CULT CLASSIC: TEA AND SYMPHONY-AN ASYLUM FOR THE MUSICALLY INSANE.

Cult Classic: Tea and Symphony-An Asylum For The Musically Insane.

When the original lineup of Tea and Symphony was founded in Birmingham, England, in the late-sixties, they were an acoustic group who have since been compared to Marc Bolan’s Tyrannosaurus Rex. The group was founded by Jeff Daw, James Langston and Nigel Phillips, but when they played live they were sometimes augmented by guest musicians. 

That was also the case when they recorded their debut album An Asylum For The Musically Insane in 1969. It’s an ambitious, oft-overlooked and underrated album that sadly, never found the audience it  deserved. However, looking back, commercial consideration was never Tea and Symphony’s raison d’être.

After the group was formed in the late-sixties, Tea and Symphony soon became familiar faces on Birmingham’s vibrant music scene which was thriving. However, Tea and Symphony were unlike most of the groups playing locally. Their stage shows which were regarded as “strange” and gig goers weren’t used to a band who combined music and theatrical content in their sets. This was something that they would add to over the next year or so.

Before that, Tea and Symphony became the first local band to appear at the now famous Mothers’ club, in the Birmingham district  of Erdington. It was previously the Carlton Ballroom, and was run by John ‘Spud’ Taylor and promoter Phil Myatt, until it closed its doors on the ‘3rd’ of January 1971. By then, over 400 artists and bands had played their ranging from the great and good of rock right through to aspiring and up-and-coming bands like Tea and Symphony.

They were following in the footsteps of groups like Pink Floyd by using light shows and projecting films onto the stage. However, they went further when they added a mime artist to their act. 

This was Jonathan Benyon who at the time was also known as Cockroach, and roadied for Tea and Symphony as well as Locomotive. However, he was also the mime artist Dr Smock, who wore a surgeons gown and danced under a strobe light.

Mime wasn’t just a gimmick and according to James Langston was an important part of their music:  “The mime is very much related to what is going on musically. Our music has a lot of mood changes and we improvise to a certain extent…I think audiences who haven’t heard us before sometimes find our music very strange because of its originality. I see Tea and Symphony developing as a mini travelling theatre.” Alas, that didn’t happen.

In 1969, Tea and Symphony headed out on tour with Tamworth-based progressive blues group Bakerloo. The tour transformed both their careers when they were signed by Harvest, the new EMI imprint.

Later in 1969, Tea and Symphony began working with producer Gus Dudgeon,  who previously, had been working Ten Years After. By then, their sophomore album Stonedhenge had enjoyed success on both sides of the Atlantic, and so would Ssssh when it was released in August 1969.

When Tea and Symphony headed to Trident Studios, in London, for their first session with Gus Dudgeon they recorded a cover of Procol Harum’s Boredom which became their debut single. It was an accessible and radio friendly song that had commercial appeal. On the B-Side was the Jeff Daw composition Armchair Theatre which was more like Tea and Symphony’s true sound and featured on their debut album An Asylum For The Musically Insane.

Despite Tea and Symphony’s  debut single Boredom having commercial potential, it failed commercially upon its release in 1969. This was disappointing for the group who hoped that their debut album would fare better.

For An Asylum For The Musically Insane, Tea and Symphony’s songwriter-in-chief Jeff Daw penned Armchair Theatre, Feel How So Cool The Wind, Sometime and The Come On. He also cowrote Maybe My Mind (With Egg) and Terror In My Soul with Nigel Phillips who contributed Nothing Will Come Of Nothing. James Langston the other member of the group wrote Winter and the one cover versions was Fred Neil’s Travellin’ Shoes. These tracks became An Asylum For The Musically Insane.

Recording took place at Trident Studios, with producer Gus Dudgeon and engineer Barry Sheffield.  Jeff Daw, James Langston and Nigel Phillips played an interesting and eclectic collection of acoustic and electric instruments and were joined by several guest artists. This included bassists Ron Chesterman and Mick Hincks, drummer Bob Lamb and Gus Dudgeon who added percussion on album that was very different to the majority of the albums being released in 1969.

Most groups were releasing albums that had commercial potential. This sometimes meant compromising and got in the way of artistic integrity. However, Tea and Symphony wanted to make an artistic statement and weren’t it seems, willing to compromise. Their debut  album An Asylum For The Musically Insane was totally different from anything that was released at that time. 

Critics on hearing the album couldn’t make up their mind about Tea and Symphony’s debut. Some called the album “brilliant,” others “bizarre” and others regarded the music as “self-indulgent.” That was a word that was often used to describe albums of progressive rock. Usually when the critic didn’t understand, or take the time to understand what a group were trying to achieve. That may have been the case with Tea and Symphony’s musical statement An Asylum For The Musically Insane. It was way an album that was way ahead of its time.

When An Asylum For The Musically Insane was released by Harvest later in 1969, the album failed commercially. For the group this was disappointing, but they wanted to be successful on their terms and weren’t willing to compromise.

That was the case on Armchair Theatre which opens An Asylum For The Musically Insane finds Tea and Symphony doing things their way. They flit between genres including folk and incorporate elements of vaudeville as they combine their vocals with an eclectic selection of instruments on this wonderfully eccentric track. It’s just a musical amuse bouche though.

Initially, Feel How So Cool The Wind is eerie and atmospheric, and as soon as the vocal enters there’s an element of drama as the wind blows. What follows is a story of demon worlds where it looks like someone is about to freeze to death. However, there’s a  twist in the tale with a barroom singalong. Sometime is another adventure in acid folk, and features just a hand drum, guitars and bass. Jeff Daw and James Langston share the lead vocal and are accompanied by backing vocals which have been treated with echo. This is effective and plays a part in the song’s sound and success. It gives way to the lysergic and Eastern sounding Maybe My Mind (With Egg) before the bluesy sounding The Come On closes side one.

Terror In My Soul opens side two and as it unfolds, Tea and Symphony’s love of theatre is apparent. There’s an element of drama as the tension builds as a guitar is strummed briskly and a flute adds to this sinister sounding song that is one of the album’s highlights. A bluesy harmonica sets the scene on a captivating cover of Fred Neil’s Travellin’ Shoes which is rich in imagery. So is Winter which veers between haunting, atmospheric and cinematic. Providing a backdrop for the vocal are a carefully chosen selection of instruments, a myriad of sounds  and even birdsong. They play their part in what’s an outstanding track. Closing side two is Nothing Will Come Of Nothing, and as a harpsichord plays, there’s no hint of what’s to come. Soon, a piano accompanies a dramatic, powerful vocal before surprises aplenty are sprung.  Meanwhile,  every instrument seems to have been perfectly chosen as the arrangement waltzes and swings and seems to head in the direction of free jazz before preferring an apology. It’s not needed and instead, Tea and Symphony should take a bow as one of the great lost albums of the late-sixties comes to a close.

An Asylum For The Musically Insane was an ambitious and unconventional album where Tea and Symphony flit between and fuse disparate musical genres. This includes everything from avant-garde, blues and classical to folk rock, progressive folk,  psychedelic rock and progressive rock. As they do, they use acoustic instruments as the basis for many arrangements and the vocal arrangements were very  different to the majority of albums. They’re sometimes theatrical and dramatic as if Tea and Symphony are playing parts in a play. That is no surprise as the group loved theatre and it was always part of their sets. They decided to incorporate an element of theatre and drama into their music. Alas, this was something that some critics and record buyers neither understood nor were willing to embrace.

Maybe a wonderfully eccentric album like An Asylum For The Musically Insane was the type of album a more established group could’ve risked releasing? It was maybe too soon for Tea and Symphony who were just beginning their recording career. However, they were musical mavericks and were determined to do things their way.

Most groups who were signed to by a label of the stature of Harvest would’ve “played the game” and recorded an album that had much more commercial potential.  Even if deep down, they may have wanted to make a musical statement with an ambitious album that was very different to everything else on the shelves of record shops. That was the case right down to the distinctive album cover. 

Tea and Symphony succeeded in making a musical statement with An Asylum For The Musically Insane which is akin to a musical roller coaster with twists and turns aplenty during the nine tracks.  It was an unconventional album where the music that is well worth discovering and persevering with. Not everyone will “get” the album when they first listen to it. However, after several listens they’ll have discovered the delights of Tea and Symphony’s oft-overlooked debut album An Asylum For The Musically Insane, which is a hidden gem full of subtleties and nuances where the imaginative and multi-talented Birmingham-based trio dared to be so different, and thanks goodness they did.

Cult Classic: Tea and Symphony-An Asylum For The Musically Insane.

CULT CLASSIC: HERBIE HANCOCK-THE PRISONER.

Cult Classic: Herbie Hancock-The Prisoner.

In the summer of 1968 Herbie Hancock left Miles Davis Quintet to form his own group. This was a risky move, but one he felt he had to make to develop as a composer, bandleader and pianist.

During the summer of 1968 Herbie Hancock also released his sixth album for Blue Note Records, Speak Like A Child. It was one of the most ambitious albums of his career, 

Speak Like A Child was an album that featured Herbie Hancock’s own philosophy which had been inspired by his childhood. The only problem was he knew his music didn’t reflect what was going on in modern day America. When he turned on his television there were reports about the economy which had taken a downturn, the riots in cities across America which was still blighted by racism. 

Instead, Herbie Hancock wanted to offer “a forward look into what could be a bright future “ on Speak Like A Child. He wanted to rediscover some of the  qualities of childhood: “we lose and wish we could have back — purity, spontaneity. When they do return to us, we’re at our best.” With all this in mind, Speak Like a Child where the listener can: “think and feel in terms of hope, and the possibilities of making our future less impure.”

Speak Like A Child featured Herbie Hancock’s sextet, and was recorded at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, on the ‘6th’ and ‘9th’ of March 1968. Joining pianist Herbie Hancock was drummer Mickey Roker, bassist Ron Carter and an unusual horn section that featured alto flautist Jerry Dodgion, bass trombonist Peter Phillip and Thad Jones on flugelhorn. Taking charge of production was Duke Pearson on a swinging album of hard bop that to some extent, was an extension of Maiden Voyage.

When Speak Like A Child was released it was well received by critics. However, just like so many ambitious and innovative albums critics and record buyers didn’t quite “get” Speak Like A Child. Despite that, Herbie Hancock was determined to continue to create music that pushed musical boundaries and took jazz in a new direction for his next album The Prisoner.

The Prisoner.

By the time Herbie Hancock was ready to begin work on The Prisoner, executives at Blue Note Records knew it was his swansong for the label that had been his home since he released his debut Takin’ Off in 1962. Seven years had passed and now he was preparing to record his seventh album before signing a lucrative contract with Warner Bros. Records. However,  Herbie Hancock was determined to go out on a high with the most ambitious album of his career The Prisoner.

Herbie Hancock said that The Prisoner was dedicated to the memory of Dr Martin Luther King, and was a “social statement written in music.” The Prisoner is now regarded as one of Herbie Hancock’s most ambitious albums and his greatest and grandest album since My Point of View. It finds Herbie Hancock who had just turned twenty-nine, leading an eleven piece band that featured some of the best and most inventive and imaginative jazz musicians. 

Just like Speak Like A Child, Duke Pearson produced The Prisoner which was recorded at Van Gelder Studio,Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Joining Herbie Hancock who switches between acoustic and electric piano are drummer Tootie Heath, bassist Buster Williams. They were joined by flautist Herbert Laws, trombonist Garnett Brown, bass trombonists Tony Studd and Jack Jeffers, Johnny Coles on flugelhorn,bass clarinetist Romeo Penque and Jerome Richardson who also played flute. Joe Henderson switched between tenor saxophone and alto flute on the five tracks that became The Prisoner.

Herbie Hancock wrote I Have a Dream, The Prisoner, He Who Lives in Fear and Promise of the Sun. The other track was Firewater a Buster Williams composition. These tracks were recorded on the ‘18th,’ ‘21st’ and ’23rd’ of April 1969 with Duke Pearson, and once the album was completed it was scheduled for release later that year. 

Not only was The Prisoner Herbie Hancock’s swansong for Blue Note Records, it was also his most ambitious album. The concept behind The Prisoner was a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King who had been assassinated on April the ‘4th’ 1968 aged just thirty-nine. Herbie Hancock wants the music to evoke his spirit and dreams through what spacious, experimental post bop. For much of the album, the music doesn’t follow conventional patterns, and at times can be challenging. However, the music is still melodic and Herbie Hancock remembered to leave space in his compositions and arrangements during what’s still an accessible album with a story behind each composition.  

Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous phrase I Have a Dream, lent its name to the album opener. It’s an ambitious eleven minute epic, and was followed by the title-track. Its composer, Herbie Hancock, explained that The Prisoner is about: “how black people have been imprisoned for a long time.”  Firewater was meant to sympbolise the duality of the oppressor and the oppressed. Fire was meant to symbolise the heat in violence as well as the abuse of power, while the feeling of water recalls Dr. Martin Luther King. He Who Lives In Fear refers to Dr King as he “had to live in an atmosphere charged with intimidation.” Herbie Hancock explained how Promise Of The Sun which closes the album symbolises: “how the sun promises life and freedom to all living things, and yet blacks are not yet free.” 

During The Prisoner, Herbie Hancock, Johnny Coles on flugelhorn and Joe Henderson on tenor saxophone and alto flute exchange a series of breathtaking solos and drive each other to greater heights. Joe Henderson plays a starring role and was picked out for praise by calling him one of the finest flautists classical or jazz music. That was high praise but it’s soon apparent why.

