Al Hirt: Harlem Hendoo (Soul In The Horn, RCA Victor, 1967)
"Harlem Hendoo" is nothing short of a miracle of a song.
When most of us first heard it looped on De La Soul's "Ego Trippin' Part 2," I feel like our collective reaction was "what the hell is this?" and I'm sure many assumed it came off some obscure spiritual jazz record or the like. Instead, we began to discover, it came from an LP by Al Hirt, a giant in the "easy listening" genre but not exactly the first person to come to mind for a "mystical soul-jazz masterpiece." In fact, I'm not sure anything off the rest of his entire catalog — which is massive — comes anywhere close to this, not even songs off the same LP. It's a one-of-one in that respect…and more.
Consider this: there were five principals on the song: Hirt, producer Paul Robinson, arranger/conductor Teacho Wiltshire, and songwriters Paul Griffin and Yolanda Paterno.
Griffin was a prolific, multi-decade talent but hey only worked with Hirt on this album. He and Paterno wrote most of the songs together but most of Paterno’s output was from the ’50s; her credits are much sparser in the ‘60s and moreover, she and Griffin seemed to have only worked together on this album, same goes with her and Hirt. Same goes with Wiltshire, another veteran in the industry, but he only ever arranged for Hirt on this LP. (Interesting enough but Wilitshire and Paterno share credits on a bunch of recordings from the ‘50s through ‘60s).