Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Good Things Don't Happen Every Day, But They Happened Yesterday!

I knew it could be. This time last year my conversations with fellow non-Republicans went something like "yeah, he's great, but he'll never get elected." Republicans tended to say something more along the lines of "I hope he wins the primary because it'll be easy to beat him in the election." Well, he did it, we did it, and now our first family looks like this picture. They're brown. Brown like most of the musicians posted on this blog, even most of the musicians who have defined the American musics on any of these blogs we all go to. What's so fantastic is that in a way, that's secondary. First and foremost he's a visionary that somehow managed to make a large majority of Americans not even make brownness and issue. Today is the first day of the rest of our lives in the U.S., and I'm proud of and happy for us.

The folks at the new Groove Merchant blog Groovy Merchant don't have this one yet so I thought I'd do a quick post of it. Jimmy McGriff teams up with blues vocalist Junior Parker for a strong set of post-Basie organ blues. It's a fun album, better than I thought it would be actually. And, as I said in the title. Good things may not happen everyday, but yesterday they did.

Link in comments

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Melvin Sparks Band Live in Greece

So I taped almost each of my14 sets with the Melvin Sparks Band in Athens, Greece (except for the two days when my M-Audio and Matt's passport were in the back of this guy Theodore's car whose number we didn't have). My original idea was to go through it all and pick the best tracks to post (thus eliminating any bad drumming...) but that's just not going to happen! I did listen to most of it, but I'm really not going to get that crazy about it. Instead, I've decided to post the last set of the last night. It's far from perfect, and the recording quality is decidedly M-Audio-y, but I think the energy is great and Melvin tears it up. Matt Oestricher, who has only played in the group about a month, also takes care of some serious business on here.

For me the trip was like a year in college. Spending every day in the company of someone as unfathomably talented, dedicated, knowledgable and willing to share it all as is Melvin was the ultimate music lesson. I am a lucky guy indeed.

On this recording I'd say that parts of each tune are pretty dialed in, and I really love the made up on the spot encore Melvin lead us through (unfortunately the vocals suffer most on this recording). The recording is a little lo-fi, though certainly not awful. Anyway, for those that want to check it out, I hope you'll dig it!

The band is:
Melvin Sparks - Guitar, Vocals
Matt Oestricher - Organ
Me - Drums
Recorded Oct. 9, 2008 at the Half Note in Athens, Greece (The pic above is Melvin standing beneath a poster of himself looking at himself on the cover of a magazine).

Jimmy Smith LIve in Concert

This is a totally ripping set from Jimmy Smith's May 1965 trip to Paris that features Quentin Warren on guitar and Billy Hart on drums. Smith is on fire throughout, pulling the band to long ecstatic peaks in each of the album's four tracks. There's a pretty classic moment in "The Sermon" when Smith has kicked it up so high that Hart seems to lose him; I imagine Hart literally could no longer hear his own drums--I know the feeling and it's something that, in jazz anyway, really only a Hammond player can do (there's a great guy locally that always wants to play "Misty" like Groove Holmes and gets so fired up doing it that most of the band leaves me on stage to battle him myself!).

Tracks: The Sermon, Goldfinger, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, When Jimmy Comes Marching Home

Here's some video of the same lineup (I think it's Warren on guitar...) which is killing. Notice the classic moron Youtube comments: "Compared to Larry Young this sounds like a baseball game." Free speech has it's downsides...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

E.P.'s October Surprise

As I listen to the Constitution Candidate Rev. Baldwin in the background on NPR ("I'd like to see our borders closed [um how did your family get here a%$hole?], I'd like to see the IRS disbanded...") I thought I'd drop a link to E.P.'s superb October Surprise mix. It's a collection of totally smoking organ grooves with an interlude from the forthcoming movie The Soul Men that speaks 100% truth. Check it out, I guarantee you'll dig it.

The October Surprise Mix

Friday, October 17, 2008

Back at it with Charles Earland

It's hard to believe that it's been almost a month since my last post. It's been a busy, but very good month. I spent a couple of weeks of it on tour with Melvin Sparks, doing a residence at the fabulous Half Note Jazz Club in Athens, Greece (and I've posted this stunning pic of us at the Parthenon to prove it!). Man, what a trip. What I learned: Acid Jazz is way more popular in Europe, and because of that so is Melvin. The place was packed every night with people who listened, danced, had fun and were excited about the whole thing, and that's a lot more than I can say about the average American venue. I sure hope many more Euro trips are coming (Melvin is on tour there right now with Dr. Lonnie Smith, sans me, btw). I recorded every night of our trip so when I can go through the stuff I hope I'll have some to post here at some point.

So, back to the main point of this blog which is other peoples' music. Here's a rip of Charles Earland's rather large group recording from 1972 Live at the Lighthouse, which features Elmer Coles (tp), Clifford Adams (tb), Jimmy Vass (sop,as), Charles Earland (org), Maynard Parker (g), Darryl Washington (d), Kenneth Nash (cga). Like many Earland recordings it has ups and downs (none very low though), but overall it's a solid outing. (As an aside, having now seen John Cusack in the horror film 1408 the song "We've Only Just Begun" has an ominous side I could never have imagined).

In other news: My new turntable and conversion set up has arrived, expect a quality upgrade soon.

Link is in comments

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Heads Up for Shasha Marley

This past weekend I had the good fortune to perform with Shasha Marley, a reggae singer from Ghana. I lead a dub group of all Wesleyan students that mostly does living room parties but occasionally ventures out to bigger things like backing good singers (Dion Knibb and Toussaint Liberator for instance) and by way of several friends who had friends who somewhere along the way knew Shasha, we ended up being Shasha's band for a couple of weeks.