It’s a case of  expect the unexpected during the solos which take twists and turns veering between alluring and provocative, to emotive, haunting, and soul-baring. There’s a starkness to the melodies which became sombre, and ruminative and invites reflection. No longer is there anything to celebrate and the joyous is gone after Dr. Martin Luther King was ruthlessly and heartlessly gunned down. As a result, the music makes the listener contemplate and wonder what might have been? It’s a powerful and poignant album from Herbie Hancock who was leaving Blue Note Records on a high.

When critics heard The Prisoner, the majority wrote positive reviews praising an ambitious, innovative and cerebral concept album. However, just like Speak Like A Child some critics didn’t seem to understand the album or the concept behind it. Ironically both Speak Like A Child and The Prisoner are regarded as classics.

When The Prisoner was released later in 1969, Herbie Hancock was a happy man and said: “Generally speaking, I’ve been able to get closer to the real me with this album than on any other previous one.” 

Just like Speak Like A Child, he had also succeed in making an album that was accessible. “I want my music to evolve toward a point where it can contain that part of me that is relatively most musical to people–but in a jazz climate that can communicate to the general public. I am trying to write hummable tunes with a kind of rhythmic element people can be infected with, and one key to the rhythmic thing is the duple meter. People can identify more with duple meter, so the drummer does play a meter but does not, however, play rock per se, so you hear the drummer playing jazz.” 

He went on to say: “Harmony is the element that offers even more flexibility. The differentiated positioning of chords in my Maiden Voyage is an example, and Speak like A Child is somewhat like a pop ballad. It’s an extension of the concept of simple melody and rhythm related to a more advanced harmony. It’s like a huge door with a lot of little doors to the outside public and I’m trying different doors.”

Herbie Hancock’s decision to try “different doors” meant he was able to compose and record music that was modern, exciting, experimental, innovative and different to everything that had gone before. He was ensuring jazz evolved and to do this, he expanded his band and added different instruments including the bass trombone and bass clarinet which other bands didn’t use. 

What also helped he explained was that: “All my soloists, play a different style, but some part of each is related to each other, and I do some of all of their thing.” This he does throughout The Prisoner. 

Different accents, clusters, splashes and sounds are used throughout The Prisoner by Herbie Hancock’s and his band combine musical genres to paint pictures and create music that is melodic, rich in imagery and full of emotion on what’s a powerful and poignant concept album that remembered Dr. Martin Luther King on what’s a now considered a jazz classic. 

Cult Classic: Herbie Hancock-The Prisoner.

CULT CLASSIC: DR JOHN THE NIGHT TRIPPER-THE SUN, MOON AND HERBS.

Cult Classic: Dr John The Night Tripper-The Sun, Moon and Herbs.

By July 1970, twenty-nine year old Dr John was about to begin recording his fourth album for Atco which eventually became The Sun, Moon and Herbs.  He had written six new track and cowrote Familiar Reality (Opening) with Jesse Hill and he planned to record these tracks with an all-star band in London, Miami and Los Angeles. Dr John hoped the he and his musical friends would record an album that transformed his fortunes.

Dr John had already released three ambitious genre-melting  albums for Atco, that had failed to find the audience they deserved. He knew deep in his heart he knew that if his next album didn’t chart he could be looking for a new label. The problem was critics, record buyers and even the founder of Atlantic Records didn’t understand his music which was ahead its time.  That was the case with his debut album Gris Gris, which was released in 1968 and marked the start of Dr John’s Atco Records’ years.

Gris Gris.

When a copy of Dr John’s debut album Gris Gris was sent to Atlantic Records’ founder Ahmet Ertegun he disliked the album so much, that he was reluctant to even release the album and said: “how can we market this boogaloo crap?” This wasn’t the response that Dr John had been hoping when he recorded Gris Gris which was a combination of psychedelia, blues, free jazz, R&B, soul, funk, jazz. Add to this psychedelic stew the authentic music of the melting pot that is New Orleans and the voodoo image that Dr John had carefully cultivated  and Gris Gris was like no other album that Atlantic Records had released. That presented the label with a huge problem. 

Atlantic Records’ PR department had idea to promote an album like Gris Gris, as they had no cultural reference points, nothing to compare the album to. Despite the best efforts of Atlantic Records PR department, when Gris Gris was released on January the ’22nd’ 1968 and introduced the world to Dr John The Night Tripper, it failed to trouble the charts and neither critics nor record buyers understood Dr John’s groundbreaking debut album. However, like so many albums that fail to find an album on their release, Gris Gris was later reappraised and belatedly, was recognised as a seminal album that was the start of a rich vein of form from Dr John.

This was the start of a six-year period when Dr John could no wrong, and released seven innovative albums that are among the his finest work. These albums are the perfect introduction to Dr John, who followed up Gris Gris with Babylon.

Babylon.

Babylon which was recorded in late 1969, which was a turbulent time for Dr John, who was experiencing  problems in his personal life. “I was being pursued by various kinds of heat across LA” and this influenced the album he was about to make. So would the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr and the Vietnam War which is referenced in The Patriotic Flag-Waiver. The title-track Babylon was recorded in 3/4 and 10/4 time, and featured Dr John thoughts on the state of world in late 1968. It was a part of a powerful album that was released in early 1969.

Babylon was released on January the ’17th’ 1969 was a powerful, cerebral and innovative genre-melting album which socially had much in common with Dr John’s debut album Gris Gris. However, critics didn’t ‘get’ Babylon and the album which failed commercially. However, just like Gris Gris, Babylon was later reappraised by critics and nowadays is regarded as one of his finest albums and a minor classic.

Remedies.

Following the commercial failure of Babylon, things went from bad to worse for Dr John, before he could begin work on his third album Remedies. This started when a deal went south, and he was arrested by the police and ended up in jail. It was a worrying time for Dr John who was parole, and if he ended up with a parole violation, he knew he might end up in the infamous Angola jail. That didn’t bare thinking about, and already Dr John was desperate to get out of the local jail. However, he needed someone to post bail, so contacted his managers who he remembers: “were very bad people.” This proved to be an understatement. 

Not long after this, Dr John’s managers had him committed to  a psychiatric ward, where he spent some time. By then, it was obvious to Dr John that his managers were no longer playing by the rules. All he wanted to do was make music, and everything that had happened recently were nothing to do with music. Instead, it was all connected to Dr John’s increasingly chaotic lifestyle, which made it all the more frustrating for those that realised just how talented the Gris Gris Man was.

Eventually, having managed to put his problems behind him, Dr John wrote the six tracks that became Remedies using his real name Mac Rebennack. Among the tracks Dr John had written was What Goes Around Comes Around which later became a favourite during his live shows and Mardi Gras Day which paints pictures of New Orleans when it comes out to play. Very different was Angola Anthem which was inspired by a friend of Dr John’s who had just been released from Angola, the Louisiana State Penitentiary after forty years. Dr John paid tribute to his friend with an eighteen minute epic that took up all of side two of Remedies. It was produced by one of the most successful producers of the day.

Although Harold Battiste had produced Gris Gris and Babylon, he was replaced by Tom Dowd and Charles Greene who were tasked with transforming Dr John’s career. However, although Tom Dowd was enjoying the most successful period of his career, he had never worked with anyone like Dr John. 

When the recording of Remedies began, Dr John was joined by a small band that featured Cold Grits who played drums, bass and guitar and backing vocalists Shirley Goodman, Tami Lynn and Jessie Hill who also played percussion. Dr John played piano, added his unmistakable vocals and despite losing part of a finger during a shooting a few years previously, he played guitar on Remedies which was released in the spring of 1970.

Just like his two previous albums, critics didn’t seem to understand Remedies, which was credited to Dr John The Night Tripper. Remedies was another ambitious album of genre-melting, voodoo-influenced album where Dr John The Night Tripper through everything from psychedelia, blues, R&B, soul, funk and jazz into the musical melting pot and gave it a stir to create an album where the music was mysterious, otherworldly and haunting. 

That was the case from the album opener Loop Garoo while there’s a darkness and defiance to the lyrics to the hook-laden What Comes Around (Goes Around) which showed another side to Dr John. His recent problems and  experiences had influenced Wash, Mama, Wash where soaring backing vocals and horns accompany Dr John on a track that is tinged with humour. The horns return and play their part in the success of Chippy Chippy, before the darkness describes and music becomes moody and broody as chants, moans and cries emerge from this lysergic voodoo stew of Mardi Gras Day which gives way to the otherworldly eighteen minute epic Angola. It brought Remedies to a close, which was a potent and heady brew from Dr John The Night Tripper.

By the time Remedies was released on April ‘9th’ 1970, some FM radio stations had picked up on the album, and were playing it on their late shows. Despite the radio play Remedies had received, the album never troubled the charts, and it was only much later that record buyers realised that they had missed out on another important and innovative album from Dr John The Night Tripper.

The Sun, Moon and Herbs.

Despite Dr John The Night Tripper’s first three albums failing to find an audience, many of his fellow musicians were fans of his music, and were only too happy to feature on his fourth album The Sun, Moon and Herbs. This included Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, Bobby Whitlock, Graham Bond, Carl Radle, Jim Gordon and Doris Troy. They were joined by The Memphis Horns as Dr John and Charles Greene took charge of production as they recorded the album at Trident Studios in London, Dimension Recorders in Hollywood, Los Angeles and Criteria Sound in Miami. When the album was finished it was the most important of Dr John The Night Tripper’s career. 

He and his all-star band were responsible for a dark and swampy sounding album that is rich in imagery and paints pictures of New Orleans on a hot, sticky night as thunder crackles and rumbles in the distance like the drums on The Sun, Moon and Herbs. When it was released on August the ’31st’ 1971, still critics struggled to understand Dr John’s music. However, this time, The Sun, Moon and Herbs which featured an all-star cast, spent five weeks in the US Billboard 200 and peaked at 184. At last, Dr John’s music was starting to find a wider audience. However, given the quality of the music this cult classic should’ve been much more successful.

Side One.

The Sun, The Moon  Herbs opens with Black John The Conqueror where  Dr John plays a dramatic, jangly piano solo before his lived-in, worldweary vocal enters. He’s accompanied by drums, a pulsating bass and soaring, soulful female backing vocalists. They provide the perfect contrast to Dr John’s vocal, By then, the horns have entered and the arrangement has grown as elements of soul, New Orleans funk and jazz are combined by Dr John and his all-star band and backing vocalists. They play a starring role in a track that’s dramatic, atmospheric, funky , soulful and features some of the best lyrics on the album.

Stabs of grizzled  horns open Where Ya At Mule before Dr John’s piano ushers in the backing vocalists and guitar. They accompany Dr John whose voice veers between joyous and hesitant as if not sure what to expect when he arrives home. Meanwhile, braying horns, a bluesy guitar and backing vocalists combine elements of jazz, New Orleans funk, swampy soul and gospel-tinged harmonies. Later, a searing  guitar cuts through the arrangement, a trumpet plays and swaying harmonies accompany Dr John. His vocal grows in power and becomes joyous and emotive as the drama builds as the soulful backing vocals, growling horns and searing rocky guitar combine as the arrangement to one of the album’s highlights sways and swings.

Craney Crow has a slow, hesitant start, with the arrangement atmospheric and almost eery. A pulsating bass, rumbling drums, haunting guitar, mournful, braying horns, chanted vocals and sweeping harmonies are combined with a sample of child’s voice. Eventually, Dr John’s growling vocal enters, accompanied by soulful backing vocals. They’re a contrast to Dr John’s raspy, menacing growl. Behind him, drums are spacious, atmospheric, while guitars and bass play occasionally. Mostly, it’s call and response between Dr John and the backing vocalists. When Dr John sings, the lyrics are atmospheric, telling of the colourful side of New Orleans. Meanwhile, a slide guitar, prowling bass, drums, percussion and brief bursts of Hammond organ play their part in this dark, atmospheric and moody sounding song with a soulful side thanks to the backing vocalists

Side Two.

The tempo rises on Familiar Reality-Opening as the rhythm and horn section combine before Dr John’s vocal enters.  It’s loud and strong as he plays piano. Meanwhile, horns soar above the arrangement and is accompanied by a weeping and later searing, scorching guitar. Add to this percussion and a pulsating bass and Dr John’s jangling piano. Later, his vocal becomes a soliloquy  as horns bray, percussion plays and the bass prowls. By then, Dr John and his band are in the groove and are fusing jazz,  funk, blues and R&B during one of the album’s highlights which features a standout performance from his all-star band.

Understated and melodic describes the shuffling  introduction to Pots On Fiyo (File Gumbo/Who I Got To Fall On (If the Pot Gets Heavy)). After the meandering, melodic opening, Dr John whispers the vocal as he plays his piano. Quickly his vocal get stronger as backing vocalists accompany him, their voices high. Congas play, accompanying the piano as the arrangement starts to fill out, the tempo rising. Drums, percussion, rasping saxophone and soulful backing vocalists join in. Their voices grow in power as they  repeat the same line while guitars, rhythm and the horn section play. They’re part of a genre-melting arrangement briefly that latterly, becomes discordant and adds to the atmospheric and eerie ending.

A tuba plays slowly opening Zu Zu Mamou before the rhythm section guitar, percussion and then Dr John’s whispery vocal enters. It’s joined  backing vocalists who add to atmospheric, sinister and  moody meandering arrangement. Behind Dr John’s vocal,  a bass prowls menacingly,  drums rumble, as backing singers coo and percussion adds to the almost pedestrian paced arrangement. Occasionally a piano or guitar plays, but everything just enters and disappears, and at one point it’s just Dr John and a backing vocalists whispering the lyrics eerily. Once the arrangement rebuilds, it’s just Dr John, backing vocalists, rumbling drums, a meandering guitar and wailing trumpet. By the end, one can only marvel at what’s been eight of the eeriest and most atmospheric minutes of music brought to you courtesy of Dr John.

