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Hip-o Select Gets on the Good Foot with Lost Fred Wesley Album

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Hip-o Select’s James Brown singles sets may be done with the recent release of Volume 11, but the Godfather of Soul’s catalogue has a lot of uncovered treasures, and a new release from the boutique label continues to uncover the legend of Brown and his crack team of musicians – in particular one Fred Wesley.

Wesley, Brown’s longtime trombonist, arranger and musical director in the 1960s and 1970s, is best known to casual J.B. fans as the credited force behind the funky No. 1 soul single “Doing It to Death” (by Fred Wesley & The J.B.’s) in 1973. But the jazz-trained Wesley’s true solo album under his own name, recorded a year before, was consigned to the shelves on Brown’s People Records, with only a pair of forgotten 45s, including a take on Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man,” to show for it.

Now, Select unearths the entire album as Wesley intended audiences to hear it, a nine-track affair with four bonus cuts to boot. An interesting turn, however, is that much of the album – while credited to the J.B.’s – instead utilizes crack jazz musicians from New York City. (Joe Farrell, Eddie Daniels, Steve Gadd, Ron Carter and both Randy and Michael Brecker are just a few of the names on the LP. Of the intended LP, the only true J.B.’s track is “Watermelon Man,” with a certain funky Godfather sitting in on the drum set.)

The disc closes out with four tracks from the same sessions that were issued on non-LP singles. In total, six of these tracks are being heard for the first time anywhere, counting a version of “Transmogripification” that lasts longer than the version on The J.B.’s Hustle with Speed album in 1975.

With the release of this lost album, it looks like there will be plenty of projects to catalogue the legend and mystique of The Hardest Working Man in Show Business. The disc ships November 18 and can be ordered after the jump.

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Written by Mike Duquette

November 7, 2011 at 10:18