Everyone who knows anything about it tells me that Shasha Marley is a mega-star in Ghana. Apparently he's on cereal boxes he's so big. On TV 24-7. Nonetheless, he's one of the most beautiful, mellow and humble people I've ever had the pleasure to know. His music is great too, kind of like a blend of Steel Pulse and Burning Spear with a healthy dose of his own thing. We've got one more show coming up with him but I know he'll definitely be coming back.

Check out his Myspace Page for some tunes and more info.

The 5th Beatle (Not Eddie Murphy)

Billy Preston's biggest claim to fame was certainly his connection with the Beatles (he's one of only two outside musicians to get his name listed as a performer on their albums), but he's got a lot more to offer than that. Preston was playing with Mahalia Jackson when he was ten, and his skills at the organ prove it.

This post is actually a guest post sent my way by my dear friend EP over at Between Sun and Sea (we actually know each other in the physical realm too!). EP's a composer of some very strange and beautiful music (and he makes a mean mix), but he works in the film industry to pay the bills. He came across this great Preston recording while looking for soundtrack music to use in a film on which he was working. Hymns Speak from the Organ is Preston basically puttin' the church on tape; it's about as sanctified as soul can get.

Hope you dig it! Link in Comments.

Queen Bee(3)

Many gender focused and feminist jazz authors (Sherrie Tucker comes to mind) argue that women have always played a considerable role in jazz, but for various reasons--mostly because the white, male, upper-middle class critics chose not to write about them--their contributions have been celebrated so much less. Tucker and Leslie Gourse both assert that with a few well placed questions the veil lifts to reveal quite a few important women contributors in the band along with the jazzmen. I'd read the arguments and didn't disagree with them, but a recent experience leads me to believe that Tucker is more right than I ever imagined.

I was on the way to an afternoon gig at a nursing home in Mount Vernon, NY with Melvin Sparks and asked him why they had hired us that afternoon. Melvin said we were playing a birthday party for a woman who though now morbidly ill was once a bad-ass drummer (I don't remember her name, yikes!) and that, in fact, her trio, which also featured Gloria Coleman on organ, was his first gig in New York and that the two of them "introduced him to everybody." Wow. So his first gig was in a trio with two women, and those two women were responsible for getting him into the scene. And so what of these women? Have you heard of Gloria Coleman? I know little of her other than that she only recorded five albums and somebody keeps outbidding me on Ebay when I try to get them. I do know that Coleman is still around and I'm trying to get in touch with her for an interview.

So, on that note, let's celebrate the great Shirley Scott, decidedly one of the stronger voices on the Hammond Organ. Part of Scott's individuality comes from her choice to almost always use a bassist; it allows her to dry out the Hammond sound and jabbed and swell a bit more. Also, because she picked some great bassists, the music swings hard but stays a bit crisper and lighter than say a Groove Holmes swing.

On Queen of the Organ, a 1964 live set recorded in that Mecca of organ jazz, Newark, NJ, Scott teams up with her husband, tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine, bassist Bob Cranshaw and drummer Candy Finch and they play! Man the stuff is swinging. When I saw the Beatles' "Can't Buy Me Love" on the track list I thought that it would be the litmus test: would it be cheesy as hell or funky? Actually it's not really either; they play it like a burning Jimmy Smith blues and it's fantastic. The club is packed and loud, both for the music and just in general. Clearly the show was a social thing, not just a sit down and gawk affair, and the energy is high.

This rip is from the out of print Impulse! CD, they'd be wise to get it back in circulation. The link is in the comments.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Chant Down Babylon

I'm no Rasta. I find Rasta politics for the most part a bit on the conservative, Old Testament side. I love a lady in pants with something to say for herself and she certainly need not cover her head. But it's kind of funny to try and merge notions of conservative femininity from different countries. Ras Michael, the master nyabingi drummer and singer and Rasta spokesman, would most likely expect the women in his life to be as described above (you can hear him talk here but I don't think he gets into personal politics). But how about an American Evangelical conservative?

Well, to go along with those contradictory notions of Christ and warplanes or rights-at-moment-of-conception vs. not banning land mines and cluster bombs, those nutty folks that call themselves righteous really dig this Sarah Palin lady as well. Well, we already know that she's got designer glasses, can handle a semi-automatic weapon and is supposedly good looking (oh thank you American TV media for your in depth and meaningful coverage!), but what else do we know.

1) As Osama Bin Ladin and other leaders do (Mahmoud Amhadinejad comes to mind), Palin believes that "our national leaders are sending them [the troops] out for a war which is God's Plan." "Oh please," you say, that's just the liberal media talking. First, there is no liberal media. Trust me, I'm liberal and they're not. If I did the news you'd freak out (I believe that if God had a plan he'd put Amy Goodman in charge). Second, here's proof:

2) To her, "reform" means cleaning out the house to hire your friends and vindictively carry out vendettas against her opposition. She embodies the hatefulness and Republican dirty-baseball of the Rove generation. Check this excellent New York Times article thoroughly researched and co-authored by Jo Becker, Michael Powell and Peter Goodman.

3) She claims that though she has no foreign policy experience (and now admits that her "trip to Iraq" never happened), Palin believes that because one can see Russia from parts of Alaska, she's qualified to lead. As my co-worker so eloquently stated: "I can see the moon from my house, does that make me a f&*kin' astronaut?"

4) She supports "abstinence only" sex education and has a knocked up 17 year old daughter. That's funny! Actually, it's really funny. I also get a kick over what it must have been like for that boy who's the daddy when he woke up in the middle of the night to several men in dark suits who told him "you're getting married son, don't even think of anything else." At least he's marrying into a wealthy family.

I could go on for days, but this is a music blog so just go here and read some more truth. Lord knows there won't be any truth coming from the Republican party's advertisements when even the Sultan of Smear Karl Rove says McCain's party has gone "too far" from the truth.

