Listening to this album,one I first heard and was very excited about when I first got it on CD when I was 16 reminds me of just how prophetic a lot of this was to Stevie Wonder's musical future. At this point Stevie,a discovery of Miracle Ronnie White was baught to Motown as a child prodigy-a tweenaged multi instrumentalist whose speciality was the "blues harp" (or harmonica) and bongos. The surprising things about this album is the effect it captures. During 1963 the Motown sound was still very much in development and this album perfectly captured what came before. With Clarance Paul and Henry Cosby onboard for most of this music,as they'd be for the next several years of Stevie's career this album was a firm reminder of the jazz pedigree of the musicians involved,not to mention the talents of Stevie Wonder even at this very early stage. So this album was an instrumental rather than a vocal one to express this point better.
Overall the sound of this album is populated with bluesy,jazzy rhythmic sounds that pretty much go all over the spectrum. "Fingertips" starts out the set,set at a different harmonic tone than the more famous hit and features a strong afro-latin feel with the flute and Stevie's bongo solos. That flavor returns on both "Soul Bongo" and Stevie's try at the full drum kit on "Manhattan At Six'. On the snappy,bass driven "The Square" and "Paulsby" he has a go on harmonica on two tracks that have a prominant jazzy blues flavor and contributes a self written number of his own "Session Number 112" to the same effect. "Some Other Time" shows Stevie's ability at instrumentally interpreting ballads on harmonica-a trait that would serve him greatly in later years. Another self written piece "Wondering" finds Stevie doing his best Jimmy Smith/Booker T type organ inflections on what sounds like an early Mar Key's/MG's Stax instrumental. Something similar happens on the closer "Bam" written by Berry Gordy himself.
More jazz sounding instrumentally and thoroughly music oriented (being an all instrumental album) than much of anything Stevie Wonder would do in the future,this album will surprise not only people who are familiar with Stevie's famous 70's music (needless to say) but even those who still hold true mainly to his mid-late 60's hits. The sound doesn't seem to owe much to the hit factory Motown mentality while,as the title will tell one focuses on a full blooded soul-jazz sound more in the vein of Wonder's early and well known mentor Ray Charles. Most familiar with Charles' instrumental albums of the late 50's will likely find this more in tune with that than any early Motown session but that was the idea from the beginning. Stevie was his own distinctive talent and even in the beginning Motown knew he couldn't be boxed in by their assembly line sound. So for the early Motown sound this album is notable not only for how it presents the artist but for it's individuality.