The Sun, The Moon and Herbs, ends with Familiar Reality-(Reprise), a short track, which begins with a tuba playing, and Dr John’s whispery vocal, almost rapping, against a backdrop of slow, spacious drums. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, the track burst joyously into life. Backing vocalists sing as if giving thanks and a guitar piano and drums fill out the  arrangement as they combine to bring the track to a close. Sadly, this only lasts for under two minute and although short and sweet is ensures the album closes on a high.

Dr John The Night Tripper was joined on The Sun, Moon and Herbs by an all-star band who recorded an album of genre-melting, voodoo-influenced, swampy sounding music that was rich in imagery and paints pictures of the New Orleans and sometimes of the Big Easy’s dark underbelly.  

To do that, Dr John The Night Tripper and his all-star band combine elements of blues, funk, gospel, jazz, Louisiana R&B, rock and soul. This coproducers Dr John and Charles Greene throw into the musical melting pot and give it a stir to create an album where the music was dark,  moody, mysterious, otherworldly, eerie, haunting and swampy. It’s the sound of hot, steamy night in New Orleans as thunder claps and crackles and forks of lightning light up the night sky.  This is the pictures that Dr John The Night Tripper, his all-star band and backing singers create on The Sun, Moon and Herbs which became his first album to chart.

Sadly, The Sun, Moon and Herbs stalled at just 184 in the US Billboard 200 and dropped out of the chart after just five weeks. However, it was a start and gave Dr John as he became known as something to build on. He released three more albums on Atco Records Dr John’s Gumbo, In the Right Place and Desitively Bonnaroo which came out in 1974. The seven albums that Dr John released on Atco Records snow different sides to his music which continued to evolve over a six-year period.

Between 1968 and 1974 Dr John released what was some of the finest music of a long and illustrious career. Sadly, for much of his Atco Records’ years critics, record buyers and some of the people who ran and staffed the record label didn’t “get” Dr John. He was a musical visionary who was way ahead of his time and it was only later that albums that critics and record buyers understood and appreciated albums like Babylon and The Sun and Moon and Herbs.

It’s a case of sit back and enjoy what’s without doubt one of Dr John The Night Tripper’s finest albums The Sun and Moon and Herbs. It’s a reminder of what’s now regarded as a golden era for  Dr John who for six years could do no wrong. He enjoyed a career that spanned six decades  and sadly, Dr John passed away on  the ‘6th’ of July 2019. That day when  a true musical legend was taken from us aged just seventy-seven, and  sadly, there will never be anyone quite like Dr John, a charismatic showman, musical visionary who supremely-talented singer, songwriter and piano player par excellence as The Sun, Moon and Herbs shows.

Cult Classic: Dr John The Night Tripper-The Sun, Moon and Herbs.

CULT CLASSIC: DEXTER GORDON-A SWINGIN’ AFFAIR.

Cult Classic: Dexter Gordon-A Swingin’ Affair.

Tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon was only seventeen  when he joined  Lionel Hampton’s band in 1940, and for the next three years, played alongside Illinois Jacquet and Marshal Royal. However, by 1944 he was a member of the Fletcher Henderson band before featuring in Louis Armstrong and Billy Eckstine’s bands. By then, Dexter Gordon was already regarded one of jazz’s rising stars.

In 1945, he featured on recordings by Dizzy Gillespie, and then went on to record under his own name for the Savoy label. This was the start of Dexter Gordon’s long and illustrious recording career.

In late 1946, Dexter Gordon returned home to Los Angeles, the city where he was born on February the ’27th’ 1923 and grew up loving jazz music. He started playing the clarinet when he was thirteen and then switched to the alto saxophone. Then when he was fifteen he began playing the tenor saxophone which he had already made his name playing and would continue to do so.

The following year, 1947, he began recording for Ross Russell’s Dial label, and embarked upon saxophone duels with his friend and fellow tenor saxophonist Wardell Gray. They would become a popular attraction when the pair played live between 1947 and 1952. By then, Dexter Gordon was regarded as one of rising stars of bebop and indeed jazz.

Sadly, Dexter Gordon’s life seemed to spiral out of control during the fifties as heroin addiction took its toll. No longer was he spending as much time in the recording studio nor playing live. Then in 1953, he was sentenced to two years in prison for drugs offences, and when he was released in 1955 Dexter Gordon played on the Stan Levey album, This Time the Drum’s on Me. It was hoped that  this was a new start for the thirty-two year old.

One problem Dexter Gordon faced upon his release was that he was unable to obtain a cabaret card in New York because of his criminal record. This meant he was unable to play in any of the city’s nightclubs. For Dexter Gordon this was hugely disappointing.

This was the least of his worries though. Over the next four years while Dexter Gordon tried to resume his career, he was in and out of prison. However, when he left Folsom Prison in 1959 it was for the last time.

As the sixties dawned, Dexter Gordon was back living in LA and was determined to get his career back on track. He had beaten his addiction to heroin but was still on parole from Chino State Penitentiary. That was when time Julian “Cannonball” Adderley reconnected with Dexter Gordon who was appearing in a production of The Connection, a play about the victims of heroin addiction. 

The Resurgence Of Dexter Gordon.

Julian “Cannonball” Adderley wanted to try to persuade Dexter Gordon to return to the studio. After some persuasion a session was booked at United Recording Studios, Los Angeles, on the ‘13th’ of October 1960. 

That was where The Resurgence Of Dexter Gordon was recorded with Julian “Cannonball” Adderley producing the session. Six complex compositions were recorded that allowed Dexter Gordon to showcase his ability to improvise as he unleashed a series of breathtaking performances that were a reminder of what he was capable of.

When The Resurgence Of Dexter Gordon was released in late 1960 by Jazzland, critics heaped praise on the album from the fallen idol who who was on the comeback trail. It could be regarded as the album that saved Dexter Gordon’s career as he was at the crossroads and could’ve taken a wrong turning. Thankfully he didn’t and in 1961 Dexter Gordon was signed by jazz’s premier label Blue Note Records. Over the next two years he recorded some of the best albums of his career.

Doin’ Alright.

On the ‘6th’ of May 1961, Dexter Gordon recorded what would become his debut album for Blue Note Records, Doin’ Alright. Five tracks were recorded at the Van Gelder Studio, in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, where all his Blue Note Records’ sessions were recorded with producer Alfred Lion. The band featured twenty-two year old trumpeter Freddie Hubbard who like Dexter Gordon nearly two decades earlier, was regarded as one of jazz’s rising stars. He was part of an all-star band.

They played their part in the sound and success of Doin’ Alright which was released to critical acclaim two months later in August 1961. Dexter Gordon wasn’t just Doin’ Alright his comeback continued apace at jazz’s premier label.

Dexter Calling…

Just three days after recording Doin’ Alright, the comeback king was back in the studio recording Dexter Calling…on the ‘9th’ of May 1961. This time, Dexter Gordon led a quartet which featured none of the musicians that played on his last album. Despite that, this new band played their part in what was one of the finest albums of Dexter Gordon’s career.

Dexter Calling…was released in late January 1962, and featured Soul Sister, I Want More and Ernie’s Tune which were written for the Los Angeles production of Jack Gelber’s 1960 play The Connection. It was vintage Dexter Gordon with the thirty-eight year old tenor saxophonist back to his best on that not only swung, but was full of subtleties and surprises. Dexter Calling…was called an essential album from Dexter Gordon who was making up for lost time.

He recorded seven albums between 1961 and 1964. This included Landslide which was recorded during 1961 and 1962, but wasn’t released until 1980. However, the next two albums Dexter Gordon recorded were classics, Go! and A Swinging Affair.

Go!

When Go! was recorded on August the ’27th’ 1962, it was another quartet recording featuring drummer Billy Higgins, bassist Butch Warren and pianist Sonny Clark. They made their way to the Van Gelder Studio, and Rudy Van Gelder recorded the album in what was later described as an informal setting. 

This brought out the best in this latest quartet, and from the opening bars of Cheese Cake it was apparent that they had brought their A-game to the studio as the quartet combined hard bop and modal jazz. However, it was Dexter Gordon who plays a starring role as he continues his comeback. He plays with confidence and giving a series of emotive, impassioned and energetic performances. The rest of the band raises their game and when Go! was released in December 1962 it was hailed as his finest album and nowadays, is regarded as a jazz classic. So is the album Dexter Gordon recorded two days later, A Swingin’ Affair which has just been reissued by Blue Note Records.

A Swingin’ Affair.

There was no rest for Dexter Gordon who two days after recording Go!, made the return journey to the Van Gelder Studio, where he and the same quartet were greeted by Rudy Van Gelder and producer Alfred Lion.

This time around, Dexter Gordon was going to record two of his own compositions Soy Califa and McSplivens. Bassist Butch Warren had written The Backbone while the rest of the album were cover versions. They were Billie Holiday and Arthur Herzog Jr’s Don’t Explain, Nacio Herb Brown and Gus Kahn’s You Stepped Out Of A Dream and Until The Real Thing Comes Along. These tracks were recorded by the same quartet that recorded Go!

The quartet featured drummer Billy Higgins, bassist Butch Warren and pianist Sonny Clark and recorded the six tracks during a one day session. Little did they know that they had recorded two classic albums in the space of two days.

Not long after the recording of A Swingin’ Affair, Dexter Gordon left New York and moved to Paris, which was his home for the next fourteen years. He was happier in Paris, which was a much more tolerant company. There wasn’t the same racism that Dexter Gordon had experienced in New York, and he liked that the French people valued jazz musicians.

Despite the success of Go!, Blue Note Records seemed in no hurry to release A Swingin’ Affair. They album lay unreleased for over two years and during that period Dexter Gordon recorded more albums.

This included Our Man In Paris, an album of classics which was released in December 1963 and now is regarded as another classic album from Dexter Gordon. The other album he recorded was One Flight Up on June the ‘2nd’ 1964. It wasn’t released until September 1965, and by then, A Swingin’ Affair had been released.

When A Swingin’ Affair was released in October 1964, it was to widespread critical acclaim. Dexter Gordon was on a roll and critics called the album one of his finest offerings. Nowadays, A Swingin’ Affair is regarded as a classic and a reminder of one of the great tenor saxophonists at the peak of his powers.

A Swingin’ Affair opens with the Afro Cuban tinged Soy Califa, where pianist Sonny Clark and Dexter Gordon play starring roles when the solos come round. In Dexter Gordon’s case he eschew the opportunity to improvise and stays true to the melody as the track swings and then some. Don’t Explain is the first of the three standards on the album. Here, Sonny Clark’s playing is slow and understated, and Dexter Gordon also plays slowly and within himself. What follows is a beautiful and romantic cover of a much-loved standard for lovers, and those who have loved and lost. You Stepped Out Of A Dream is an oft-covered standard which Dexter Gordon’s quartet reinvent. To do this, they invert the melody in the bridge and add Latin rhythms throughout this swinging and memorable cover where Dexter Gordon and pianist Sonny Clark play starring roles.

For many critics, Butch Warren composition The Backbone was the highlight of the album. It’s tailor made for the band and is hard bop albeit with a Bossa nova influence. Not for the first time  pianist Sonny Clark is at the heart of everything that is good. Despite that, Dexter Gordon just manages to outdo him with a solo where he plays with restraint, fluidity and an inventiveness. It Will Have To Do Until The Real Thing Comes Along is a beautiful wistful remake of this standard. Again, the Dexter Gordon and Sonny Clark play starring roles in what’s a heartachingly beautiful cover. McSplivens is bright and breezes along as Dexter Gordon and his quartet ensure that the album closes with what’s definitely a A Swingin’ Affair.

When A Swingin’ Affair was released in October 1964, Dexter Gordon’s comeback was complete and he was enjoying one of the most successful periods of what was a long and successful career. It seemed he could do no wrong during the Blue Note Records’ years and released a string of classic albums. This included the two albums he recorded in two days, Go! and A Swingin’ Affair. On both albums, Dexter Gordon leads a quartet that compliment him perfectly and play their part in the sound and success of two albums that are now regarded as jazz classics. Go! and A Swingin’ Affair are the perfect way to discover Dexter Gordon, one of the greatest tenor saxophonist in the history of jazz, and the comeback king who came back from the brink.

Cult Classic: Dexter Gordon-A Swingin’ Affair.

CULT CLASSICS: TABANSI STUDIO BAND-WAKAR ALHAZI KANO AND MUS’EN SOFOA.

Cult Classics: Tabansi Studio Band–Wakar Alhazai Kano and Mus’en Sofoa.

Philadelphia International Records’ house band was MFSB, while Motown the Funk Brothers and Fame Records had the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section between 1961 and 1969. These three house bands played an important part in each label’s sound and success. That was also the case with  the Tabansi Studio Band.

They helped shape the sound  of Tabansi Records.and played their part in the the success of  the most important, influential and innovative Nigerian record label of the past six decades. However, just like MFSB, the Tabansi Studio Band weren’t just content to be a studio band and released several albums. This included Wakar Alhazai Kano and Mus’en Sofoa which were released by Tabansi Records during their golden period.

Tabansi Records was founded in Nigeria in 1952, and filled a void when major labels like Decca and later, Philips closed the doors on their Nigerian operations. 