So, where would Ras Michael stand? I bet, like fellow Rasta Cocoa Tea, or Caribbean neighbor and mega-Calypsonian Mighty Sparrow (video below), Ras Michael is all for Change this time out. After all, at the time most Rastas considered Reagan to be the devil-incarnate (his first/middle/last names each have 6 letters) and those in Jamaica have suffered dearly at the hands of the free trade clauses and oppressive policies of neo-con institutions like the World Bank and IMF (Do please check out one of the greatest documentaries ever, Life and Debt).

Ok, so this is a music blog and I feel like I owe you something for making it this far. Here's a link to the absolutely fantastic Ras Michael and Sons of Negus album "Freedom Sounds," a mix of bingi drums, guitars and vocals that might just make one feel like there's hope even amidst the barrage of consolidated media nonsense all around.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Lonnie and Ronnie, both out of print

Well, school is back on, and as mentioned I'm chipping away at 20th, and final, grade. That chipping also includes leading a 30 piece steel band, and auditioning about 60 people to get it down to 30, and that's no easy task. It's fun though, as is jamming with Anthony Braxton twice a week and finally learning Solkattu from the master South Indian musicians we've got here. Still, it all adds up to very little blogging. I do have a huge pile of great stuff I want to post, and the even better news of a newly improved album ripping rig, so there will be more to come.

For the time being I've got these two great discs to offer. First is Lonnie Smith's 1970 Blue Note session entitled Drives. It's classically funky/jazz Dr. Lonnie, but what I particularly love about his albums from this period is the extra git-up-n-go delivered by drummer Joe Dukes. Probably the most tragically under-appreciated drummer in jazz history, Dukes plays the funk, but does so with a good dose of Art Blakey so it never quite settles down. Sometimes it's good, other times the tune might have sounded better with Idris on it, but either way, you've got to appreciate the heart. It also features Dave Hubbard (sax), Larry McGee (guitar), and Smith's long-time collaborator Ronnie Cuber (Bari sax).

Speaking of underrated, Cuber's Bari sax playing should be celebrated by the President of the United States but instead he's just an insider's man. One thing I can say for sure is that most of the musicians I've ever talked to on this scene speak very highly of him, and one can hear why right away. This is a set recorded live at the Blue Note in 1986 which features Randy Brecker (tpt), Lonnie Smith (org), and Ronnie Burrage (drums). The Link is in the comments.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Live Groove

Why Richard "Groove" Holmes does not occupy a place at the mantle of jazz greats alongside all those big names Wynton Marsalis loves to spout off will always be a mystery to me. Listening to his recordings, especially the live ones, I'm left feeling as if I've heard a musician who has found the sphere of total enlightenment. Holmes had prolific chops and, partly due to his left-handedness, the ability to play both walking and funk basslines with a precision that evaded even the finest organist, yet he also seems to be completely in the moment, driving the music to peaks of intensity or the depths of whatever vibe the song had. If Holmes had worn a funny hat and made some crazy out sounds there'd probably be 10 books about him (he did make some out sounds, those pitch bends are him turning the organ off and flipping the switch back on right before the motor dies completely).

Living Soul is a testament to the power of Holmes live (DJ Prestige at Flea Market Funk did a nice write up of one track from the album here). He and his band (drummer George Randall and guitarist Gene Edwards) DESTROY this session recorded live at Basie's Basement in April 1966. They pick some cool tunes too, mixing in a couple of well-played waltzes in with barn burners and a decidedly not-schmaltzy version of "The Girl from Ipanema."

On the organ jazz scene Holmes was as giant a persona as he was a physical presence. Pretty much every older jazz organist I've ever had the chance to speak to has said that Holmes was a "beautiful cat" that would always sit down and show you something and that he was a guy who appreciated a good hang. I know he used to roll through Hartford a lot, and the people that are old enough to remember only say good things (which, if you know jazz musicians, isn't always the case).

Link in comments, leave a little something yerself

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Macka Fat! A likkle something different different

Somehow the Hammond Organ crossed the ocean in several directions and, thankfully, one of the places it settled was Jamaica. In Jamaica, the organ found many uses, most notably providing the "bubble" pattern in roots reggae. Jackie Mittoo also used it in reggae but for a different purpose, to overdub leads on pre-existing riddim tracks. In practice, Mittoo's use of the organ to replace vocals wasn't really so different from McGriff or Earland covering pop songs with their bands and the results are equally as great, yet totally different.

Even when performing live in studio with a group, the sensibility of reggae accompanists is to find a groove and stick with it. So Mittoo works differently on top of his band than his American contemporaries, leaving lots of space and not really throwing bones for the rhythm section to gnaw on and spit back out so much. Mittoo has a way with a melody, and the tunes on this 1972 album Macka Fat prove it. My two favorites are "Lazy Bones," which Mittoo lends an Eastern flair, and "Ghetto Organ" which just cruises.

Link in the comments

Say It Loud!

So, way back in the 80s someone decided it would be great to reissue Lou Donaldson's 1968 session Say It Loud on cassette and, because I have yet to score the vinyl and it's not currently on CD, I'll take it where I can get it! This is an old library version, and by the looks of it, it was an early cassette reissue. I love the A-side black/B-side white thing! I do not love the complete lack of liner notes and performing listings! Instead, this cassette came with a paragraph that discussed Lou Donaldson's tone. Alrighty then.

Here's the lineup:
Blue Mitchell (tp) Lou Donaldson (el-as) Charles Earland (org) Jimmy Ponder (g) Leo Morris [Idris Muhammad] (d) Englewood Cliffs, N.J., November 6, 1968

Say It Loud fits perfectly into Donaldson's format of the day: open with a cover that features group vocals--James Brown's "Say It Loud, I'm Black and Proud" here--follow with funky versions of a couple of standards--"Summertime," "Caravan"--then put a couple of funky ones on the B side--"Snake Bone," and "Brother Soul."

