Thanks to reader Benjamin in Germany, he got in touch to point out that that two of Idris Muhammad’s CDs are now available by European re-issue label, Music On CD.

KUDU albums have not faired as well as the CTI albums when it comes to re-mastering and re-releases. While the most popular have found their way to market, not all have. While remastered for Japan, House of the Rising Sun, which has never been released on CD in the USA as far as I am aware. I suspect that is because European listeners, like the Japanese, are generally less critical of the genre of R&B/jazz/funk represented by KUDU, and less inclined to shoehorn it into a more restrictive jazz definition.

I don’t have either Music on CD release, so can’t comment on their quality, but both were remastered by a team known for producing crisp, clean, true-to-the-original work.

House of the Rising Sun

The album originally released in January 1976, as KUDU 27, was recorded and produced while Dave Matthews was driving the CTI music train. The musicians are not the standard, CTI ensemble recording stars, it still has a stellar line-up which includes Dave Sanborn – Alto Sax, Ronnie Cuber on Barritone Sax, Wilbur Bascomb on Bass, Joe Beck and Eric Gale on guitar, Don Grolnick and (Sir) Roland Hanna on keyboards, Tom Harrell on trumpet. Also of note, Patti Austin is on vocals, and importantly Fred Wesley on trombone. Of course, Muhammad on drums brings his unique rhythms.

The addition of Wesley, an old friend from Matthews days with James Brown, brings an added funk to the usual slick uptempo string CTI jazz. This is especially on Sudan, which is my favorite track from the album. At some 11-minutes, the track also gives space for other solos in the group.

The Music On CD re-issue includes the same two bonus tracks that A&R man and sometime CTI employee Didier Deutsch did for the European 2003 Epic re-issue. The bonus tracks are Pipe Stem and I Know You Don’t Want Me No More. Both are worthy of inclusion, Pipe Stem, is perhaps the better, with what is a really very good guitar from, I assume, Eric Gale.

Sadly, Music on CD have totally blown the description of the album on their website. I’ve written to point this out.

Power Of Soul

Probably better known among the jazz buyers, arranged by Bob James, Power of Soul is a more traditional septet style. Idris drums and his rhythm certainly shine through better on the tracks here, which include the somewhat legendry Grover Washington Jr. track, Loran’s Dance.

Recorded in March 1974, and released mid-1974 as KUDU 17, the musicians are Idris Muhammad on drums, Ralph McDonald – percussion, Gary King – Bass, Joe Beck – Guitar, Randy Brecker – Trumpet, Flugelhorn, and Grover Washington Jr. – Soprano, Tenor Sax. The album is arranged and conducted, with Bob James on piano.

Unlike House of the Rising Sun, Power of Soul has seen a USA release on CD as part of the 2002/3 re-master, re-issue series. As of the time of writing, it can be bought from amazon.com in the USA, new, for the staggeringly low price of $3.79 with free Prime delivery.

This album is perhaps one of the finest examples of mid-1970’s jazz, especially produced by Creed Taylor and CTI. The Saddest Thing see’s Randy Brecker in fine voice, and leaves me wondering what Creed could have done with one of the longest standing CTI sidemen, as a leader, and with or without brother Michael Brecker.

None of the CD re-issues include additional, bonus or remix tracks, which in this case I think is a good thing. This album stands the test of time, it sounds as fresh and relevant today as it was in 1974, and could have been released last year.

One day I plan to come back and look at Idris Muhammad in more detail. For now, if you don’t have the CD’s, get them. If you don’t want the physical media, both albums, as well as Muhammad’s 1977 cult disco classic, Turn This Mutha Out are available on streaming platforms.

More Information

Idris Muhammad Discography [via discogs]
Idris Muhammad – Wikipedia
Idris Muhammad Power Of Soul – Music on CD
Idris Muhammad House Of The Rising Son – Music on CD
Idris Muhammad on Spotify

2 Replies to “Idris on CD”

  1. I finally got the CD and am definitely not as impressed as the authors of the rave reviews that I’ve seen. I find the first 4 tracks disappointing and frustrating because they demonstrate what goes wrong with so many crossover attempts between Jazz and other genres (and what goes wrong on many Cti albums): Either the typical elements of one genre receives extremely limited room or (in this case) elements of both styles are not substantial enough to make it worthwhile for either genre or in other words – what stands out is that nothing stands out. I love to hate Eric Gale – he’s got a wonderful and unique tone that is funky and relaxed at the same time but his soli are almost always very brief and they seem to be going nowhere. This may explain why he was much more active as a pop/rock session musician rather than in jazz circles. A lot of time is being spend on playing the main themes (with some brief solo snippets thrown in-between). The song is over once the solo has barely reached it’s peak and -to make matters worse- they end with what I hate most in music – fade outs. Why would someone write music with sophisticated arrangements, world-class musicians and top-notch production but skips the ending for the sake of what “benefit”? Terrible! At 32 minutes overall, perhaps time constraints made this necessary? I wish Cti would -like other lables- use the re-releases as an opportunity to rectify this.
    Lasting for almost 11 minutes, “Sudan” is quite the opposite. It would’ve been beneficial if it were more concise. The fast, complex and loud(er) drum patterns deflect a lot of attention from the other instruments – that’s what you get when the drummer is the bandleader. The great jazz-musicians are those that know when they should *not* play. In that regard, the bonus tracks are actually the best songs on this album – by far.
    Fantastic production overshadows lack of songwriting quality. It’s awesome in what it suggests but lacks severely in what it actually achieves. I feel kinda sorry to have the cd requested as a birthday gift.

    1. Thanks for the feedback and review Ben. I need to listen again to the album, I don’t have the re-issue, but have the original and the bonus tracks are on spotify. My guess is though we’ll be divided, like was so often the case with reviews of almost anything Creed Taylor produced in the 1970’s.

      I spoke with jazzman producer, arranger Dave Matthews on Friday, he was very clear that musically Creed Taylor was still in the driving seat until “Turn This Mutha Out” which Creed was only peripherally involved in.

      Thanks again for all the feedback, I hope you keep reading. I have a good piece on Jimmy Smith coming soon.

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