Chief Tabansi, who lent his name to what would become Nigeria’s most important label, recorded artists and then pressed the records at The United African Company’s pressing plant. After that, record vans promoted the latest releases in Nigerian villages. This was just the start for Tabansi Records.

In the sixties, The United African Company decided to concentrate on importing American and European music. With very little competition, Tabansi Records was able to concentrate on local  music, which The United African Company had turned its back on. This was a big mistake.

During the seventies, Tabansi Records was the most successful Nigerian label, and its founder Chief Tabansi was one of the leading light’s of country’s thriving and vibrant music scene. He had invested in the company he had founded in, in Onitsha, Lagos, all these years ago, which by the seventies, had its own studios and pressing plant. Tabansi Records was going from strength-to-strength.

Playing their part in the success of the label by the late seventies was the Tabansi Studio Band. They featured on the majority of the albums released by Tabansi Records. That was only part of the story,

Unlike studio bands like the Wrecking Crew and the Funk Brothers, the Tabansi Studio Band wanted to follow in the footsteps of the MFSB and embark upon a recording career. In 1979, they recorded their first two albums  Wakar Alhazai Kano and Mus’en Sofoa, which nowadays, are real rarities that are prized by collectors.  

One listen to Alhazai Kano and Mus’en Sofoa was all it took to realise that these were two extremely important albums in the history of Tabansi Records. Each album features just two tracks of glorious improvised music where the Tabansi Studio Band lock into a groove as they combine disparate genres on these two long lost hidden gems.   

Wakar Alhazai Kano is an album of Hausan Afrobeat which is a rarely heard style of music. Playing their part in the sound and success of Alhazai Kano are the seven Martins brothers. They  were all talented multi-instrumentalists who were part of the Tabansi Studio Band and accompanied the multilingual vocalist Professor Goddy-Ezike. 

He’s regarded as one of the greatest African vocalists of his generation and deserves to be spoken about in the same breath as Salif Keita and Youssou N’Dour.  Professor Godwin-Ezike is always impassioned and veers between  mordant and trenchant as he delivers the vocals. His style is very different to the likes of Fela Kuti’s Yoruba-Pidgen Afrobeat. The combination of Professor Goddy-Ezike and the Martins brothers is a potent one.

The genre-melting Wakar Alhazai Kano opens that album and just like Lokoci Azumi Ta Wuca has been influenced by Northern Hausa music. Throughout the album, which is in 6/8 time, the Martins brothers fuse  elements of Islamic music,  Hausa pop, Libyan Tuareg music, traditional folk, court and Andean music as well as Bollywood and reggae. Against this genre-melting backdrop that comes courtesy of the Martins brothers Professor Goddy-Ezike delivers what can only be described as an impassioned and emotive vocal masterclass on this much prized Afrobeat rarity.

On Mus’en Sofoa, the tracks  Kama Sofos and Aka Ji Ego Ga Anu Nwam are both sung in Igbo. This doesn’t present a problem to the multilingual vocalist Professor Goddy-Ezike. He combines with the Martins brothers to create two tracks in 4/4 time which feature elements of jazz, funk and soul. They play a myriad of traditional percussion which allows them Martins brothers the opportunity to improvise and take the tracks in what may seem unexpected directions as they showcase their considerable skills.

For anyone with even a passing interest in Afrobeat, the Tabansi Studio Band’s first two albums,  Wakar Alhazai Kano and Mus’en Sofoa are essential listening. These two albums feature two very different and rarely heard styles of Afrobeat. 

Hausa Afrobeat features on Wakar Alhazai Kano and Igbo Afrobeat on Mus’en Sofoa. These two albums are not just two of the rarest albums released by Tabansi Records,  but two of the rarest Afrobeat albums ever released. They’re so rare that many Afrobeat collectors doubted the very existence of Wakar Alhazai Kano and Mus’en Sofoa. However, they do exist and are  a welcome reminder of the Tabansi Studio Band at the peak of their powers as they showcase their talent, versatility and ability to innovative on two long lost hidden Afrobeat gems Wakar Alhazai Kano and Mus’en Sofoa.

Cult Classics: Tabansi Studio Band–Wakar Alhazai Kano and Mus’en Sofoa.

 

CULT CLASSIC: HIDETO SASAKI, TOSHIYUKI SEKINE QUARTET +1-STOP OVER.

Cult Classic: Hideto Sasaki, Toshiyuki Sekine Quartet + 1–Stop Over.

Ever since the sixties, rather than sign to a label, many artists and bands have released their albums as private pressings. However, the majority of the labels releasing private pressings during this didn’t have the same resources as the major labels or even an indie labels.

Sometimes, the label was owned by the artist and it has only been setup for the release of this one album.  Often the  release was only a short run, with anything from 200-300 pressed. The more optimistic artists and groups took a chance and press 1,000-2,000 copies of an album in the hope that they don’t gather dust in a basement, spare room or garage. They tried not to think of that, and instead, hoped that the album was picked up by a bigger label. That was further down the line, and they had albums to sell before that.

The label usually didn’t have a distribution deal, so often the band hauled copies of the album around local record shops, hoping that the owner would take five or ten copies. Often, the best offer was sale or return, and as they looked at store owner, they wondered what were the odds of getting paid or their records back? It was a case of handing over the albums and hoping the vinyl gods smiled on them. If they were lucky, they would get either get some money back, or a pile of dusty vinyl. The alternative didn’t bear thinking about as often, artists and bands had put their savings into a private press and couldn’t afford to lose money.

Given many of the private presses released since the sixties were distributed by the artist or band locally, they never found their way to other parts of the country, never mind halfway around the world. This was all happening in world where before Spotify or You Tube where it’s now possible to find music from all the world in an instant. So every year, thousands of private presses were released to little or no fanfare, and often disappeared without trace. 

Especially, if there were only between 50 and 100 copies of an album pressed. With so few copies of an album pressed, it would be easy for the album to disappear without trace and never be heard again. However, that didn’t happen to Hideto Sasaki, Toshiyuki Sekine Quartet + 1’s  groundbreaking J-Jazz cult classic Stop Over. 

The story begins at Chuo University in 1975, where a group of amateurs musicians joined the modern jazz study group. During term time they held regular jam sessions where the members of the modern jazz study group were joined by some of the top local jazz musicians. 

Sometimes, the modern jazz study group headed to what were referred to as jazz training camps. They were held in Kita Kuraizawa, a rural area an hour to the North West of Tokyo. One of the musicians who attended a camp in the spring of 1975 was Toshiyuki Sekine, a twenty year old pianist who was a student at Chuo University. That was where he met Hideto Sasaki who just over a later, would produce Stop Over.

Before that, various jam sessions that took place at the jazz training camps and having heard them, Hiroyuki Inokari decided that he wanted to record an album by the university jazz study group in a recording studio. By then, he had already recorded some of their jam sessions and concerts.  This was the next logical step for him. 

Meanwhile, Toshiyuki Sekine’s band had just split up. They were raising stars and had been taking to the stage in some of Tokyo’s jazz clubs, including the Pit Inn. It was the end of an era, and the young bandleader decided to return to the environs of the modern jazz study group.

His timing turned out to be perfect, and Toshiyuki Sekine played piano at the modern jazz study group’s first formal concert. That night, they were joined by guest artist pianist Fumio Karashimo and his trio. This was  a landmark concert for the modern jazz study group.

During the mid-seventies, Japan had a vibrant jazz scene and there were many jazz clubs not just in Tokyo, but across the country. This was perfect for young, up-and-coming artists like the members of the modern jazz study group who were making their way in the world of jazz.

By then, most jazz musicians had gravitated towards fusion, the marriage of jazz and rock. As a result, it wasn’t  unusual to see drums, electric bass and guitars joining forces with synths and saxophones as well as piano and horns. However,  that was not the case on the ‘15th’ of August 1976.

That was when Hideto Sasaki, Toshiyuki Sekine Quartet + 1 entered the studio to record their debut album Stop Over. The line up was  drummer Takashi Kurosaki,  bassist Kei Narita, pianist Toshiyuki Sekine, trumpeter Hideto Sasaki and alto saxophonist Noriyasu Watanabe. This was an all acoustic group who had decided to record an album of material that was similar to what they played in their live sets.

This included Denny Zeitlin’s Carole’s Garden, Tadd Dameron’s Soultrane, Cedar Walton’s Turquoise Twice, Robert Hutcherson‘s Little B’s Poem and Hideto Sasaki’s Stop Over. These five tracks were recorded with produced Hiroyuki Inokari on the ‘15th’ of August 1976 and released later that year on the Smile label.

The Smile label had been set up by Akihiro Nakayama, who was a member of the modern jazz study group. Stop Over was the first album released on the label and  it’s thought that there were only between 50 and 100 albums pressed. Most of the them were given away to friends and family of the band and those involved in the making of the album. This wasn’t an album that was going to be available in the record shops of Tokyo and across Japan.

That’s a great shame as this blistering and breathtaking romp through four cover versions and Hideto Sasaki’s Stop Over  as this acoustic combo turn back the clock and revisit the hard bop sound. This was very different to the majority of the albums their peers and contemporaries were making. Maybe, it was a case of playing the music they loved and were passionate about?

Stop Over opens with a cover of  Denny Zeitlin’s Carole’s Garden, which originally, featured on his 1964 album Carnival. However, instead of staying true to the original version, the combo draw inspiration from Jean Luc Ponty’s cover on his 1967 outing Sunday’s Walk and breeze through the track at breakneck speed never missing a beat. It’s a truly impressive performance and Toshiyuki Sekine’s piano playing alone, is worthy of a rapturous round of applause.

Tadd Dameron wrote Soultrane for his 1957 collaboration with John Coltrane’s Mating Call. In the combo’s hands it has a beautiful, melancholy, late night sound. It’s music for those that have love and lost, and those that are yet to find that special one.

Cedar Walton recorded Turquoise Twice for his 1967 album Cedar. On Stop Over, the acoustic combo stay true to that version as this nine minute epic breezes along, the drums and bass locking down the groove with Toshiyuki Sekine’s piano drive the arrangement along. For some purists, a minor criticism would be that the ride cymbal is too prominent in the mix. That’s because of the close miking technique that had been used since the late-sixties. Having said that,  Stop Over wasn’t a big budget recording run by a professional recordist, and it would be easy for an inexperienced engineer to place the microphone to close to the ride cymbal. However it could be argued this adds to the authenticity and honesty of the recording. Meanwhile, the maestro Toshiyuki Sekine  plays with urgency, fluidity and confidence as his fingers effortlessly fly up and down the keyboard showcasing his considerable skills on this epic track.

The late, great vibes and marimba player Robert Hutcherson penned Little B’s Poem and it featured on his 1965 Blue Note album Components. It’s another beautiful, dreamy  sounding track with another virtuoso performance from Toshiyuki Sekine, while the guitar and bass play supporting roles. Later, the alto saxophone soars above the arrangement its wistful sound adding the finishing touch to one of the album’s highlights.

Stop Over closes with the title-track which was written by Hideto Sasaki.  It’s a breathtaking, blistering and explosive track that features nine magical minutes of hard bop as this group of young, talented amateur musicians shine brightly and never burn out as they close the album on a truly memorable high on this opus. Hopefully,  having closed the album in such style Hideto Sasaki, Toshiyuki Sekine Quartet + 1 all took a bow as they finished recording Stop Over.

Sadly, Stop Over was the only recording by Hideto Sasaki, Toshiyuki Sekine Quartet + 1. It features four almost flawless covers and the one original Stop Over, where the combo shine bright as they showcase their combined and considerable skills on an album of hard bop that veers between spellbinding, beautiful,  breathtaking, blistering and melancholy.

By then, hard bop was regarded by critics and most jazz fans as yesterday’s sound, but that didn’t matter to Hideto Sasaki, Toshiyuki Sekine Quartet + 1 when they were recording Stop Over. They wanted to record the music they loved and were passionate about. It wasn’t as if the album was a big budget release on a private press. Instead, it was a reminder of a group of friends studying together and making music in their spare time. When they went their separate ways after leaving Chuo University, Stop Over was a reminder of the time they spent together and the music they made. Or so they thought.

The Smile label only pressed between 50 and 100 albums, and they were given to friends of family of the band and everyone involved in the album. Despite that, Japanese jazz fans heard about Stop Over which remained tantalisingly out of reach given its rarity. 

That remains the case today, and it’s almost impossible to find a copy of Stop Over which is on every J-Jazz  fan’s want list. However, unless they’re fortunate enough to come across a copy in a thrift store, junk shop or dusty warehouse Stop Over will continue to elude them.  If they hit the jackpot and find a copy of Stop Over hidden between the usual thrift store fare they’ll be  discover the delights of one of  rarest albums of J-Jazz released during its golden era.

Cult Classic: Hideto Sasaki, Toshiyuki Sekine Quartet + 1–Stop Over.

 

 

 

CULT CLASSIC: PHILOPSIS. 

Cult Classic: Philopsis.

Over the last few years, there’s been a resurgence of interest in library music, with British and European independent record labels releasing lovingly curated compilations that are welcomed by a coterie of musical connoisseurs who have a passion for library music. This includes DJs, producers and record collectors who are willing to pay large sums of money to add rare releases to their collections of library music.

Many British collectors of library music started off collecting releases by labels like KPM, De Woife, Amphonic, Conroy and Sonoton from the sixties, seventies early eighties, which is regarded by many collectors as a golden age for library music. This is ironic as albums of library music were never meant to fall into the hands of collectors.