It's not the greatest Donaldson album of the period, but that's not to say it's not a great album. Really, it's still much better than 90% of the music that comes out today. I particularly like hearing Idris Muhammad on this one, he's really digging deep in his New Orlean's second line bag on "Snake Bone" and "Brother Soul," mixing the funky beats with lots of snare drum in a way that most drummers would never conceive of doing. Also, Donaldson sounds great on the Varitone, especially when he digs in on "Caravan."

Link is in comments. Enjoy

Walk On By

Happy day everyone. It's that time of year: the kids are heading back to school (that includes me, cracking the book on 20th grade....), a few trees' leaves are starting to turn, my beloved Yankees are fixing to miss out on October baseball for the first time since I was a teenager. But I'm going to power through all that and focus on all the good things in the world like my family, Internet poker, and, of course, Jack McDuff.

This one isn't his greatest, but it's certainly far from his worst. Walk On By finds the good Captain with his mid-60s quartet of Joe Dukes on drums (perhaps the most tragically overlooked drummer in jazz history), Pat Martino on guitar, and either Red Holloway or Harold Ousley on sax. Several tracks are augmented with a big band that often takes away more than it adds with that sort of Price is Right meets Austin Powers type little ditty horn section stuff. Nonetheless, there are a few mighty fine burners on here.

Link in comments

Friday, August 29, 2008

Sonny's Back

One more quick one here today from the great Sonny Stitt. This album was recorded in 1980, and although the sounds of the instruments, particularly the drums which sound like they were used on a Parliment session the night before, are a bit dated, the playing is great. Enjoy.

Sonny's Back : Sonny Stitt (as-2,ts) Ricky Ford (ts-1) Barry Harris (p) George Duvivier (b) Leroy Williams (d) New York, April 7 & July 14, 1980
Link in comments

Fried Buzzard

Here's another classic from Lou Donaldson that I've never really seen out there bouncing around. Fried Buzzard is a live set recorded in a lively room in Buffalo, NY. Although it's 1965 and therefore pre-funk Donaldson, the vibe hints at what's to come and notably it's Idris Muhammad's (then known as Leo Morris) first recording with Donaldson. Make no mistake though, the shuffles on here are funky! It's pretty cool to Idris, who had just left his Curtis Mayfield gig, playing jazz and doing it damn well.

Lou's between song banter is worth the cost of admission (which for you is free anyway) - at one point he's introduced the whole band and then says, "Ladies and gentlemen, appearing for the first time in the United States of America, from New Orleans, Louisiana, Leo Morris!" to the thunderous laughter of the far-north audience.

Lineup: Bill Hardman (tp) Lou Donaldson (as) Billy Gardner (org) Warren Stephens (g) Leo Morris (d)
Live "Bon Ton Club", Buffalo, NY, August 6 & 7, 1965

Link in comments, say a little somethin yo' self! (Avocado, read my response to your last post if you get a minute)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Yes We Can because Now's the Time

Politically, I think I represent many from my generation pretty well. I'm educated and can look past that endless stream of soundbite, lowest common denominator schlock that pumps out of the network news stations. I view the Bush administration as the low point for America in my lifetime, and imagine that it's close to a low for anyone alive. All that said, the extent of my political activism has been writing letters for various campaigns and signing nearly a billion online petitions. All in all, I haven't done much.

Tonight I did a rare thing: I turned on my TV to watch a politician. What I saw floored me.

My interest in Barack Obama was piqued last fall when I read a typically more-than-full-length article about him in the New Yorker (sorry, I couldn't locate it for a hotlink), and once I started paying attention to him, I was sold. Although I've had those rolling eyes moments with him that all politicians inspire, for the most part I'm one of the masses of youngish people who is fully on board the good ship Change.

But tonight! My God! If ever I doubted I do no longer, Obama needs to be our president.

Watching him give his 40 minute speech--done completely without paper--I realized that until now I had completely lost hope in American politics; I just assumed that I would have to vote for someone I thought sucked. Tonight he did so many things I've wanted a Democrat to do for ever like name the classic Republican attack points and address them straight on, like look into the camera and challenge the Republican candidate to question his patriotism, like call a spade a spade and say enough is enough with this Roveian Playbook/Fox News Ticker Bullsh*t and let's get down to the business of making a difference in the world. Then--gasp!--he actually told us some ways we could do it. And--gasp again!--he mentioned alternative energy and several other splendid and multidimensional ideas. I believe in Obama. Not because I think he'll come in and everything will change immediately or even that much at all from the top down in Washington, but because he will set an example with his tone and demeanor that will inspire change in thousands of small ways.

So, I know that after what Obama said tonight what I'm writing is hurried and a bit jumbled so I'm going to let it go at that. However, I am inspired to include a couple of tracks that should be connected to his campaign.

First, from New Orleans soul and funk master Lee Dorsey, the 1970 classic "Yes We Can." It's one of the funkiest tunes ever written, and the lyrics are just what Obama is talking about, so why can't he and Michelle dance to it instead of Springsteen for a night.

Lee Dorsey - Yes We Can

Fifty years ago Charlie Parker recorded "Now's the Time," and he meant the phrase in the same way Obama does when he uses it repeatedly now. Now is definitely the time. It is time for the first African-American president. It is time for a president that can reason and who values discourse, one that doesn't think it's cool to butcher the english language and joke about his poor academic career. One that sites Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Stevie Wonder as his favorite musicians on his Facebook page. It's too bad Charlie Parker didn't live to see it.

