JOHNNY LYTLE’S SOUL-JAZZ CLASSIC PEOPLE & LOVE GETS A TOP SHELF REISSUE

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We’re kicking 2024 off with a sizzler. Johnny Lytle’s much-sought-after soul-jazz gem, People & Love, is our next Top Shelf reissue!  Full of soaring, funky jams and heady grooves, the latest release in our Top Shelf series showcases the legendary vibraphonist’s talents as a songwriter, musician, and bandleader, as he guides his fellow musicians through five sublime tracks, including extended, soulful covers (“People Make the World Go ’Round,” “Where Is the Love?”) and groovy originals (“Libra,” “Tawhid,” “Family”). The 1973 session also boasts a stellar line-up of players, including Daahoud Hadi (formerly Butch Cornell) on the electric piano and organ, Bob Cranshaw on the electric bass, and harpist Betty Glamann.

As with all titles in the album-centric Top Shelf series—which reissues the highest-quality, hand-picked rarities—People & Love features (AAA) lacquers cut from the original tapes by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio and is pressed on 180-gram vinyl at RTI. Rounding out the package is a tip-on jacket, replicating the album’s original art. Out of print for half a century, People & Love makes its return on February 16th and is available for pre-order today via JazzDispensary.com.

Touted by the great bandleader Lionel Hampton as “The Greatest Vibes Player in the World,” Johnny Lytle (1932 – 1995) began his career as a drummer, playing with the likes of Ray Charles, Gene Ammons, and Jimmy Witherspoon before switching to the vibraphone in the mid-’50s. By the end of the decade, he was leading his own group and caught the ears of producer/record executive Orrin Keepnews, who promptly signed the dexterous musician. A consummate showman, whose fast-paced performances earned him the title of “Fast Hands,” Lytle built a significant following in the ’60s—recording for Keepnews’ Jazzland, Riverside, and Milestone imprints, among others.

For 1973’s People & Love (originally released on Milestone), Lytle found inspiration from two popular songs of the day: “People Make the World Go ’Round” (made famous a year earlier by Philadelphia soul stars, The Stylistics) and Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway’s 1972 smash hit, “Where Is the Love.” In addition to delivering inspired renditions of the two tracks, Lytle also borrowed from the songs’ titles to name his own album.

Keepnews, who produced People & Love, wrote in the album’s original liner notes “‘People’ and ‘Love’ are also words that seem strongly descriptive of the kind of music Johnny Lytle has created here. Johnny has always been a notably soulful musician, whose playing has a high emotional content.” What made this particular album stand out in the vibraphonist’s prolific catalog, Keepnews added, was that Lytle was transitioning away from the “hard-driving [and] rhythmic” playing that he first became known for. “There has been a ‘new’ Lytle gradually emerging, and on this record that warmer and deeper attitude takes over,” the producer concludes.

In the studio, Lytle employed a broad palate of instrumentation, played by such talented artists as Daahoud Hadi (formerly Butch Cornell) on the electric piano and organ, Betty Glamann (harp), Bob Cranshaw (electric bass), Marvin Cabell (flute, saxophone), Josell Carter (drums), and Arthur Jenkins Jr. (congas). Together, they delivered a selection of thoughtful, extended jams, including a nearly 12-minute-long rendition of “People Make the World Go ’Round” and the nine-minute-long Lytle original, “Libra.” Other highlights include Hadi’s “Tawhid” and Lytle’s “Family” (sampled by Organized Konfusion in 1997)

In a retrospective review, AllMusic praised, “Everybody knew [Lytle] was a soul man from the word ‘go,’ and People & Love finds him diving ever deeper into the soul-jazz groove. The results are successful, to say the least… Any self-respecting soul-jazz or jazz-funk fan would likely pick this title up based on the fantastic back cover alone. Fortunately, unlike so many other promising jackets, the tunes found inside are just as strong.”

Click here to pre-order or stream People & Love

Tracklist

Side A

1.  Where Is The Love?

2.  Libra

3.  Family

Side B

1.  Tawhid

2.  People Make The World Go ‘Round

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