The great Miles Davis posited that the word “legend” to describe a musician was only permissible when the musician in question was dead. However, considering what Bernard “Pretty” Purdie did for timekeeping while maintaining “the groove” or “playing in the pocket” and “funk things up” so musicians could execute solo flights, he qualifies to earn the epithet “living legend”. His signature use of triplets against a half-time backbeat was all but patented as “The Purdie Shuffle” in the celebrated bands of James Brown, The Isley Brothers, Aretha Franklin, Jimmy Smith and – by the time of this iconic recording – with the Blood, Sweat and Tears.
This terrific album, Purdie Good, was recorded as a sort of riposte to the music kind of music that the drummer had been involved in with Blood Sweat and Tears. By happenstance, however the music on this vinyl is spare enough to put a gleaming spotlight on Mr Purdie; to showcase his funky, tumbling groove for his legion of admirers. Taped by the equally legendary Rudy Van Gelder the warmth of the recording allows for large, fiery notes played by the tenor saxophonists Charlie Brown and Harold Wheeler, and guitarists Ted Dunbar and Billy Edwards to create a gleaming aura for the sainted drumming of Mr Purdie.
The music is also redolent of radiant notes of the electric piano played by Harold Wheeler and the rolling thunder of bassist, Gordon Edwards. The presence of Mr Edwards as bassist on this [and many other dates] with Mr Purdie is fortuitous indeed as the bassist creates just the kind of rhythmic wall-like canvas on which Mr Purdie wields his drumsticks like a rhythmic paint brush with which he creates the unique tattoo for which he has become legendary in his lifetime. On the song, Montego Bay the drummer is joined by conguero Norman Pride to evoke a Caribbean groove.
Elsewhere Mr Purdie engages his tenor saxophonists, trumpeter and guitarists thrusting them into the limelight to play characters, narrate stories through harmonic dialogues while engaging the whole group of musicians. All through the conversations, Mr Purdie maintains his rock-steady backbeat, interspersed with intricate triplets. Every once and a while he creates incendiary devices – as on Cold Sweat, and on Everybody’s Talkin’ [from the film Midnight Cowboy], both of which feature characteristic tumbling rhythmic grooves. His playing on Purdie Good is the apogee of the recording, while his seductive performance on You Turn Me On is truly unforgettable.
This exquisitely remastered and re-released vinyl on Craft Recordings is fortuitous. It enables the great iconic drummer to speak his piece to a whole new generation of listeners and aspiring musicians – just as he often does in master classes [which may be viewed on YouTube]. For all of us from his generation, it affords a fresh look at one of the last of the mighty swinging and funky drummers who, together with the great Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste, continues to make waves on the ocean of music.
Music – Side A – 1: Cold Sweat; 2: Montego Bay; 3: Purdie Good. Side B – 1: Wasteland; 2: Everybody’s Talkin’ 6: You Turn Me On
Musicians – Bernard Purdie: drums; Tippy Larkin: trumpet; Warren Daniels: tenor saxophone; Charlie Brown: tenor saxophone; Harold Wheeler: electric piano; Ted Dunbar: guitar; Billy Nichols: guitar; Gordon Edwards: Fender bass; Norman Pride: conga.
Original label – Prestige Records/Craft Recordings
Runtime – Side A: 17:30 Side B: 17:45