Charlie Parker - Now's the Time

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Hot Damn! Sweet Lou Live

I've been trying to track this one down for a while. You'd think that since it was reissued on CD it would be around, but no, Lou Donaldson's The Scorpion: Live at the Cadillac Club has been more elusive than a lot of vinyl. But alas, here is this fine 1970 live session from Newark, NJ that features the great Melvin Sparks (guitar), Idris Muhammad (drums, duh), Fred Ballard (trumpet), Lou (sax) and the oft-overlooked Leon Spencer Jr. (organ).

According to Melvin Sparks, Spencer moved back to Texas and made a nice living as a promoter/booking agent for rap artists. Too bad that the music alone couldn't sustain him because he's amazing; find me a funkier left hand on the can't.

The whole band cooks on this one but Idris Muhammad deserves special mention. It's so cool to hear a live recording from his heyday on Blue Note. He's just as funky as ever, but he's really pushing and stretching. Alligator Boogaloo is a 13 minute Muhammad workout, complete with a long drum break/solo over which Donaldson repeatedly shouts "Boogaloo!" Classic.

Link in comments

Jungle Soul

I was pretty happy to find this side by Gene Ammons last weekend. I've been playing the tune "Ca' Purange" in bands for the last several years, but had yet to hear his version, which I'm fairly certain is the one the tenor player who ran the group was copping.

Jungle Soul, which has apparently also been released as Bad! Bossa Nova, has to be among Ammons' best albums. The group is tight, each of the compositions has a unique character to it, and furthermore each fits with the others to make an album that has a strong concept. The lineup is great too:
Gene Ammons (ts) Hank Jones (p) Bucky Pizzarelli (spanish-g) Kenny Burrell (g) Norman Edge (b) Oliver Jackson (d) Al Hayes (bgo) New York, September 9, 1962

The group creates this light, funky "jungle" feel without any of the exotica trappings of "jungle" used by most back then. Jackson uses a lot of sidestick and links with Hayes' hand drumming without ever playing a rhythm one could identify as coming from a particular culture. Pizzarelli and Burrell lock into these fantastic staccato strumming patterns while Jones tends to hook up with Norman Edge's simple, spacious vamps. Best of all, Ammons just camps out on top, playing the kind of beefy laid-back tenor that sends guys like me to record stores 45 years later. Give thanks!

Link is in comments.

Not-so-Mellow Yellow

Avocado asked if I'd mention a bit about my academia work, so I thought I'd try to just tie it into a post. I'm currently embarking on my final year of PhD work in ethnomusicology at Wesleyan University in CT where I also did my MA. I did my MA research in Jamaica, and my focus was investigating the connections between Rastafarian nyabingi drumming, the local, hotel-based jazz "dance" band scene of the 1950-60s in Mo' Bay and Ochi, and what drummers like Lloyd Knibb of the Skatalites ultimately ended up doing when they got down to the business of making music that no longer directly copied the musicians from up North. I spent a couple of months in Jamaica chasing down bingi drummers (which makes me realize I should put up a few of the local CDs I scored) and other musicians, and I also hung with Mr. Knibb several times, both for interviews about his time a yard with Count Ossie and others (like Cedric IM Brooks whose myspace page I curate) and little sessions where we jammed along to some old recordings. If you're feeling ambitious, here's my MA thesis A Heartbeat to Fit all Songs: Three Stops on the Journey of Nyabingi (it hurts to put it out - I'd love 5 more years to research and make it stronger, but I had to move on so go easy please!).

I took a little turn for my PhD work, and have been focusing on--you guessed it--organ jazz, particularly the funky stuff. I'm really interested in how it's been almost officially written out of jazz history--not a single guitarist or organist was discussed as a band leader in the Ken Burns' series, which is the longest documentary ever created on jazz--yet it keeps coming back with young people. First, beatmakers picked the stuff up, then you had the "soul jazz jambands" that all popped up in the early 90s. Now, I think that this blogosphere we are participating in is another incarnation of the importance and great value of this music. Clearly you and me and everyone else can't be wrong! Actually, I plan to start publishing some questions for people about their interests and views on the record collector blog world out there.

So, finally to my point, here's a little gem I dug up this past weekend. I love Yellowman. He's hilarious, his flow is fantastic, and his combination of bravado and self-denigrating humor just makes him more human than most DJs. This record, Live in London, is pretty rare I think; I couldn't find much about it online anyway. It's Yellow in his prime--I'm pretty sure it's 1983--absolutely flattening an audience atop his live band.

What's so great about this one for me is hearing Yellowman interact with his band. Unlike 98% of the djs today, who only hire a band for big festivals and then treat it with less respect than Bo and Luke Duke treated their cars, Yellowman works with his band. He rides the riddims so effortlessly, and he's in total control of the dynamics, but he lets the band follow him a bit too. He's got the crowd in the palm of his hand; listening to this makes me long to go to a show where a band and a DJ are so in tune with one another and the audience, I'm just not sure it happens so much anymore (and, honestly, I've seen most of the new big name DJs at least once but I'm no hater, I think I'm just getting old). Simply put, everyone--Yellowman, the band and the crowd--were having a REALLY good time at this show.

Before downloading be warned: The album is a little beat up. It's dirty and scratched, and it was a cheap pressing to start with. So, it's hissy in places, and there are a couple of scratches (it was bargain bin baby!). Still, if you like reggae, it's worth having. I was going to separate it into tracks, but it just made more sense to just have side a/b because the music flows seamlessly.

Link is in comments.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Even Blakey Tried Different Things

Since we're hot about the rare and out of print around here, this 1966 Art Blakey release is a perfect fit. It's definitely not in print right now (there's one copy on Amazon for more than $50) and one can safely guess that Wynton Marsalis and the jazz-as-high-art machine are going to let this one stay safely out of print.

