People living anywhere other than southeastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, or New York in the '70s missed the
experience. A four-man jazz combo from Philadelphia, the band played a blend of avant-garde, contemporary bop, soul, and funk at the dawn of the big fusion explosion. The original members were
's self-titled debut album on Cobblestone Records in 1972. Producer
discovered them playing at the Aqua Lounge in West Philly; this resulted in a contract with Cobblestone Records, with
are revealed when the aggressive sax player expands.
's first album, was self-taught, but influenced by classical music.
They rehearsed hard and inspired one another to push farther into unknown territories where all the music they liked could be wrapped into a holistic sound. Jazz clubs in Philly were plentiful in the '70s, which may account for the group's lack of trips outside the region. The band's eponymous funk-jazz debut, Catalyst
, is highly regarded as a fusion masterpiece; many regard the set as being superior to better-known recordings from the era by Weather Report
and Return to Forever
. Billy Hart
, from Herbie Hancock's Mwandishi
ensemble, accompanied Catalyst
on this spacy, illuminating set. A second album, Perception
, was issued in 1972 on Cobblestone as well. It featured some brilliant avant-garde work that won the hearts of jazz purists and increased their cult following. This was a creative period -- the recording deal was fresh, and they were eager to please and expand their already stimulating original material. In 1974, the band recorded Unity
for Muse Records, which had acquired the Cobblestone label. A final album, 1975's A Tear and a Smile
, also appeared on Muse, differing yet again from those that preceded it because it was steeped in funk. Stylistically, Catalyst
never made the same album twice.
Four sterling efforts with no significant sales made the group leery of the recording business. They put a lot of time into their albums; they weren't jam sessions, but were carefully thought-out, well-rehearsed studio executions that Muse kept shelving as if they were contaminated. Disheartened and unable to get any lucrative gigs, the members of Catalyst
parted ways in 1976. Green
played with Pat Martino
, and accompanied many of Philadelphia International Records' biggest acts, including Billy Paul
, and the Three Degrees
live; he also taught music. Pope
joined Max Roach
for a time. Pope
was also a founder and integral member of the acclaimed Saxophone Choir
left early to play with Weather Report
, and Sherman Ferguson
has bopped around with Pharoah Sanders
, Kenny Burrell
, Bud Shank
, and others.
The acquisition of the Muse catalog by the late Joel Dorn
's 32 Jazz venture and reissuing of Catalyst
material on CD has rekindled interest and introduced the band to a new generation of hip-hop, dance music, soul-jazz, and funk fans. First out of the box was Groove Jammy: Rare Groove Classics from the Muse Catalog
in 1998, a compilation CD that featured Catalyst
and other Muse artists. The release created a spark and listeners demanded more of the quartet, resulting in The Funkiest Band You Never Heard
in 1999, a two-disc CD containing all four Catalyst
albums from the '70s. Their individual albums have since been re-released in the 21st century on LP by Scorpio Distribution's reissue department and their catalog was issued in two volumes from Porter Records on both CD and LP in 2011.