The title track of The Phantom is an orgiastically successful piece of exotica-jazz. A smoldering triumph of hazy tropic/modal bluesy languid-erotic repetitions-- with Pearson's piano acting as mysterious guide through the spiritual structure and Bobby Hutcherson's vibes as both explorer and scurrying wildlife, accented by a classic jungle-shadow flute sound (from Jerry Dodgion), and a killer bass line-- this track lives up to, and indeed surpasses, the sensual and exotic experience impossibly promised by the exquisite cover art.
The rest of the record is less successful-- at times it struggles even to be interesting-- but at the very least it does manage to lay down a handful of unobjectionably laid-back (and back-ground) samba-esque and Latin jazz numbers. They're pretty sweet and winning in the moment, with nice performances from all, but ultimately a little forgettable. "The Moana Surf," however, is a definite highlight full of understated excellence: Dodgion and Hutcherson really get into some nice sections together, the drums are awesome, and the composition pokes a toe into "The Phantom"'s shadowy realm. It's great stuff, in fact.
Mr. Pearson may not have been able to hold down an LP's worth of the kind of deep-grotto jazz-monsters perhaps promised by the title track-- and that's too bad, my god-- but The Phantom would be worth it for that selection alone. It bears repeating, however, that the lesser tracks hold their share of quiet virtues and will no doubt occasion to delight you in an unguarded moment of luxury. So pop this on and get down with The-Ghost-Who-Walks.
THE PHANTOM (320)