On Hold On, I'm Coming Blakey uses a huge band (more than likely the producer, Luchi De Jesus made that call) that features Grant Green, Chuck Mangione, Gary Bartz, Malcom Bass (an organist recorded once: here), and so many others all performing mid-60s pop songs arranged by Melba Liston and Tom McIntosh.

At first, I winced when I heard the buoyant trombone melody open up "Day Dream" (just think: "What a day for a day dream, la-da-da la-da-da-da-da), but it became quickly apparent that these fine musicians were going to clear the hurdle of rather cheesy compositions ("Secret Agent Man," "Monday, Monday"). In fact, these guys kill it on this album and turn what could have been a classic producer's $$$ dream disaster into a fun yet rather silly listening experience. As a bonus there's a final track pasted on the end of the album from a '65 session with Lee Morgan, John Hicks, etc. Also, great.

The link as well as the full lineup and tracks are in the comment. Leave one behind yourself if you'll be downloading please!

Reuben Wilson - The Love Bug

Another quicky here. Reuben Wilson assembles an all-star cast of Grant Green, Lee Morgan, Idris Muhammad, and George Coleman for a pretty incredible boogaloo workout. "Hot Rod" is one of the best grooves of all time in Idris proves why hip hop couldn't have happened without him about 15 times on it.

Reuben doesn't get all that much credit but he was there for the heyday of boogaloo, he was and still is funky as hell, and his records and sidemen dates are all great. He still lives in NYC and still records lots of good albums, so don't sleep on him. Unfortunately the powers that be keep most of his classics out of print, like this one, so here it is folks, I'm doing my part to keep it in print.

Link is in the comments, please leave a comment if you take it.

The Mean Machine

I don't have much time for talkin' today but have a backlog of music to post so I thought I'd get right to it. This album is atypical McGriff--he doesn't even play organ on it, mostly Rhodes and Clavinet--and although it's named Jimmy McGriff with Joe Thomas, it really should be filed under Brad Blake, the head arranger's name. (I'd say Sonny Lester but according to Melvin Sparks Lester just read the paper throughout his sessions and then said "good job" after the musicians played).

Anyway, it's a fun one, more of a 70s movie soundtrack than a jazz album for sure. The string arrangements are pretty awesome and it's fabulously dated; I know it makes me think of cops, but I'm not really sure if the cop is going to get out and arrest someone or get out and start taking a girl's clothes off...

Link is in the comments, if you're going to download it, say something for yourself. The last couple posts have had about 70 takers and only a couple of comments.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A Couple More along the Jamaica-China lines...

There has been a large Chinese presence in the Caribbean since the mid-1800s (the colonizers needed new cheap labor after West Africa was no longer an acceptable route), so naturally quite a few singers have weighed in on Caribbean-Asian women. Again, in honor of the Olympics, I thought we'd hear what Nicodemus and Yellowman had to say.

Nicodemus died in 1996 at the age of 39. How I do not know. I tried to find more info but failed. If anyone's got some, put it in the comments please, I'd love to know. This is a great 12" called "It Have fe Ram" with about 4 minutes of Nicodemus and 1 1/2 of dub at the end. Great stuff.

Yellowman on the other hand we know quite a bit about. His official website has his story, and I'll actually have a little piece about him coming out in a local newspaper next week too (probably be up there by Tuesday the 19). This tune, "Mr. Chin," is outlandish, hilarious, totally wrong, did I mention hilarious?

Dub in honor of China...

Ok, I admit it: after hearing all these stories about lip-synching and little kid switching and seeing a few 10 year old gymnasts in the Olympics, I've been rooting against China a bit. I'm about as non-nationalist as one could be most of the time, but I've been feeling a little of the USA spirit this last week.

So, when thinking about some reggae to toss up here (I've been putting up too much jazz, we want to keep it eclectic) it seemed like the two sides of this Lee Perry 7 inch would be great. "Enter the Dragon" and "Black Belt Jones" are Perry's tribute to Bruce Lee. For Perry, the tribute was realized vis-a-vis playground style Kung Fu noises, strange narration and belching over the music. Gotta love that. Personally, I think the schtick Lee Perry rocks now--singing Bob Marley tunes out of key over Dub is a Weapon--is some of the worst shit I've ever heard in my life, but this stuff here is just priceless.

If it's got Dexter Gordon and Billy Higgins, it must be good

And it is! This is a rip from an out-of-print CD on Steeplechase of a 1975 Dexter Gordon session that features Billy Higgins (drums), Tete Montoliu (piano), and Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen (bass).

Like many people, I'm a Blue Note addict, and I'm drawn first to the albums cut during the heyday of a particular period which in Dex's case would be his early '60s Blue Note albums like Go! and A Swingin' Affair. While this album doesn't pack the punch of either of those, especially sonically, it's nonetheless excellent. For one, I hear some serious development in Billy Higgins' playing. His pocket is just as light and funky as it ever was, but his soloing is on another level. Here in 1975 he's started to play about as melodically as any drummer ever has and his hands are quick. Montoliu and Pedersen are both top-notch accompanists and Dexter is his usual tenor-ripping, silly-ass-quoting self.

Link is in the comments.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

It wouldn't be Vinyl day without Jimmy McGriff

It being Vinyl Record Day (and I've even got my vinyl shirt on; I didn't plan it that way, I swear!) I'm feeling a little uppity and need to toss another classic up here. First though I wanted to direct you to a great post over at Fusion 45 about the meaning of Vinyl Record Day. I thought the idea was cool when I read it this morning, but having read Fusion 45's post, I'm now totally on board and about to start pitching some greeting card ideas to the ever-holiday-conscious folks over at Hallmark. In sum, he managed to put his finger on that place where music and life meet and articulate a little about how songs, albums, and life experiences are pretty inseparable in the end. Good stuff.

