the best work of Jeremy Steig or SOUL!
Joe’s blowing here with arrangements by Chico O’Farrill – strangely off-beat backings that add in more than a touch of Latin to the funk, making for a strong little groove on the best cuts. There’s a couple of short funky 45 cuts on here, like “Chitlins & Chuchyfritos” and “Ebony Godfather“, but the real winner is a long version of Gary Byrd’s “Every Brother Ain’t a Brother“, which features Joe soloing next to some great funky keyboards!
A1 Talk To Me 3:10
A2 Chitlins And Cuchifritos 2:50
A3 Ebony Godfather 4:12
A4 Fancy Fanny 3:22
A5 Be Anything Be Mine 3:14
B1 Every Brother Ain’t A Brother 6:00
B2 Sundown Express 3:05
B3 Love 3:18
Review by RDTEN1
Given he’s best known as a jazz flautist, I didn’t have very high expectations for this 1972 Joe Thomas’ album. Only having heard a little bit of Thomas work before, I guess I was expecting to hear something along the lines of one of those lame Herbie Mann albums – you know the ones where Man tried to make himself hip and happening covering whatever genre happened to be popular at that particular moment. In fact, I only picked the LP up at a yard sale due to the hysterical title. C’mon, tell me “Joe Thomas Is the Ebony Godfather” doesn’t make you want to smile. Produced by Chico O’Farriill, I’ll be honest and admit that Thomas’ musical niche simply wasn’t something that rang a chord with me. Featuring eight instrumentals, including a couple of Tomas originals, the collection certainly had its moments particularly when Thomas took a stab at hardcore funk (‘Chitlins And Cuchifritos‘ and ‘Brother Ain’t A Brother”). Thomas was certainly a talented player, but flute funk just wasn’t something that captured my attention for long periods of time.
Opening up with a bluesy, big-band arrangement, ‘Talk To Me‘ had a strong enough melody with plenty of Thomas flute, but quickly bogged down in a MOR feel. Technically I guess you couldn’t call ‘Chitlins And Cuchifritos‘ an instrumental since there were some anonymous backing singers who chanted the title over and over. On the other hand, even if you decided to label it an instrumental, it was one of the standout performances with a truly funky edge that managed to survive Thomas’ extended flute explosions.
Showcasing the album’s prettiest melody, ‘Ebony Godfather‘ was one of those song’s that probably could have been a hit if it had been redone as a conventional soul tune. Here, Thomas extended flute segments effectively sucked out most of the song’s energy.Sporting a light Latin feel, ‘Fancy Fanny‘ was actually a fun, breezy number for people who don’t like the flute. One of the album’s better numbers and a good place to see Thomas showcasing his technical skills – wow, hyper-speed flute !. Who would have thought.
Another pretty, if slightly MOR-ish ballad, ‘Be Anything Be Mine‘ actually could have been mistaken for one of those tunes Burt Bacharach and Hal David effortlessly churned out for movie soundtracks. Nice background music and that’s about the extent of this one. The sax solo on this one actually outshines Thomas’ performance. The album’s other standout performance was a slow grooving cover of Gary Byrd’s ‘Every Brother Ain’t A Brother‘. The punchy horn arrangement on this one was almost enough of a reason to buy the album.
‘Sundown Express‘ found Thomas shifting his attention to sprightly cocktail jazz. ‘Love‘ was another track that had commercial potential; particularly had it been redone as a more conventional soul song. Listening to the backing singers spelling out the title is always fun.
As mentioned above, the album spun off a single in the form of:
– 1972”s ‘Chitlins And Cuchifritos‘ b/w ‘Talk To Me‘ (Today catalog number T 1507 A/B)
Joe Thomas’ debut is practically the definition of early 70s jazz flute. The album rarely goes above and beyond genre norms, but what the heck… he’s the Ebony Godfather after all!