Young-Holt Unlimited - Give It Up
Soul jazz, mod jazz, call it what you like, or don’t. Your hardcore jazzers will open the great book to the soul jazz page and see a wide variety of deep, gospel inflected sounds starting in the mid-50’s and running through hard-boppish horn groups as well as barroom organ combos. At some point in the progression, things tightened up considerably (due in large part to a need to fill the jukeboxes with tasty, accessable 45s) and “soul jazz” started hitting the pop charts and dancefloors, turning into something altogether different. Sure the true jazz roots were still visible, and the records were being made by “jazz” musicians, but eventually the SOUL jumped into upper case and the jazz receded into lower case (and often italics). By the mid-60’s some of the tastiest side being laid down were by jazz and latin jazz musicians as interested in the groove as they once were in improvised solos (though as I said before the time constraints of the 45 had as much to do with this evolution as anything). One of the watershed moments in this changeover was ‘The In Crowd’ by the Ramsey Lewis Trio. Lewis, along with bassist Eldee Young and drummer Isaac “Red” Holt laid down a grooving instrumental take on the Dobie Gray classic and had themselves a sizable pop hit. Not long after that, Young and Holt broke with Lewis and took their own (albeit very similar) show on the road with pianist Hysear Don Walker, d/b/a Young-Holt Unlimited. The formula was a familiar one, pop and jazz tunes rendered with a helping of soul and a strong enough backbeat to keep the dancers moving. It should be said that Young-Holt added a healthy kick to the Lewis formula, infusing their records with souful energy and playful humor. Over their six year career with Brunswick, Atlantic (and associated labels) and their funkier work on Paula, Young-Holt made a dent in the charts a few more times (most notably with their instrumental version of Barbara Acklin’s “Am I The Same Girl”, retitled as “Soulful Strut”*. Today’s selection is a non-lp cut from the period of their first LP ‘Wack Wack’. ‘Give It Up’ is almost all groove, with their trademark vocal interjections. Opening with the drums which are soon joined by guitar and bass (not sure who the guitarist is), soon the whole group is shouting ‘Give it up!”. By the second go round Eldee Young is simultaneously singing and bowing the same phrase on his bass (in doing so channeling the spirit of the mighty Slam Stewart**), and Walker (who wrote the tune) chimes in on piano. After some minor drum “soloing” the band drops into the groove again, keeping it up until the end of the record. Though this track didn’t appear on any original Young-Holt LPs, it has been reissued a few times on CD. The 45 (like most of their 45s) shouldn’t be that hard to find.
* There is some controversy as to the genesis of “Soulful Strut”. Consensus seems to be that the Barbara Acklin track existed before the Young-Holt record, and that ‘Soulful Strut’ is merely ‘Am I the Same Girl’ with the vocal track stripped off. This brings into question whether Young-Holt (or Walker) appear anywhere on their biggest hit.
** In the late 30's and early 40's Slam Stewart was the bassist for the legendary King of Vout Slim Gaillard. Stewart mastered the technique of singing and bowing the same phrase and featured it on many ‘Slim & Slam’ records. Another Gaillard bassist, “Tiny’ Bam Brown also employed this technique.