So, I know I've posted a bunch of Jimmy McGriff already, and the truth is that I have a handful more ripped and ready to go, but this one just needed to get up here fast. It's definitely not one of the McGriff sides that you see floating around as much. "Live Where the Action's At!" was released in 1967 on VEEP records, produced by Sonny Lester, and oddly enough it doesn't even appear on most of the McGriff discographies posted on the triple-W. It's old enough that the liner notes refer to Jimmy as a "young wizard."

A young wizard McGriff was as this set is hot. It's a trio date, recorded live at The Front Bar in scenic Newark, NJ, that also features the bad-as-hell guitar work of Thornell Schwartz (who Melvin Sparks said could play exactly like Charlie Christian when he wanted to) and the funky drumming of Willy Jenkins (with that name you best play the drums funky).

Every tune is good. All of them. Not a stinker. It's a classic McGriff production in that the fade outs make you want to cry - Jimmy pulls out a few stops, steps down on the volume pedal, starts to roar and then the fade starts. I mean seriously, now that every last scrap of Miles Davis has been unspliced and reissued, can we get some of the full McGriff takes? Sonny Lester, are you listening? Make one of your box sets out of that stuff man! My favorites on this album are the covers; there's something about hearing McGriff rip it up on a familiar melody that just does it for me, and I'm certain no other jazz musician did better work with popular material. "Up Tight" and "Goin' Out of My Head" are totally fantastic.

Link in the comments.

A Couple of Foundational Organists in Honor of Vinyl Day

Today is vinyl record day (I just found out myself, thanks to the great post on "The Hits Just Keep on Comin" and "Flea Market Funk"). To celebrate I thought I'd post a couple of albums from the first generation of great B3 organists.

Wild Bill Davis first convinced a reluctant Louis Jordan to allow him to play organ in his group in the 1940s. It was a huge success and from that point on Davis was an organist. Davis, who could swing straight ahead and get pretty greasy on the B3, was Jimmy Smith's inspiration in his transition from piano to B3. He kept swinging until he passed in 1995 at the age of 77.

This 1961 album, One More Time, finds Davis in the company of always fiery organ accompanist Grady Tate (drums) and guitarist Bill Jennings. There's a little exotic travel theme going on with many of the tunes (a la Sinatra - I guess people dug that back then but I've got to ask: did Americans ever live in fear of hearing the "Hawaiian War Chant"?), and some of Davis's organ sounds make me think of hot dogs and Cracker Jacks (and the Yankees losing yet again, but I'll save that rant for another blog), but on the other hand, some of his sounds are downright powerful and one can see how Mr. Davis turned the ivory-ticklin' world upside down when he dropped his first long notes on Jordan's band. My favorite track here is definitely "African Waltz."

Next up is organist Jack McDuff's first commercial recording, an organ/guitar/vox n' harmonica trio with the blues singer Shakey Jake. It's great stuff, even sans drums. I don't have too many words of wisdom about it other than it's a window into the not-so-rigidly-defined music life of African-American instrumentalists in the mid-20th century. Though it might seem strange to jazz followers now if Wynton Marsalis went and recorded with Buddy Guy (or at the least it would be a corporate mega-production stripped of spontaneity most likely), back then people just played with people for the most part.

Links in the comments.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Desperate Request: Rueben Wilson "Blue Mode"

I've been looking for this one forever! Every time it's on Ebay I get outbid, and it hasn't been on any blogs that I know of recently. If you've got it, please share!

Jonnny Lytle - The Soulful Rebel

Just a Monday afternoon quicky here: a moderately great session led by the tragically overlooked Johnny Lytle. This isn't my favorite of his recordings but it certainly isn't bad, and Miloramona over at had it up as a request so I thought I'd throw it up here.

It's early 70's jazz funk, replete with scratchy guitar and funky drums and the obligatory percussion of the 1970s (those were good years to be a percussionist man!). Though my tone probably doesn't make you want to run it right down don't be fooled, the album is certainly worth a listen!

Link is in the comments, please leave one too!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Post Hard-Bop Blakey

The mid-60s hit mainstream, non-organ jazz like a sack of bricks. Some artists adjusted, with varying results, and some artists just kept doing what they did, also with varied results. This Blakey recording from 1966 demonstrates a little of both. On one hand, I have to admit that I really enjoy Chuck Mangione's compositions, particularly the title track. Mangione's islandy "happy jazz" seems to work great for this short lived version of the Jazz Messengers, including Blakey who gives it a funky calypso beat but still really sounds like himself. The tune is also an ideal vehicle for a young Keith Jarrett who was performing with his characteristic full body presence way back in 1966.

On the other hand, Blakey does sound a little out of his element at times. His drum solo on "Recuerdo" is one of the least inspiring on record, and when the tune segues into "The Theme," one can feel the surge as he eagerly dives back into familiar territory. Saxophonist Frank Mitchell is also an example of jazz-at-the-crossroads in the mid 60s. He's good, but he's clearly been drinking from the well of Coltrane, and honestly, Blakey's music just doesn't want that. We can say that he was one of the first of the nearly 10 million saxophonists to try and play John Coltrane on everything all the time! Sometimes a melody is a fantastic thing though man!

Overall though, I'd say this is an incredible album, and I just can't believe it hasn't been reissued, especially since it has both Mangione and Jarrett on it.

Post in comments. Leave one yourself!

Calvin Bubbles Cameron

Ok, so it seems like no one liked the Bootsy! It's got almost no downloads but the jazz stuff was flying off the server! Well, I'm still not back to the jazz (but there's plenty coming, have no fear). Next up is a very rare bit of nyabingi/jazz.

