Behind the 8-Ball was Baby Face Willette's second album for Argo, his second of 1964, and -- unfortunately -- the last one he would record as a leader, for reasons that aren't well-documented. Compared to his past releases, Behind the 8-Ball is short on original compositions (only two of eight tracks), but the emphasis here is more on Willette's deep roots in gospel and R&B, two circuits he worked extensively during his pre-Blute Note dues-paying days. This perhaps accounts for the brevity of the album -- only two cuts top the five-minute mark -- but it also provides a chance to hear Willette at his most soulful, playing the music he grew up with. Willette is again joined by guitarist Ben White, plus new drummer Jerold Donavon, who are usually solid if nothing special; Willette's Hammond B-3 is the star. On the R&B side, Willette's short, self-penned title track is strongly reminiscent of the very early rock & roll era, and his cover of Big Joe Turner's "Roll 'Em Pete" features some nifty trade-offs withWhite. From the gospel side of the equation, altoist Gene Barge makes his only appearance on the traditional standard "Amen"; there's also the R&B-ish waltz "Sinnin' Sam" and an extended take on "Just a Closer Walk," which had recently been recorded in similar fashion by Willette's former Blue Note compatriot Grant Green. Elsewhere, Willette throws a curveball with his lengthy original "Song of the Universe"; a confused White seems to have difficulty keeping up with the hyperspeed waltz time, butWillette tosses out lightning-quick leads and riffs with a light, nimble touch. Again, it's not quite as good as his Blue Notes (with their stellar supporting casts), but for a look at Willette's roots, Behind the 8-Ballis a solid acquisition, and worth tracking down for devotees as a Japanese CD reissue. AMG.