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At the age of 12, (Little) Stevie Wonder released his debut album. "The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie Wonder" dropped in 1962 and finds the artist getting his first say in the game as he brings just as the title indicates with some jazzy Soul material whilst showing what the young talent on the Tamla (soon to be Motown) label had to offer the world.
The album gets off to a great start as we're presented with a chart-topping single from the artist. He comes with a live composition of the tune (one of the first live recording of a song to top of Billboard Charts). On it, he shows just how strong his skills at playing the harmonica are to make an instrument (often associated with the Blues) fit in with this upbeat material that he brings forward.
2. "The Square"
Keeping things rolling on, we see that the album continues on with Stevie showing off what talent he has when it comes to playing the harmonica (as opposed to things he's been known for since these years times). It's a steadily-flowing Jazz tune done in the contemporary style, but with a bit of a '40s edge. It's a strong instrumental piece, but doesn't see all that much happen to make it stand out.
3. "Soul Bongo"
This tune features some funky percussion in it. The bongos lead the set and get thins one set off as an exciting and lively tune that you really have to pay attention to. It's very colourful and offers a lot for what it brings to the listeners with all of the energy it brings out in quite a short space of time. Marvin Gaye had a hand in writing this instrumental work and I felt that it was pulled off extremely well.
4. "Manhattan At Six"
For this tune we find that the music rolls nicely on from where we were on the last recording. In it, we're given a rather hyped-up and hectic display as its largely built up upon lots of experimental percussion sounds looping through the track. It has a bit of a Latin edge to it as later instruments are gradually introduced. However, overall I didn't see it to be anything particularly special on the release.
Things are taken in a bit of a different direction for this one as the jazziness is replaced somewhat for a mellower and colder feel as though we're getting into more dark Blues material from him. I thought that it was well-composed and is very atmospheric, however it seemed to sound like any other general Cool Jazz tune of this sort of time and so wouldn't have really stood out as something different.
6. "Some Other Time"
With this recording, another entirely-instrumental piece, we get a track which has Stevie and the band he works with going for a rather drowsy-sounding tune. It drags along as it goes and pulls you in through its soothing feel. I have to say that this one didn't really appeal to my tastes all that much as I thought it to be a rather average tune, but others may get more from this low-tempo track.
I thought that it was nice to see where things were taken for this tune as it really takes the edge off the last one we were given and ensures that we're made to enjoy ourselves as he bringing forward a piece which makes better use of the horn section whilst he plays the keyboard in a jazzy and impressive manner. I thought that Stevie's work on it was the stand-out feature and the rest was a little plain.
8. "Session Number 112"
This tune is a slowly-moving tune and I felt that it kept in line with what else we were being given on this album. As a result of this, it's not anything that I'd jump towards and get down to, but the feel of the music ensures that you'll have a good time when engaging in something alternative and out of the ordinary. Stevie gets down to some bluesy harmonica work here and shows what he's about effectively.
The album comes to a close with this track as we're offered a smooth piece and one which works its way along in a rather steady pace to ensure that you aren't off put by anything too far away from what's expected. The tune is a track designed to uplift you at the end of the piece, but I couldn't help but feel that it didn't really do anything more than what else we'd already been offered early on.
This is a very consistent album from (Little) Stevie Wonder, however I felt that it lacked variation. If you're expecting simply an early version of the sort of things heard from his breakthrough years then you'll be in form a shock in this largely-instrumental piece, but I thought it was good to see where the artist came from.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
3 Soul Bongo
4 Manhattan at Six
6 Some Other Time
8 Session Number 112