Though he's been around seemingly for ever, recording on all the classic nyabingi/jazz albums--Cedric IM Brooks' Light of Saba, The Mystic Revelation of Rastafari's Groundation and many others--Bubbles' own albums have flown largely under the radar. In fact, after stumbling across this record at a small store I did an internet search to see what I'd found and came up with ZERO hits. It's almost like this one doesn't exist.

However, it does exist, and it's got some great tunes on it. They're a great combination of tight nyabingi drumming and Bubbles' strong trombone playing. His tunes are unusual too, he seems to excel at writing melodies with odd forms, and it sounds like the group really worked on pulling this material together; it's not a fireside jam.

Sorry for bad scan of the cover! I actually lent this album to my friend to rip, and he just sent me the files digitally so I don't have it back to take a photo of yet.

The link is in the comments - please leave a comment behind too!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


I wanted to make sure I didn't get started with nothing but the Hammond Organ so I did a little digging at home and found this gem. I remember the day I got it. Freshly equipped with a driver's license way back in 1993 I set out for a record store in West Haven, CT armed with the notion that I was going to find some "real funk" (I think my drum teacher told me I'd better get to work on that if I didn't want to sound too square forever). At the time, I don't think I knew Parliment/Funkadelic from Kenny G, so clearly, the cover sold me on this one.

But, what a find it was! Sometimes you can judge an album by it's cover. And what a lineup too! Wow. Admittedly I hadn't pulled it out in years, but now that I have, I think I like it more than I ever did before. Too bad whoever the original owner was ended up with the cutout glasses! And, let's get it out in the open: Bootsy was the Player of the Year when Dave Chappelle was still a toddler!

Yes, Bootsy is over the top. Yes, sometimes the lengthy vamps and the "Yabba dabba doooo babies!" get a wee bit monotonous, but overall, this album is really quite excellent. I think my favorite track has to be "Very Yes," but they're all good, or at least charming. I don't think I could listen to "As In I Love You" very many times, but hearing Bootsy trying to be sincere is pretty priceless. Oh yeah, and Maceo shows up strong on this one. Catfish Phelps, Fred Wesley, P-Nut...The Link is in the comments.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Have you heard of Rusty Bryant?

Honestly, you probably have not. But that's okay. The fine contributors over at My Favourite Sound, who always have outstanding posts, have just put up a couple of Bryant sides that are so good I had to post about them.

I really can't say enough about the album "Fire Eater" that Jazzypier just posted over there. Bryant is a titan on tenor, the little recorded and a bit Melvin Sparksian guitarist Wilber Longmire leaves one wondering just why more people didn't record him, and Idris Muhammad delivers one of the most inspired performances I've ever heard from him, he's hitting hard.

Go check it out for yoself!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Three for Jimmy McGriff

First off let me say thanks to those of you that posted comments, I appreciate it. Now that I'm taking a stab at running a blog I can see why everyone always wants comments, it really makes one feel like he does it for a reason.

So this next post is a trifecta from the one and only Jimmy McGriff, God rest his soul. I could wax poetic about him for days--that completely untranscribable phrasing, the way he sits at the front edge of a vamp, pushing the tempo just a bit, how those pop tunes that would sound like utter muzak in almost any other jazz musician's repertoire come alive beneath his fingers and feet, how those pop tunes that sound like muzak even when the band behind him is playing them sound great the moment he enters on organ.......

The first album is Stump Juice, a Sonny Lester, Groove Merchant production from 1975 (band lineup and details below). It's not my favorite McGriff--I think some of the synth work leaves a bit to be desired (like on "Purple Onion" for instance)--but it's still very much a worthwhile grab nonetheless. My two favorites on this album are saxophonist Leo Johnson's "Cumayon" and the tune "Pisces" that guitarist Jimmy Ponder rips all over. And, as usual, McGriff sounds soulful and inspired throughout.

Also included in the same .zip file is Honey, a 1968 Solid State release also produced by Lester. It's got 11 very short tracks, all R&B/Soul covers. The band isn't tight--check out how many times they flub the form on "Since You've Been Gone"--but they are clearly having a good time, playing with admirable energy, especially for a group who is obviously reading some charts for the first or second time, and of course McGriff is doing his thing all over it. The cover of the James Brown classic "I got the Feelin" is worth the album alone.

Finally, I've ripped my copy of the surprisingly great 1986 Hank Crawford and Jimmy McGriff album Soul Survivors. Maybe it's my age--born in the late 70s--but I tend to just assume that jazz from the 80s is going to...well, suck (have a look at that album cover and tell me it didn't make you think the same thing; it looks like a back drop from In Living Color). However, this album just does not. Bernard Purdie's presence on the album is STRONG and though the compositions are a bit run-of-the-mill, the band seems to be thoroughly enjoying themselves. And I'll say it again: McGriff sounds awesome.

The musicians are:

Honey : Jimmy McGriff (org) with tp's, tb, as, prob. Fats Theus (el-ts) bar, g, el-b, d.
New York, 1968

Stump Juice : 2 tp-1, fl-2, Leo Johnson, Jesse Morrison (as,ts) Joe Thomas (ts-4) Jimmy McGriff (org,el-p) Ernest Jones (synt-3) Jimmy Ponder (g) Ralph Byrd (rhythm-g) Andy McCloud (b) Bobby Cranshaw (b-5) Lawrence Killian (d,perc)
New York, 1975 ?

Soul Survivors : Hank Crawford/Jimmy McGriff : Hank Crawford (as) Jimmy McGriff (org,synt) George Benson (el-g-1) Jim Pittsburgh (el-g-2) Bernard "Pretty" Purdie (d) Mel Lewis (d-3)

Links below, please leave a comment!
Honey and Stump Juice:
Soul Survivors: