“The Best of Hilton Felton 1970-74″ Jazzman Records
Washington DC’s Hilton Felton is probably the regions greatest organ player of any period. Steeped in the soul drenched flavor of organ players like Jimmy Smith and Big John Patton, Hilton Felton grooves in a way nobody even touches these days with the exception of a few key players. His introduction into the touring and recording scene came with the legendary Fats Theus. In 1970, Fats picked him up for a tour and released one record with the CTI imprint, Black Out. The massively heavy drum section of Idris Muhammed was present along with one of the best guitar players of the time Grant Green. The groups take on ‘Stone Flower’ on that album is incredible with Hilton Felton doing some of the most impressive organ solo’ing I have ever heard. George Benson took immediate attention to Hilton and picked him up for a tour shortly after this release, which would prove to shape Hilton’s abilities even more.
A family man and one who loved his city of DC, Hilton Felton took the unusual route after two years on the road and recording with Fats Theus and George Benson to be closer with his loved ones, start his own imprint and record music on his own terms. Yearning to be a self made independent artist, Hilton Felton started his own imprint Hilton Concepts in 1971, predating Minor Threat and many of the punk rocks who would create the DIY culture in Washington DC by almost a decade. Hilton Felton made some of the most interesting and diverse music, tapping into jazz, gospel, latin, street music, funk, soul, pop, psych rock and many other sounds that were dominating America’s airwaves during the 60′s and 70′s. London based Jazzman Records has culminated all of this lineage into a highly anticipated Best Of collection that spans from 1970-74. Collecting five tracks that spans 35 minutes, Jazzman Records selected a world of music from Hilton Felton that is the best entry point for anyone who hasn’t heard him and even better for those of who have. Pressed on vinyl and CD, the packaging is as good as the music, with rare photos and liner notes that explain the origins of every track.
The first piece, ‘Bee Bop Boogie’, is a classic sounding Headhunters groove from Herbie Hancock’s mid 70′s period. With a latin jazz emphasis in the drums and percussion, the piece moves flawlessly through its drop out moments when the band lets the percussion and drum tandem breath by itself. Hilton’s organ sound is just as superb and brilliant, showing a very soulful and sophisticated sound that lets the guitar comping transition in and out of solo’s seamlessly. Felton always has the rhythm and embellishes the most tasteful additives under the guitar with rhythm and harmony always at his side. The bass is always moving but never moving away too far and keeping itself trapped inside the groove this piece has. The sax work is pristine and soaring, with a glossy feel that makes it as dreamy as it is poignant. Felton turns out a true Herbie Hancock style solo around the five minute mark, running down his keys without missing a note or a beat. Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock and many others in the 70′s had been utilizing a lot of electronics and Felton was right in line with all these masters, blasting away at his own sound and scene in DC.
‘Spreading Fever’ sounds like the perfect street league basketball anthem with a really rustic guitar sound that is heightened by a sax section and head nodding drum break. The bass is bumpin and there’s some really wild angular solo work on the guitar, with jabs of rhythm and staccato runs that make your head spin. Felton rests in the pocket for awhile, creating a canvas of soul drenched harmony that is out of this world until his restrain leads to some really intense solo’ing. It really doesn’t get much better than this with organ based jazz. ‘Dream Come True’ is a really dreamy soul pop song and the first in the collection to contain vocals. The organ work is really dreamy on this piece as well and the tone Felton gets in the last few minutes of the song really hints towards his deep gospel and family background. Every track has these small moments where Felton selects a very special tone on his organ for the song and it always fits so well. ‘Your Analysis’ couldn’t be better placed in the collection, pushing the energy to a maximum level with this psych soul rocker. With gut bucket and really intense drumming, fuzzed out psych guitar solo’s and some manic style freight train organ that always follows the intensity of the guitar, this is a testament to how lively his performances must have been. If you have heard any of the chittlin’ circuit Jimi Hendrix material, pre Experience, you know exactly what kind of sound this is. Felton’s organ solo is probably one of the most charged, exuberant and exhilarating of the collection on ‘Your Analysis’, with an apex of energy that is jaw dropping.
Jazzman Records collected five songs that truly represent the integrity, passion and grace organist Hilton Felton exerted into the many forms of music he identified with and presented himself to the world with. Best of releases are always hit and miss and this one is definitely a best of collection worth owning.
The Best of Hilton Felton 1970-74
- Bee Bop Boogie
- Spreading Fever
- Dream Come True
- Your Analysis
- Tell Her Love Has Felt The Need