The spiritual, organ-grinding predecessor to orchestrator/keyboardist Dexter Wansel’s spaced-out Life on Mars, this 1969 Blue Note release (and 2022 re-release) finds Brother Jack McDuff going beyond his usual hard bop, steady grooves, and blues jams into something stratospheric, ambient, and conceptual.
Together with guitarist Jerry Byrd, drummer/synthesizer player Joe Dukes, reeds-and-flute man Bill Phillips, and heavenly disembodied vocalist Jean DuShon, organist McDuff looks to the era’s Apollo moon-landing fever and finds himself (and his aptly titled compositions such as “Loose Foot”) sailing around the satellites of Jupiter in a free, funky fashion. At the very least, Brother Jack and Co. are freer and funkier than on his stock soul-jazz efforts of the gritty 1960s and his Prestige label days. Opening up, and out, trembling, reverb-heavy tracks such as the epic “Flat Backin’” and “Made in Sweden” combine his organ’s rippling, barking improvisational tones with Byrd’s sensuous, wah-wah-centric guitar licks and Phillips’ flighty flutes.
While a piano provides a heartbeat’s percussion on the title tune, the rest of the album drifts wispily on a cloud of luxuriating blues vamps from McDuff amid the free floating of his accompanists—all so charming, and such an anomaly in his catalog.