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:

Monday, July 28, 2008

The First Post! Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt - You Talk That Talk!

I'm quite excited to kick off this blog. The idea has actually been bouncing around in my head for some time; pretty much every time I downloaded an album from one of the other myriad LP ripper blogs out there (soon to be detailed in my links on the right...) I thought to myself: "Don't just be a lurker; you need to share!" So, here I am, a little over a year later, finally starting to contribute.

Some might see the title "Roots is for Everyone" and think this is just a reggae page, but it's not. Certainly I plan on posting some reggae, but to me "roots" is a much broader idea. I take a stab at it in the page header but I'll state it again here: simply put, to me anyway, "roots" just means "real." So, it's fitting that my first post is from such an amazing batch of musicians.

Organist Leon Spencer, guitarist George Freeman and drummer Idris Muhammad would be worthy of a record date as a trio, but put them behind the warrior reedsmen Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt and you've got the realist sh&t around. What I love so much about both Stitt and Ammons is their ability to keep it real across generations. Either guy could have just stuck with what he was doing in the 50s and still been considered the Puba, yet they both chose to infuse their music with the young guns' sounds instead. In retrospect it seems like only a fool would have passed up the chance to improvise over the pulse of Idris Muhammad, but many did.

Guitarist Melvin Sparks, who did a date with Leon Spencer, Idris Muhammad and Sonny Stitt (Turn it On, now reissued as part of the "Legends of Acid Jazz Series") put it to me this way (and I'm roughly paraphrasing here too btw): "It was actually the producer's ideas. Somebody went to Sonny and said 'why should Lou Donaldson be making all the money? Let me record you with these young guys.'" According to Sparks, Stitt was all for making the money but he also had a great time doing the session. The fiery jams on Turn It On suggest that Stitt was pretty inspired by the those guys as well. As far as I can tell though, the money never really came rushing in.

This session has a little bit more of a traditional organ, guitar n' tenor feel to it, but that's certainly not a bad thing. Enjoy this out of print album (I will never post an album that is currently available as a reissue on this page by the way) and please feel free to leave a comment for me too. It's ripped from my vinyl copy as a .wav file and I converted it to 320 Mp3. Here 'tis:

Oh yeah, one last thing. I haven't gotten access to a scanner big enough to scan these album covers yet, but I will. In the meantime scavenged internet images will have to suffice.

The session details (from
Label: Prestige
Catalog#: PR 10019
Format: Vinyl, LP
Genre: Jazz
Style: Soul-Jazz
Credits: Drums - Idris Muhammad
Guitar - George Freeman
Organ - Leon Spencer, Jr.
Producer - Bob Porter
Recorded By - Rudy Van Gelder
Saxophone [Tenor] - Gene Ammons , Sonny Stitt
Notes:Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, February 8, 1971


You Talk That Talk! (5:55)
Body And Soul (4:12)
The People's Choice (6:55)
Katea's Dance (6:40)
The Sun Died (4:40)
Out Of It (5:00)