Ray Charles's time on ABC Records was about more than adding strings, choirs, and country tunes to his approach. By 1972's A MESSAGE FROM THE PEOPLE, he was turning out tracks full of funky soul, largely devoid of the overproduction plaguing much of his ABC discography. As was so often the case with Ray, a gospel feel mixed with R&B locomotion is the engine that drives things here, but he also uses it to transform Melanie's "What Have They Done to My Song, Ma" into a syncopated strut, and bring a Sunday Baptist church feel to the Dion hit "Abraham, Martin and John."
All vibraphonists owe a debt of gratitude to Lionel Hampton for paving the way in traditional and modern jazz, pioneering the instrument as more than in an accompanist role or being heard only in lounges. In his heyday, Teddy Charles was a prime example of taking Hampton's approach to a different level, eventually in hard and post-bop, but here he takes swing era tunes of Hamp's, changing up or editing their melodic structures with a quartet featuring pianist Hank Jones, and a larger ensemble with horn complement. This album as reissued on CD is known as Salute to Hamp and subtitled "The Vibraphone Players of Bethlehem, Vol. 1" as issued originally on the Bethlehem label, reissued by Avenue Jazz. It showcases Charles, not so much in an evolutionary fashion, but as a complete performer and bandleader. He is a singularly unique jazzman who anyone can appreciate, and is quite able to hold interest of listeners beyond conventional wisdom of what well-worn standards can sound like with just a little inspiration and soul.