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!