2. Night Song
3. Living for the City
5. Wayfaring Stranger
7. Fiddler on the Roof
Noel Pointer - Electric violin, acoustic violin
Dave Grusin- Fender Rhodes, synthesizer
John Tropea, Lee Ritenour - Electric guitars
Will Lee - Electric bass
Steve Gadd - Drums
Ralph MacDonald - Percussion
Ian Underwood - Oberheim synthesizer programmer
Earl Klugh - Acoustic guitar
Francisco Centeno - Electric bass
Dave Valentin - Flute
Gene Cipriano, John Lowe, Justin Gordon, Bud Shank, Tom Scott - Woodwinds
Gerald Vince, Allan Hershman, David Friscina, Gerry Vince, David Montagu, Karen Jones, Bernard Kundell, Constance Pressman, Jacob Krachmalnick, Marshall Sosson, Pamela Goldsmith, Kathleen Lenski, Edgar Lustgarten, Sheldon Sanov, Frederick Seykora - Strings
1. Hold On
2. Stardust Lady
3. Roots Suite: Introduction & Pastorale; Mama Aifambeni; Oluwa (Many Rains Ago)
4. Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You?)
5. Staying With You
6. Movin' In
7. Capriccio Stravagante
Noel Pointer, Dave Grusin, Eric Gale, Steve Gadd, Anthony Jackson, Ralph MacDonald, Francisco Centeno, Patti Austin, Onaje Allan Gumbs, Sammy Figueroa
Noel Pointer seems to have been forgotten, even though he was a prominent artist on the Blue Note label in the 1970s and early 1980s. He trained as a classical violinist and actually appeared as a soloist with various symphony orchestras, but he became interested in jazz when he was studying at New York City's High School of Music and Art.
Phantazia was his debut album, recorded in 1977. The opening title-track, composed by Dave Grusin, might lead the listener to think this was going to be an album of jazz-funk, with Will Lee's electric bass and Steve Gadd's bass drum (not tom-tom, as the sleeve-note suggests) laying down a powerfully funky foundation. Noel Pointer's violin creates unearthly effects with help from an Echoplex. John Tropea adds a groovy guitar solo.
The mood changes completely for the next track - Earl Klugh's Night Song - which has Klugh's Spanish-style guitar behind Pointer's gliding violin. So this isn't going to be a jazz-funk album but a succession of changing moods. The unifying element is sweet melody, with Dave Grusin's rich arrangements providing aural pleasure throughout.
There's more jazz-funk in Stevie Wonder's Living for the City, again underpinned by Will Lee and Steve Gadd. Pointer solos with gusto. The varying moods change again with the hustling samba Rainstorm, the delicate 19th-century folk-song Wayfaring Stranger (with very poignant violin from Noel Pointer), the flamenco style of Earl Klugh's Mirabella, and an unusual arrangement of Fiddler on the Roof which turns the tune into funk but retains some of the Russian-Jewish feel of the original.
The LP Phantazia was followed in 1978 by Hold On, an album which was still funky but which differed from its predecessor with the use of a bevy of vocalists, including Patti Austin. They chant the words of the title-track, an old gospel song. Noel Pointer even sings on Stardust Lady. He has a pleasantly innocent voice, although the song itself is rather slushy. He also sings on Patti Austin's composition Staying With You, sounding a bit like Neil Sedaka.
The three-part Roots Suite interprets some of the music that Quincy Jones, Dave Grusin and South African composer Caiphus Semenya wrote for the famous television series Roots. It captures the African atmosphere of the soundtrack, using chants, the thumb-piano and African-style percussion, with Noel Pointer's violin floating above.
Superwoman is another Stevie Wonder song, where Pointer's violin sounds beautifully ethereal. Pointer's Movin' In is a cleverly-structured piece which gives Noel plenty of opportunity to display his virtuosity. Capriccio Stravagante is Dave Grusin's arrangement of a piece by the 17th-century Italian composer Carlo Farina. The track begins and ends in stately classical mode with accompaniment from a string quartet, but in between comes an enterprising case of "jazzing the classics" which works very well.
Noel Pointer died in 1994, just before he would have been 40. I
confess I had only vaguely heard of him but I am very glad to have
been introduced to his eclectic abilities on these two LPs, reissued
as a double CD. The sound quality is admirable.