Originally, library music was meant to be used by film studios or television and radio stations, and was never meant to be commercially available. The music was recorded on spec by music libraries who  often hired  young unknown composers, musicians and producers. This ranged from musicians who were known within publishing circles, to up-and-coming musicians who later, went onto greater things, and look back fondly at their time writing, recording and producing library music. This they now regard as part of their musical apprenticeship.

For the musicians hired to record library music, their remit was to music libraries with a steady stream of new music, which was originality referred to as production music. During some sessions, the musicians’ remit was write and record music to match themes or moods. This wasn’t easy, but after a while they were  able to this seamlessly. Soon, the musicians were able to enter the audio and write and record a piece of music that matched a theme or mood for a film or television show.

Once the library music was recorded, record libraries sent out demonstration copies of their music to advertising agencies, film studios, production companies, radio stations and television channels. If they liked what they heard, they would license a track or several tracks from the music libraries. That was how it was meant to work.

Sometimes, copies of these albums fell into the hands of record collectors, who realising the quality of music recorded by these unknown musicians, started collecting library music. However, it always wasn’t easy to find copies of the latest albums of library music. That was until the arrival of the CD.

Suddenly, record collectors and companies across Britain were disposing of LPs, and replacing them with CDs. It didn’t matter that the prices of LPs were at all-time low, some record collectors just wanted rid of their collection they were replacing with CDs. With people literally dumping LPs, all sorts of musical treasure was available to record collectors who didn’t believe the hype about CD. This included everything from rare psych and progressive rock right through to albums of library music. These albums were often found in car boot sales, second hand shops and charity for less than a skinny latte macchiato.

This was the case throughout the period that vinyl fell from grace, and suddenly, it was possible for collectors of British library music to add to their burgeoning collections. Gradually, longtime collectors of library music had huge and enviable collections and were almost running out of new music to collect. Some of them decided that the time had come to see what European library music had to offer.

Now these collectors had a whole continent’s worth of library music to discover. Some collectors were like magpies buying albums from all over Europe, while others decided to concentrate on just one country or company. Although it was more expensive to collect European library music, gradually, enviable new collections started to take shape.

This includes French, German and Italian library music which was recorded during the sixties and seventies. One of the rarest French library records of the seventies was Philopsis which was released in 1978 on Freesound,  an imprint of  the British publisher Ambient Music which was dedicated only to French composers. At the heart of the Philopsis project was Jacky Giordano who was a somewhat mysterious musician.

Over the last few years, the an air of mystique hangs over  Jacky Giordano’s recordings, as well as the albums he recorded using various aliases. This includes Discordance, G. Serili, Jacky Nodaro, Joachim Sherylee and José Pharos. The enigmatic French organist music has gained a cult status, especially amongst a coterie of connoisseurs of library music. 

In 1973, Jacky Giordano  and Francis Personne recorded  Rythmes Et Mélodies an album of library music for Sonimage. His next album was released on Freesound, where he released what’s recorded as the best library  music of his career.

 Collectors and connoisseurs of library music believe that Jacky Giordano’s Freesound years were the highpoint of his career. His This includes  1974s Challenger and Schifters  which he recorded with Yan Tregger. However, four years would pass before Jacky Giordano released another album on Freesound.

Two years later, in 1976, he released Pop In… Devil’s Train on André Farry’s Editions Montparnasse 2000 label. It’s regarded as another of Jacky Giordano’s finest albums.

During this period, he could do no wrong and released Jacky Giordano Organ in 1977 on L’Illustration Musicale. So was the followup Jacky Giordano Organ Plus in 1978. These two albums of library music are highly collectable and it was no surprise in 2019 when they were reissued again. However, the other album Jacky Giordano recorded in 1978 was his library music masterpiece Philopsis for Freesound

Philopsis  is instantly recognisable because of the  portrait on the album cover. Just like Jacky Giordano, there’s an air of mystery to this enigmatic figure.  With a  cover that captured the imagination, the music on Philopsis was very different to what many people expected. 

Many misguided critics of library music often put forward the same tired and inaccurate argument that the music was bland, lacking in inspiration and imagination and was mostly jingles that were used by the advertising industry. How wrong they were and proof of that was Philopsis.

On Philopsis, Jacky Giordano was accompanied by Yan dY’s. This it’s thought included his old friend and colleague Yan Tregger  which was an alias for Edouard Scotto Di Suoccio. Nowadays, Yan Tregger is regarded as one of the forgotten heroes of European library music. Another musician who worked on Philopsis was Francis Personne, who later worked as a sound engineer and on numerous eighties zouk productions. Jacky Giordano and his group experimented as they recorded   Philopsis. 

Side One.

The resulting album  of jazz-funk that Jacky Giordano and friends recorded  features is best described as veering between light, airy and spacious to futuristic with sci-fi synths a feature of album opener Jumbo Flash. Quite different is the tough and funky sound of Magolia. Callisto is a jazzy jam where this talented band play within themselves. They manage to resist the urge to kick loose. Athanor has a seventies experimental sound that again, is futuristic. Supplice Form sounds as if it’s been written with a military drama in mind, while Agharta sounds like the soundtrack to space-age cop show.

 Side Two.

Just like Supplice Form, there’s a military influence to the drums on Usine Inhumaine while the rest of the arrangement has a sci-fi sound.  Steel Mongoes has a tough funky sound and wouldn’t sound out of place as part of the soundtrack to a seventies cop show. By contrast Screw On has a ruminative sound, while Fluid Man bounds along as this glorious tough, funky sci-fi  sousing track unfolds. Acid Feerique is a multilayered track where genres and influences are combined by Jacky Giordano and his band. They close side two and Philopsis with the title-track, which sounds not dissimilar to the music that featured on children’s cartoons from the late-seventies. Just like so many tracks on Philopsis, it has a cinematic quality and paints pictures in the mind’s eye.

Philopsis is a incredibly coherent album where Jacky Giordano and his tight, talented and versatile band fuse elements of funk, fusion, jazz, jazz-funk, library music as well as electronica, the soundtracks to early seventies Blaxploitation movies and Herbie Hancock’s classic album Headhunters. They’ve also been influenced by Brian Eno’s early solo albums and the music of  Ennio Morricone, Jean-Jacques Perrey, Lalo Schiffrin and  Nino-Nardini. When all these genres and influences are combined by Jacky Giordano, the result is Philopsis, which was his finest moment for Freesound.

Nowadays,  Philopsis is one of the rarest library records of the seventies and is the perfect introduction to the library music recorded by the enigmatic musical maverick Jacky Giordano who during the seventies could do no wrong. Proof of that is Philopsis which is Jacky Giordano’s library music masterpiece and a genre classic. 

Cult Classic: Philopsis.

CULT CLASSIC: NANCY PRIDDY-YOU’VE COME THIS WAY BEFORE. 

Cult Classic: Nancy Priddy-You’ve Come This Way Before.

Nowadays, many people remember Nancy Priddy as an actress who appeared in Bewitched, The Waltons and Matlock and later, alongside her daughter Christina Applegate in the television series Married…With Children and the film The Sweetest Thing. However, other people remember Nancy Priddy as a singer-songwriter who in 1968, released her debut album You’ve Come This Way Before. It’s a captivating and enchanting album of psychedelic baroque-folk that nowadays, is regarded as a cult classic.

Nancy Lee Priddy was born to Katherine Iona Driggs and Carl Priddy on January the ’22nd’ 1941, in South Bend, Indiana. Growing up, music played an important in her life, and after graduating from high school Nancy Priddy studied liberal arts at Oberlin College, and eventually graduated from the Northwestern School of Drama. 

After graduating, Nancy Priddy decided to embark upon a career in the theatre. Initially, she worked in cabaret but soon decided to change direction.

In 1964, Nancy Priddy headed to Greenwich Village where she joined the folk group The Bitter End Singers. She joined Bob Hider, Lefty Baker, Norris O’Neill, Tina Bohlmann and Vilma Vaccaro in The Bitter End Singers who later in 1964, were signed by Mercury.

Having signed to Mercury, The Bitter End Singers began work on their debut album. Discover The Bitter End Singers was released later in 1964.  The followup Through Our Eyes was released by in 1965. However, following the release of their sophomore album  Nancy Priddy decided to leave The Bitter End Singers and resume her acting career.

Having left New York, Nancy Priddy moved to Chicago, where she resumed her acting career and began writing her own songs. She entered the studio and recorded demos of some of these songs. It seemed Nancy Priddy was still interested in a musical career, and in 1967, she left the Windy City and returned to New York.

When Nancy Priddy  returned to the Big Apple, Leonard Cohen was about to record his debut album and was looking for a backing vocalist. Nancy Priddy fitted the bill and contributed backing vocals on the classic album Songs Of Leonard Cohen. It was released later in 1967 and launched the career of Leonard Cohen. 

Later in 1967, Nancy Priddy met Phil Ramone, who was an up-and-coming producer. At the end of the year, the pair began working on what became Nancy Priddy’s debut album You’ve Come This Way Before.

It featured ten tracks which Nancy Priddy penned with various songwriting partners. This included And Who Will You Be Then, You’ve Come This Way Before and Christina’s World with Everett Gordon. Bobby Whiteside and Nancy Priddy penned Ebony Glass, while she wrote Mystic Lady and Epitaph with John Simon. The other four songs We Could Have It All, My Friend Frank, O Little Child and On The Other Side Of The River were written by Nancy Priddy and Manny Albam. These tracks were recorded at A & R Studios, in New York.

Phil Ramone took charge of production, and three arrangers worked on the album. This included Everett Gordon who arranged Christina’s World and John Simon arranged Mystic Lady, We Could Have It All and Epitaph. Manny Albam arranged the rest of the tracks on You’ve Come This Way Before which featured some top musicians including drummer Bernard “Pretty” Purdie. When it was completed, it was released by the Los Angeles based Dot Records in late 1968.

When You’ve Come This Way Before was released, Dot Records did little to promote Nancy Priddy. After It was no surprise when Nancy Priddy’s debut album When You’ve Come This Way Before disappeared without trace. 

That was a great shame as When You’ve Come This Way Before is a hidden gem of an album that has been  rediscovered by critics and discerning record buyers. It’s a fusion of disparate musical genres, ranging from baroque-folk to folk and folk-rock to pop, pop-soul and psychedelia to underground music that sounded unlike anything else that was released in 1968.

Although Nancy Priddy had been a member of The Bitter End Singers and recorded with Leonard Cohen, with the help of producer Phil Ramone she seemed to have no preconceived ideas about an album should be recorded. 

There’s an innocence and unworldly sound Nancy Priddy’s vocal as she delivers some of the lyrics on Ebony Glass. Sometimes, Nancy Priddy delivers lyrics that are lysergic and trippy and sometimes have a surreal quality. It’s like a musical equivalent of Alice In Wonderland. Other times, the lyrics are akin to a stream of consciousness and sometimes, the lyrics have a dream like quality. However, some songs on When You’ve Come This Way Before are full of symbolism. It’s a quite beautiful, intricate album where layers of music are combined by Nancy Priddy and her band.

They try new things and push musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes beyond. To do this effects units were deployed including echo and ring modulators which add to the instruments and vocals on a number of tracks and add to the psychedelic sound on You’ve Come This Way Before. 

Meanwhile, the arrangements are quite different from those on other albums released in 1968. Curveballs are thrown as the mood and time signatures change keeping the listener on their toes. It’s a case of expect the unexpected on an album that features everything from the lushest of strings to trumpets that sound as if they belong on a Bacharach and David session.  It’s as if You’ve Come This Way Before is trying to appeal to fans of pop and psychedelia and everything in between. And no wonder.

You’ve Come This Way Before is a beautiful, captivating and enchanting album and will win the listener over after just one listen. Soon, it’ll become a firm favourite as the listeners try to decipher the lyrics on this hidden gem of an album. Sadly, it failed to find an audience upon its release in 1968, but fifty-two years later, and Nancy Priddy’s debut album You’ve Come This Way Before is regarded as a cult classic and belatedly, is starting to find the wider audience that it so richly deserves.

Cult Classic: Nancy Priddy-You’ve Come This Way Before.

CULT CLASSIC: BREAD, LOVE AND DREAMS-AMARYLLIS.

Cult Classic: Bread, Love and Dreams-Amaryllis.

When Scottish acid folk trio Bread, Love and Dreams appeared at the 1968  Edinburgh Festival, David McNiven, Angie Rew and Carolyn Davis had no idea that the concert was going to transform their lives. In the audience that night, was Ray Horricks, a Decca Records staffer, who nowadays, is credited with discovering Bread, Love and Dreams. 

They already had a loyal local following and were regarded as one of Scotland’s up-and-coming groups. It was no surprised when  Bread, Love and Dreams were signed by Decca Records and went on to release three albums between 1969 and 1971. Their swansong was Amaryllis.

Having signed to Decca Records, Ray Horricks took Bread, Love and Dreams to London, where they began work on their eponymous debut album. It featured mostly original material, apart from a cover of Artificial Light (Of All The Living Lies). The album was produced by Ray Horricks, with Ian Green writing, arranging and conducting the strings on Bread, Love and Dreams. Once the album was completed, it was scheduled for release in early 1969.

Bread, Love and Dreams.

Upon  its release, Bread, Love and Dreams was well received by critics who noticed the similarities to another Scottish group who had influenced them, the Incredible String Band. On their eponymous debut album, Bread, Love and Dreams showcased their trademark acid folk sound on an album that featured several tracks with string arrangements. It was a carefully crafted album of acid folk that deserved to find a much wider audience. However, the problem was that there many other groups releasing similar albums and the album failed commercially. 

This must have been a huge disappointment for the band given the quality of music on the album. Guitarist Carolyn Davis was so disappointed that she left the band. However, that wasn’t the only problem facing Bread, Love and Dreams.

After the commercial failure of Bread, Love and Dreams, Decca Records wanted to drop the band. However, Ray Horricks still believed in the band and went into back for them. This resulted in Bread, Love and Dreams being given a second chance by Decca Records.

Bread, Love and Dreams headed out on tour with Magna Carta and T Rex, and during their downtime wrote new material for their sophomore album. That wasn’t all. 

During this period,  Bread, Love and Dreams began working with the Traverse Theatre Group in Edinburgh. Their director Max Stafford wanted David McNiven to adapt one of the songs he had written , Mother Earth, for the stage. It was performed to critical acclaim first in Edinburgh and then London, before heading to Scandinavia, the Benelux countries and Spain. This was the break that Bread, Love and Dreams had been looking for. 

The Strange Tale Of Captain Shannon and The Hunchback From Gigha.

In the summer of 1970, Bread, Love and Dreams entered the studio to record a new album.  They were joined by guest artists including drummer Terry Cox, Pentangle’s double bassist Danny Thompson, bassist Dave Richmond and organist and pianist Alan Trajan.  Over a five day period they managed to record enough material for two albums. 

The reason that Bread, Love and Dreams recorded two album’s worth of material was that they were scared they were about to be dropped by Decca Records.  

Despite having enough material for their next two albums, Bread, Love and Dreams briefly considered releasing a double album like the Incredible String Band’s Wee Tam and The Big Huge. However, eventually, Bread, Love and Dreams decided to release two more albums, the first being The Strange Tale Of Captain Shannon and The Hunchback From Gigha.

When Bread, Love and Dreams released their sophomore album The Strange Tale Of Captain Shannon and The Hunchback From Gigha in  1970, it was to critical acclaim. The album feature the epic title-track which sounded as if it had been influenced by the Incredible String Band and Sucking On A Cigarette, which featured former guitarist Carolyn Davis.  She played a walk-on  part on an album that could’ve transformed the fortunes of Bread, Love and Dreams.

Sadly, when The Strange Tale Of Captain Shannon and The Hunchback From Gigha was released it failed commercially. This was a disaster for the two remaining members of Bread, Love and Dreams, and frustrated executives at Decca Records decided to rush release third album, Amaryllis.

Amaryllis.

In a way, Bread, Love and Dreams decision to record enough material for two albums backfired as the group knew that Amaryllis was the stronger and best album of their career. 

David McNiven had written the three-part title-track, Amaryllis, Time’s The Thief and Circles Of Night. He also penned My Stair-Cupboard At 3 A.M. with Lindsay Levy. The other track on the album was Brother John which was written by Angie Rew, a talented songwriter and multi-instrumentalist.

Vocalist Angie Rew played guitar and percussion on Amaryllis, while David McNiven played guitar and added vocals. Augmenting Bread, Love and Dreams were drummer Terry Cox, double bassist Danny Thompson, bassist Dave Richmond plus organist and pianist Alan Trajan. Just like the two previous albums, Amaryllis was produced by Ray Horricks and released in 1971.

In their haste to release Amaryllis in 1971, Decca Records made two massive mistakes. The first was failing to promote the album properly. While this didn’t necessary mean the album was doomed to failure, failing to press enough albums was. 

Ironically,  Amaryllis was released to widespread critical and was regarded as their finest hour. Despite this, the album failed to even match the sales of Bread, Love and Dreams’ first two albums. This was because Decca Records had failed to press enough copies of Amaryllis, which had the potential to launch Bread, Love and Dreams’ career. Sadly, it wasn’t to be.

Side one of the album is taken up with Amaryllis, an ambitious three-part suite. Part. 1: Out Of The Darkness and Into The Night has a dark, mysterious and ruminative sound. Despite being released in 1971, there’s a flower power sound. There’s also acid guitar and beautiful folksy harmonies from Angie Rew and David McNiven as the song blossoms and Bread, Love and Dreams move Out Of The Darkness and Into The Night. The  centrepiece of the first side was Part 2: Zoroaster’s Prophecy, an eleven minute epic that was inspired by religion and philosophy. Several songs are weaved into one by Bread, Love and Dreams to create this lengthy, imaginative and mysterious piece of modern musical folklore. It’s without doubt the album’s highlight. Closing side one is Part 3: Light, a truly  beautiful, heartfelt, romanic and emotive song. Much of the success of the song is because of the way Angie Rew and David McNiven blend combines and creates another of the album’s highlights.

Opening side two is Time’s The Thief, a lovely folk ballad which is driven along by an acoustic guitar. Although Bread, Love and Dreams were often influenced by the Incredible String Band, here there’s a nod to Fairport Convention’s Song No. 5. Another beautiful folk ballad is My Stair-Cupboard, which hints at Sandy Denny’s Fotheringay and Pentangle which starred Danny Thompson who plays double bass on Amaryllis. Then on the wistful and ruminative sounding Brother John the hugely Angie Rew’s heartfelt and soul-baring plays a starring role as she paints pictures with the lyrics. Closing Amaryllis is Circle of Night which is the most traditional sounding folk song on the album. It’s also uplifting and irresistible and closes this oft-overlooked hidden gem of an album on a high.

On Amaryllis, Bread, Love and Dreams and friends fuse elements acid folk, traditional folk and progressive folk on what’s an album of quite beautiful, cerebral, emotive and sometimes romantic music. These tracks were part of a vastly underrated album that when it was released in 1971 deserved to find a much wider audience. 

Sadly, that wasn’t the case. Decca Records’ failure to promote Amaryllis properly and then their failure to press enough copies of the album is an object lesson in how not to release an album. Ironically, Amaryllis was regarded as Bread, Love and Dreams’ strongest and best album and had the potential to transform their careers from also rans to acid rock contenders. Alas, that wasn’t to be for the band who many critics thought were about to follow in the footsteps of the Incredible String Band.

Following Bread, Love and Dreams’  presentation at the Royal Court Theatre in Edinburgh, executives at Decca Records decided to drop the band. The three albums that Bread, Love and Dreams recorded for the label were written down as a tax write off. It was a sad end to a musical adventure that began just three years earlier in 1968 and promised so much.  However, Bread, Love and Dreams kept their finest album until last and Amaryllis was an ambitious and critically acclaimed opus that nowadays is regarded as this acid folk cult classic.

Cult Classic: Bread, Love and Dreams-Amaryllis.

CULT CLASSIC: ART TAYLOR-A.T.’S DELIGHT.

Cult Classic: Art Taylor-A.T.’s Delight.

One of the most influential drummers in the history of jazz is Art Taylor, who was born in New York, on the ‘6th’ of April 1929, and as a teenager, played in a local Harlem-based band that featured pianist Kenny Drew and saxophonists Sonny Rollins and Jackie McLean. Each of these young musicians would enjoy a successful career in jazz, and record for Blue Note Records. 

Art Taylor only released one album for Blue Note Records, A.T.’s Delight in 1960. It was was recently reissued and is a reminder of the man who “helped define the sound of modern jazz drumming,” Art Taylor.

In 1948,  nineteen year old Art Taylor joined Howard McGhee’s band. This was akin to a musical apprenticeship as Art Taylor played alongside one of the first bebop trumpeters.

As the fifties dawned, Art Taylor joined Coleman Hawkins band. Just like Howard McGhee, the Hawk was an inventive and innovative musician who forged his own sound. Although Art Taylor was only the Hawk’s drummer until 1951, it was another learning experience.

Having left the Hawk’s employ, Art Taylor joined bebop clarinetist Buddy DeFranco’s band in 1952. He was regarded as the finest jazz clarinet player and once again, Art Taylor was playing alongside top musicians. However, a year later, he was on the move again.

Art Taylor joined jazz pianist Bud Powell’s band for the first time in 1953. By then, Bud Powell was a hugely influential musician who nowadays, is credited with being a leading figure in the development of modern jazz. Once again, Art Taylor who was still only twenty-four was learning from the best and made his recording debut in 1953. He would feature on twelve albums Bud Powell released between 1953 and 1958, including five for Blue Note Records. However, in 1954 Art Taylor moved on.

In 1954, Art Taylor playing in George Wallington and Art Farmer bands, before returning to Bud Powell’s employ in 1955. Still, Art Taylor was a member of George Wallington’s band until 1955.

That year, 1955, Art Taylor played on Elmo Hope and Frank Foster’s album Hope Meets Foster. This was the start of a prolific period when the recording studio became a second home for Art Taylor.

The following year, 1956, was an important year for Art Taylor. As sideman, he played on the first of eleven Red Garland albums released between 1956 and 1961, and the first of twelve Gene Ammons solo albums released during the same period. He also joined Jackie McLean for the first time, and played on nine albums released between 1956 and 1960. Prolific seemed to be Art Taylor’s middle name.

During 1956, Art Taylor could be heard on a number other albums. This included two albums released by Thelonious Monk;  Matthew Gee’s Jazz By Gee; Kenny Burrell’s All Night Long; Horace Silver’s Silver’s Blue;  Lee Morgan’s Introducing Lee Morgan and Donald Byrd and Art Farmer’s collaboration 2 Trumpets. Although Art Taylor was still only twenty-seven, he was quickly becoming the go-to drummer for many jazz mucicians given his talent, versatility and inventiveness. 

Art Taylor had also joined Gigi Gryce in 1956, and featured on five albums released between 1956 and 1958. The same year 1956, he formed his own band Taylor’s Wailers and also joined Donald Byrd’s band. Art Taylor would spend six years touring and also recording with Donald Byrd between 1957 and 1963. By then, Art Taylor was a respected figure and always in demand as a sideman.

1957, was a significant year for Art Taylor, who was now working with some of the giants of jazz. He was touring with Thelonious Monk, and in 1957, featured on Miles Davis album Miles Ahead. Art Taylor was part of John Coltrane’s band and featured on thirteen albums released between 1956 and 1964. This meant that Art Taylor featured on 1958s Soultrane, 1959s Giant Steps and 1964s Bahia.  However, Art Taylor played on many more albums during the late-sixties.

When jazz fans looked at the credits on a number of albums released during 1957, often the drummer was Art Taylor. He played on Kenny Burrell’s All Day Long and 2 Guitars; Paul Chambers’ Bass On Top; Sonny Clark’s Sonny’s Crib; Pepper Adams’ Baritones and French Horns;  Milt Jackson’s Bags and Flutes; Thad Jones’ After Hours;Toots Thielemans’ Man Bites Harmonica;  Ernie Henry’s Presenting Ernie Henry; Sahib Shihab’s Jazz Sahib; Julius Watkins; Clifford Jordon’s  and Charlie Rouse‘s Les Jazz Modes and two releases by Lee Morgan’s City Lights and Candy. Art Taylor was also a member of The Prestige All Stars on Interplay For 2 Trumpets and 2 Tenors. By then, he was still just twenty-eight and had come a long way.

Art Taylor had also released his critically acclaimed debut album Taylor’s Wailers, on Prestige in 1957.  He had spent the best part of a decade as sideman, and had stepped out of the shadows on Taylor’s Wailers.

Despite that, 1958 saw Art Taylor return to working as a sideman, dividing his time between live work and spending time in the studio. Just like the last few years, Art Taylor featured on a number of albums released during 1958. He continued to work with Gene Ammons, Donald Byrd, Gigi Gryce John Coltrane and Red Garland. Art Taylor played on Dorthy Ashby’s two albums In A Minor Groove and Hip Harp; Kenny Bureell’s Just Wailin’; Dizzy Reece’s Blues In Trinity and Louis Smith’s Here Comes Louis Smith. However, the following year 1959, saw Art Taylor turn his attention to his solo career. 

That was despite being busy working as a sideman for a growing number of jazz musicians live and in the studio. However, Art Taylor played on Clark Terry’s Top and Bottom Brass; Lem Winchester’s Winchester Special; Oliver Nelson’s Meet Oliver Nelson; Tiny Grimes’ Tiny in Swingville; Benny Golson’s Gettin’ With It; Arnett Cobb’s Party Time; Walter Davis Jr’s Davis Cup  and Jimmy Cleveland’s  A Map of Jimmy Cleveland. The other album Art Taylor recorded in 1959 was his much-anticipated sophomore album Taylor’s Tenors.

Just like his 1957 debut album Taylor’s Wailers, Taylor’s Tenors  featured two of Thelonious Monk’s compositions, Rhythm-A-Ning and Straight, No Chaser. The album also featured the Art Taylor composition Dacor. This was a first for Art Taylor, whose album was released to plaudits and praise just like Taylor’s Wailers. However, Taylor’s Tenors was the last album Art Taylor released for Prestige. His next album A.T.’s Delight was released on Blue Note Records.

As the sixties dawned, there was no letup for Art Taylor as he continued to divide his time between his solo career and his work as a sideman. Before recording his third solo album and Blue Note Records’ debut A.T.’s Delight, on the ‘6th’ of August 1960, Art Taylor worked on Arnett Cobb’s More Party Time and Movin’ Right Along; Kenny Dorham’s Showboat; Ken McIntyre’s Looking Ahead; Julian Priester’s Spiritsville; Charlie Rouse’s Takin’ Care Of Business ; Johnny “Hammond” Smith’s Talk That Talk and Lem Winchester’s Lem Beat and Duke Jordan’s Flight To Jordan on the ‘4th’ of August 1960.

A.T.’s Delight.

Two days after recording with Duke Jordan’s on  his fourth album Flight To Jordan, Art Taylor and his band made their way to Van Gelder Studio, in Englewood Cliffs to record A.T.’s Delight.

Joining drummer Art Taylor were bassist Paul Chambers, pianist Wynton Kelly, trumpeter Dave Burns, tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine and conga player Carlos “Patato” Valdes. They recorded six tracks with producer Alfred Lion.

For A.T.’s Delight, Art Taylor wrote Cookoo and Fungi, while the other five tracks were cover versions. This included John Coltrane’s Syeeda’s Song Flute; Kenny Clarke and Thelonious Monk’s Epistrophy; Denzil Best’s Move and two Kenny Dorham compositions High Seas and Blue Interlude. These six recordings became Art Taylor’s third album and Blue Note Records’ debut A.T.’s Delight.

When A.T.’s Delight was released to widespread critical acclaim later in 1960, and was hailed as the finest album of Art Taylor’s career. It was as if everything he had done had been working towards this one album. 

A.T.’s Delight opens with Syeeda’s Song Flute, which was a John Coltrane’s composition from Giant Steps that hardly anyone covered. It’s reinvented and reinvigorated by Art Taylor and his band who take the track in a new direction. Playing starring roles are solos by Dave Burns’ trumpet and Stanley Turrentine’s tenor saxophone while Paul Chambers pizzicato bass returns to the melody in this bright, percussive and uplifting epic. 

There was no surprise when Art Taylor’s covered Monk’s Epistrophy, which was originally called Fly Rite. It’s an atonal 32-bar tune in ABCB-form, where each member of the band enjoys their moment in the sun and showcases their considerable skills. This includes Carlos “Patato” Valdes’ whose congas compliment the drums as the arrangement bounds along during this homage to one of Art Taylor’s heroes Thelonious Monk.

As Move unfolds, the tempo rises and rhythm section power the arrangement along. There’s no stopping Art Taylor and the band who ensure the track swings and then some. Playing a starring role is trumpeter Dave Burns who steals the show with a barnstorming and blistering solo.

High Seas is a relatively simple but extremely effective 32 bar minor key theme. It finds  Art Taylor’s drums and Paul Chambers bass power the pulsing arrangement along on this dark, bluesy and ruminative sounding track.

Cookoo and Fungi is the only Art Taylor composition on the album. When it eventually unfolds, it bristles with nervous energy before morphing into a calypso during the main theme. It’s akin to a trip on a musical roller coaster where it’s a case of expect the unexpected from Art Taylor and his band.

Closing A.T.’s Delight is the second Kenny Dorham composition Blue Interlude. It’s has a spacious arrangement that  breezes along and later becomes dark and moody but still swings as this all-star band showcase their skills one last time.

A.T.’s Delight was the third of five albums that Art Taylor released during a career that spanned forty-seven years. For much of that time, Art Taylor was content to be a sideman and worked with the great and good of jazz. However, when he took centre-stage on his first three solo albums they’re a reminder of one of the best and most influential and inventive  jazz drummers. Proof of that can be found on A.T.’s Delight, where Art Taylor comes of age as a solo artist on a flawless and truly timeless album that was the finest of his career.

Cult Classic: Art Taylor-A.T.’s Delight.

CULT CLASSIC: LOCOMOTIVE-WE ARE EVERYTHING YOU SEE.

Cult Classic: Locomotive-We Are Everything You See.

By 1965, all over Britain, new groups were being founded every day. They had watched as The Beatles and the rest of the British Invasion groups took America by storm. The new groups watched enviously, hoping and dreaming that one day soon, they would be signed by a record label.

For many of these groups, they would’ve been happy to release even one single. It would be something to show the grandchildren in the future. 

Others groups however, wanted more than that. While they recognised the importance of singles, they wanted to make a statement musically, and the only way to do that was by releasing an album. They could also explore and fuse different musical genres and experiment musically. Birmingham-based Locomotive did all this on their 1970 debut album We Are Everything You See. However, the story begins five years earlier in 1965. 

That was when the group the Kansas City Seven was founded in Birmingham, England, by trumpeter Jim Simpson and singer Danny King, drummer Mike Kellie, bassist Pete Allen, organist Richard Storey and saxophonists Chris Wood and Brian “Monk” Finch. They had all been members of other local bands before joining forces in the Kansas City Seven. 

Initially, the new group played a variety of music including jazz. However, when they started to play more R&B and soul and less jazz, they changed their name to The Locomotive. That was when the group started to gain a reputation for their live performances. However, as is often the case with new bands, The Locomotive’s started to change.

By the end of 1966, Chris Wood had left to join Steve Winwood, Dave Mason and Jim Capaldi in Traffic.  Danny King, Mike Kellie, Pete Allen, Richard Storey and Brian “Monk” Finch all left The Locomotive. Jim Simpson was the only original member of the group. 

During this period, new arrivals included drummer “Mooney” Mezzone,  bassist Jo Ellis, keyboardist Norman Haines and saxophonist Bill Madge. The arrival of Norman Haines was particularly important to the development of The Locomotive.

Norman Haines had worked in a record shop in Smethwick, a district of Birmingham, where he developed an interest in ska.  He also filled the void after vocalist Danny King’s departure from the group. For The Locomotive this was the start of a new era.

By 1967, The Locomotive had signed to the Direction label and had recorded their debut single Broken Heart, which was written by Norman Haines. Tucked away on the B-Side was a cover of Dandy Livingstone’s Rudy-A Message To You  which twelve years later in 1979, gave The Specials a hit single. That was still to come.

Before that, Broken Heart was released by The Locomotive and their debut single gave them a hit single in 1967. This could’ve launched the group’s career.

In 1968, Jim Simpson left the group and became The Locomotive’s manager. He also setup a new record label Big Bear Records. This wasn’t the end of the changes in changes in lineup.

Bassist Jo Ellis was replaced by Mick Hincks, while drummer “Mooney” Mezzone left and his replacement was Bob Lamb. The final change in personnel was the addition of Mick Taylor who replaced Jim Simpson who was now The Locomotive’s manager. 

It was also at this time that The Locomotive decided to shorten their name to Locomotive.  They also signed to Parlophone Records, and it was full steam ahead for Locomotive.

Their sophomore single was another Norman Haines composition, Rudi’s In Love. When it was released in late 1968, it reached twenty-five in the UK charts and gave the group another hit single. Executives at Parlophone Records wanted to build on the momentum, and work began on Locomotive’s debut album.

The majority of the album was written by the band. Mick Hincks penned Rain, Mick Taylor wrote Now Is The EndThe End Is When and Overture was written by Nigel Phillips who cowrote Nobody Asked You To Come, A Day In Shining Armour and The Loves Of Augustus Abbey-Parts One, Two and Three with Norman Haines. He also contributed Mr. Armageddon, Lay Me Down Gently, You Must Be Joking and Times Of Light And Darkness. They were joined by covers of the United States Of America’s Coming Down and Love Song For The Dead Che on what would eventually become We Are Everything You See.

By the time recording took place at Abbey Road Studios, with producer Gus Dudgeon, Locomotive had changed direction musically and were playing progressive rock. This was based around Norman Haines’ keyboard skills. We Are Everything You See was going to be a very different album than their first two singles.

As the recording began,  Locomotive’s lineup featured drummer and percussionist Bob Lamb, bassist Mick Hincks who added backing vocalist and sang the lead on Rain. Norman Haines took charge of the rest of the lead vocals and played harpsichord, mellotron, organ and piano. Horns came courtesy of trumpeters Mick Taylor and Henry Lowther plus tenor saxophonists Bill Madge, Chris Mercer, Dick Heckstall-Smith and Lyn Dobson plus trumpeter Henry Lowther. While the completed album saw Locomotive move in the direction of progressive rock, there were also elements of progressive folk, psychedelia, soul and a good deal of jazz,  especially the changes in tempo. Executives at Parlophone Records were in for a surprise when they heard We Are Everything You See.

That’s the case from the album opener Overture, a cinematic and symphonic sounding track that is a tantalising taste of what’s to come. This includes the dramatic sounding  Mr. Armageddon. The drama comes courtesy of the vocal, washes of organ and sweeping, swirling string. Horns add to to the drama in We Are Everything You See, a lysergic, progressive rock track where effects are used effectively by Locomotive and producer Gus Dudgeon. Then Lay Me Down finds Locomotive seamlessly switching between rock and jazz, while there’s a progressive folk sound to Nobody Asked You To Come. Closing side one is You Must Be Joking, a carefully crafted, melodic and memorable genre-melting track which is one of the highlights of the album.

Elements of progressive rock,  jazz and even R&B can be heard on A Day In Shining Armour, where Locomotive showcase their versatility and ability to switch between and fuse disparate genres. This they continue to do on The Loves of Augustus Abbey, Parts 1-3 which features on side two. Unlike other similar suites, it’s broken up by other tracks including the wistful and ruminative sounding Rain which features Mick Hincks only lead vocal. There’s also a “suite” of United States Of America’s Coming Down and Love Song For The Dead Che which later featured on several progressive compilations. Closing the album was the lysergic and anthemic rocker Times Of Light and Darkness which closes this hidden gem of an album on a high.  

It was a very different album to the one executives at Parlophone Records expected. So much so, that when they heard it, they decided to delay the release of the album. This was a huge disappointment for the group.

It also caused a great deal of uncertainty and Parlophone Records decided that Locomotive should record a cover of Question Mark and the Mysterians’ I’m Never Gonna Let You Go. When it was released later in 1969, it sunk without trace. Things then went from bad to worse.

Keyboardist Norman Haines left the group later in 1969. He was then asked to join Black Sabbath, but turned down the chance and formed the Norman Haines Band. This wasn’t his best decision, and Locomotive had lost one of its creative forces.

Later in 1969, Mr. Armageddan was released as the lead single from We Are Everything You See. However, just like Locomotive’s previous single it failed to trouble the charts.  This didn’t augur well for the release of their debut album.

As the seventies dawned, We Are Everything You See was belatedly released in early 1970. While the album was well received by critics who appreciated Locomotive’s new and more sophisticated sound, their fans weren’t won over by it. They preferred the group’s previous R&B sound and the album failed commercially.  For Locomotive this was another disaster and spelt the end of the line for that lineup of the group.

After the release of We Are Everything You See most of the group left. Only Mick Hincks and Bob Lamb remained and tried to continue Locomotive with two new members John Caswell and Keith Millar. The new lineup released one more single a Locomotive,  Roll Over Mary.

Later in 1970, Locomotive was no more, after group as renamed as The Dog That Bit People. The new band released their eponymous debut album in 1971, but spilt up later that year. 

Fifty years after the release of We Are Everything You See, Music Box has rereleased Locomotive’s only album on vinyl. For too long it was an oft-overlooked album, but nowadays We Are Everything You See is starting to receive the recognition this  progressive cult classic deserves. 

It’s not just an album of progressive rock. We Are Everything You See also features  elements of progressive folk, psychedelia, R&B, soul and jazz. Throughout the album  Locomotive switch between and fuse disparate genres and seamlessly change tempo on an album where the vocals are impassioned, emotive and sometimes sound almost tormented. It’s a captivating album and a reminder of one of the great lost British groups of the late-sixties and early seventies. Sadly, their star only was shining brightly for only a short period of time. We Are Everything You See is a reminder of Locomotive, a tight, talented and versatile band whose music on what was an album of ambitious, imaginative and innovative music that features a band at the peak of their powers when their star was shining at its brightest.

Cult Classic: Locomotive-We Are Everything You See.

CULT CLASSIC: PAVLOV’S DOG-PAMPERED MENIAL.

Cult Classic: Pavlov’s Dog-Pampered Menial.

In the history of progressive rock, Pavlov’s Dog’s 1975 debut album Pampered Menial is regarded as a genre classic. That was despite the album’s commercial failure. It was released initially by ABC-Dunhill. The initial commercial failure was totally unexpected as the label had given Pavlov’s Dog a large advance which was thought to be in the region of $650,000. For everyone concerned this wasn’t just disappointing, it was a disaster. 

Pavlov’s Dog was a big signing for ABC-Dunhill who thought that the group’s debut album Pampered Menial was going to be a commercial success. They were regarded as rising stars of the progressive rock scene, and had come a long way in just three years. 

The Pavlov’s Dog story began in St. Louis, Missouri, in  1972, but how the band came into being is disputed. Mike Safron claims that he and Siegfried Carver  founded the band. However, the other version of the story is that after the demise of a local covers band High On A Small Hill, which featured vocalist and guitarist David Surkamp and bassist Rick Stockton, Pavlov’s Dog was formed.  By 1973, they were joined by drummer and percussionist Mike Safron, guitarist Steve Levin, keyboardist David Hamilton and flautist Doug Rayburn  who also played mellotron. This was the first lineup of the Pavlov’s Dog.

Within a year, there was a change in the group’s lineup when Steve Levin left and was replaced by lead guitarist Steve Scorfina, who previously, was a member of REO Speedwagon. This new lineup headed to a studio in Pekin, Illinois.

That was where Pavlov’s Dog recorded a number of songs that they had written. When they listened to them, it wasn’t a case of the tracks having potential, the band felt they were good. So did executives at ABC-Dunhill Records.

When they heard the recordings, they wanted to sign Pavlov’s Dog and were willing to pay a hefty price. This was thought to be around $650, 000 a not inconsiderable amount of money in the mid-seventies. It was no surprise when Pavlov’s Dog signed on the dotted line.

Like many groups who are signed by a label, they had already written what they thought would be part of their debut album. However, despite having liked the songs Pavlov’s Dog had already recorded only some of them made it onto the album. 

It featured nine songs, including Julia, Fast Gun, Theme From Subway Sue, Episode and Of Once and Future Kings which were penned by David Surkamp who cowrote Late November with Steve Scorfina. He also contributed Natchez Trace and Mike Safron penned Song Dance and Siegfried Carver wrote Preludin. These nine songs were produced by Sandy Pearlman and Murray Krugman who had worked with Blue Oyster Cult. When the album was completed, the release was scheduled for the spring of 1975.

Pavlov’s Dog’s much-anticipated debut album Pampered Menial was released on April the ‘4th’ 1975, it featured that distinctive cover, which featured engravings by Sir Edwin Landseer. By then, he had been dead for almost one hundred years and a new generation were discovering his work.

Mostly, critics were won over by Pampered Menial and it received  plaudits and praise. Some critics disliked the band, and one reason was David Surkamp’s voice. It seemed to divide the opinion of critics. Despite this, executives at ABC-Dunhill thought they had a successful album on their hands.

When Pampered Menial was released it failed to even trouble the charts. To make matters worse, Pampered Menial Siegfried Carver left the band just after the release of the album. What happened next was unusual.

In mid-June 1975, Pampered Menial was reissued by Columbia with a slightly different sleeve. The album entered the lower reaches of the charts, and stalled at a lowly 181 in the US Billboard 200. Pampered Menial wasn’t the commercial success that executives hoped although Julia gave the group a minor hit in Australia when it reached seventy-nine. 

Forty-six years after Pampered Menial’s release in 1975 and the album is regarded as a cult classic. It finds Pavlov’s Dog fusing elements of progressive rock, hard rock and art rock. They  were a tight, talented and versatile band and Pampered Menial is proof of it. Each of the mucicians were master craftsmen and David Surkamp’s inimitable vocal was unlike the majority of progressive rock vocalists. He and the rest of Pavlov’s Dog showcase their considerable talents on Pampered Menial.

Seamlessly, Pavlov’s Dog switch between a variety of songs on Pampered Menial. They open the album with the instrumental Julia, which gave them a minor hit single in Australia. It gives way to the  beautiful, emotive sounding instrumental Late November and then the hard rocking Song Dance. Fast Gun features an impassioned vocal from David Surkamp as the rest of the band combine to create one of the finest arrangements on the album. Then Natchez Trace which closes the first side, is a beautiful, melodic and sometimes haunting and dramatic song.

Opening side two is Theme From Subway Sue where blasting guitars give way to a piano and David Surkamp’s trademark vocal. It’s a mixture of power, passion and emotion on this anthemic track. The quality continues on Episode which gradually reveals its secrets and showcases Pavlov’s Dog’s considerable talents and another highlights of the album. Preludin is a stunning progressive rock instrumental and one of the album closer Of Once And Future Kings is one of the most ambitious tracks on Pampered Menial.

Although Pampered Menial wasn’t a commercial success upon its release in 1975, the album eventually started to find the wider audience it deserved. Gradually, fans of progressive rock discovered the delights of the album that should’ve  launched Pavlov’s Dog’s career. Nowadays, this once lost album is regarded as a genre classic and in retrospective reviews is getting the critical acclaim it deserves.  

No wonder, Pavlov’s Dog were like musical master craftsmen on their debut album Pampered Menial. The members of Pavlov’s Dog successfully combined an esoteric mixture of instruments to create a carefully crafted cult classic that forty-six years after its release, is  best described as an ambitious and timeless progressive rock opus.

Cult Classic: Pavlov’s Dog-Pampered Menial.

CULT CLASSIC: STANLEY TURRENTINE-COMIN’ YOUR WAY.

Cult Classic: Stanley Turrentine-Comin’ Your Way.

When bandleader and saxophonist Stanley Turrentine entered Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, in New Jersey on January the ’20th’ 1961, he was twenty-six and about to record what would eventually become Comin’ Your Way.  It was the third time he had made this journey since he had signed to Blue Note Records.

The first time was just a month earlier, in December 1960, when he completed the recording Blue Hour, a collaboration between Stanley Turrentine and The Three Sounds. It had been recorded during two sessions in 1960, and was scheduled for release during March 1961. This album he was about to record would be released later in 1961. Or so  Stanley Turrentine thought.

Sadly, that wasn’t the case and the release of Comin’ Your Way was postponed at the last minute. In its place, Up At “Minton’s”, a live album that was recorded at the famous Harlem venue, just one month after the Comin’ Your Way session. This came as a surprise to Stanley Turrentine and must have been disappointing and frustrating. However, he had still released his debut solo album on the legendary Blue Note Records. Surely it was only a matter of time before Comin’ Your Way was released?

Little did Stanley Turrentine realise that seventeen years would pass before the tracks on Comin’ Your Way were  eventually released in 1978 by Blue Note Records as part of the Jubilee Shouts’ compilation. By then, he was signed to Fantasy Records and changed direction musically. However, Comin’ Your Way was a reminder of Stanley Turrentine as he blossomed as a bandleader and tenor saxophonist. 

Now forty-two years later, Blue Note Records have reissued Comin’ Your Way as part of their Blue Note Tone Poet Series and is a 180 gram audiophile LP. It’s a welcome reminder of the late, great Stanley Turrentine who nowadays, is recognised as one of the great tenor saxophonists.

Stanley William Turrentine was born on April the 5th 1934, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and grew up in a musical family in the Hill District. His father Thomas Turrentine, Sr, was a saxophonist with Al Cooper’s Savoy Sultans, while his mother played piano and Stanley’s elder brother Thomas became a professional trumpeter and in January 1961, played on Comin’ Your Way. That was in the future.

When Stanley Turrentine started out, he wasn’t playing jazz. Instead, he was a member of various blues and R&B  bands. However, his main influence was  jazz tenor saxophonist, Illinois Jacquet who is remembered for his solo on Flying Home, which nowadays, is regarded as the first ever R&B saxophone solo. He wrote his name into musical history and later, so would Stanley Turrentine.

During the fifties, Stanley Turrentine was a member of Lowell Fulson and Earl Bostic‘s bands.  However, when he joined  Earl Bostic‘s band he was literally standing in the shadow of a giant as he replaced John Coltrane in 1953. Stanley Turrentine was also a member of pianist Tadd Dameron’s band during this period. Then in the mid-fifties  Stanley Turrentine was drafted.

During his time serving his country, Stanley Turrentine received the only formal musical training he ever had. When he left the US Army in 1959 he was a much more complete musician.

Upon leaving the military, Stanley Turrentine joined Max Roach’s band. He featured on four albums by the jazz drummer including 1959s Moon Faced and Starry Eyed, 1960s Quiet As It’s Kept and Parisian Sketches plus 1964s Long as You’re Living. However, when Stanley Turrentine wasn’t working with Max Roach he was in constant demand as a sideman.

Another album he played in during 1959 was Abbey Lincoln’s Abbey Is Blue. This was just the start of prolific period for Stanley Turrentine, who by then, had met his future wife.

As the new decade decade dawned, Stanley Turrentine married organist Shirley Scott in 1960, and the pair often played and recorded together. He accompanied his new wife on nine albums between 1961 and 1978. However, there was no sign of Shirley Scott when Stanley Turrentine recorded his debut album.

In 1960, he signed to Blue Note Records and on June the 16th recorded the six tracks with drummer Al Harewood, bassist George Tucker and pianist Horace Parlan that became Look Out! It was a recording of traditional bop which was quite different from his later bluesy, soul-jazz outings. However, his debut  was well received by critics who were impressed by the power, clarity and sweet and articulate album where Stanley Turrentine played within himself. Look Out! was a sign of what was to come from Stanley Turrentine.

Apart from recording his debut album Look Out! in 1960,  Stanley Turrentine recorded Blue Hour, a collaboration with and The Three Sounds. It was recorded on June the ‘29th’ and December ‘16th’ 1960 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, in New Jersey.

That was also where hard bop and post bop pianist Horace Parlan recorded his album Speakin’ My Piece on July the ‘14th’ 1960. It was just one of a number of albums Stanley Turrentine played on during 1960. These albums were released during 1961.

As 1961 dawned, Stanley Turrentine journeyed to Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, in New Jersey on January the ’20th’ 1961 to record his sophomore album Comin’ Your Way.

 It featured six tracks including Dorothy Fields and Albert Hague’s My Girl Is Just Enough Woman For Me; Yip Harburg  and Arthur Schwartz’s Then I’ll Be Tired of You; Leon Mitchell’s Fine L’il Lass; George and Ira Gershwin’s Someone to Watch Over Me and Wild Bill Davis’ Stolen Sweets. While Stanley Turrentine didn’t write any of the tracks on Comin’ Your Way, his brother Tommy contributed Thomasville and joined the band. 

Just like in his debut album, tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine was joined by  drummer Al Harewood, bassist George Tucker and pianist Horace Parlan.The addition of his brother Tommy Turrentine on trumpet meant Comin’ Your Way was a quintet recording.

The session was engineered and ran by Rudy Van Gelder with Alfred Lion producing Comin’ Your Way. It found Stanley Turrentine moving away from the traditional bop of his debut album towards a bluesy soul-jazz sound.  

Comin’ Your Way opens with a pliant and swinging version of My Girl Is Just Enough Woman For Me. While the rhythm section of drummer Al Harewood and bassist George Tucker create a jolting  groove, Stanley Turrentine takes centrestage when he plays the main melody with an expressiveness and a  smoothness that many of contemporaries would be envious of. However, he’s not finished and raises the bar with a solo that twists and turns. Then like any good bandleader, Stanley Turrentine lets other band members showcase their skills. This includes hs brother Tommy on trumpet and pianist Horace Parlan on this breathtaking opener.

Many people will know and love Ella Fitzgerald’s version of Then I’ll Be Tired of You. After one listen to the quintet’s cover that will be the case here. Tommy Turrentine takes centrestage before the baton passes to his brother and bandleader Stanley. Just like on his debut album he plays within himself, playing tender and emotively. When Tommy returns he ads to the sense of melancholy before later, the two horns combine on this beautiful, wistful, late night  ballad. 

There’s almost a subdued sound to Fine L’il Lass before Stanley Turrentine’s plays his a soulful saxophone solo.  Later, George Tucker plays his only bass solo on the album. By then, this soulful track is starting to reveal its secrets, and is swinging.

Thomasville was penned by the older of the Turrentine brothers and is a blistering, driving slice of hard bop. Drummer Al Harewood drives and powers the arrangement along and also adds some swing. When it’s time for the solos it’s Stanley Turrentine whose up first and then his brother Tommy. It’s then time for Horace Parlan to steals the show with an uber funky piano solo, before Al Harewood  enjoys a brief moment in the sun. Just like on the album opener,  Stanley Turrentine allows his band the opportunity to shine on this hard bop opus.

Very different is the Gershwin’s standard Someone To Watch Over Me. It’s another beautiful, emotive ballad where Stanley Turrentine mournful, melancholy tenor saxophone plays a starring role. It’s soul-baring sound is accompanied by the rhythm section who take great care to play within themselves. In doing so, they play their part in a breathtakingly beautiful version of a much-loved jazz standard.

Closing Comin’ Your Way is Stolen Sweets which was written by R&B organist Wild Bill Davis. Following what’s akin to a fanfare, the Turrentine brothers lock horns as they play a series of ascending melodies. Then Tommy Turrentine drops out and leaves his younger brother to showcase his considerable talents as he plays an emotive and impassioned  bop-tinged solo. Although Comin’ Your Way was only his sophomore album, Stanley Turrentine was determined to close the album on a high and does so.

After Stanley Turrentine and his band recorded  Comin’ Your Way in January 1961, the twenty-six year old bandleader must have been looking forward to what was a breathtaking album of soul-jazz with diversions via hard bop and balladry. Here was an album that showcased the considerable talents of Stanley Turrentine and his band. They had accompanied him on his debut album with the exception of his brother Tommy, and he proved to be the missing piece of the jigsaw.  

Tommy Turrentine could prove the perfect accompaniment for his brother, and other times was the perfect foil. Sometimes, he spurred his younger brother on to even greater heights and helped bring out the best in Stanley Turrentine. While he had been playing professionally for a while, he was relatively inexperienced as a bandleader and solo artist. Maybe having his elder brother beside him in the studio brought out the best in him. Stanley Turrentine playing is almost flawless on Comin’ Your Way and why executives at Blue Note Records decided to shelf the album at the last moment seems strange?

In its place, Up At “Minton’s”, a live album that was recorded at the famous Harlem venue, just one month after the Comin’ Your Way session was released by Blue Note Records later in 1961. The album was a success, and Up At “Minton’s” Volume 2 followed later in 1961. This allowed  executives at Blue Note Records to argue that their decision to shelf Comin’ Your Way was vindicated. That is debatable as it may have been a much more successful album than Up At “Minton’s” and could’ve transformed Stanley Turrentine’s nascent solo career.

He spent the rest of the sixties signed to Blue Note Records and released albums of the quality of Hustlin’,  Easy Walker, The Spoiler and The Look Of Love. Then as the seventies dawned, Stanley Turrentine left Blue Note Records.

In 1970 Stanley Turrentine signed to Creed Taylor’s CTI Records and changed direction musically. He recorded a series of albums of fusion including one of his finest outings Sugar which was released in 1970.

The  following year 1971, Stanley Turrentine and Shirley Scott divorced after eleven years of marriage. Sadly, this talented couple never recorded another album together.

Following his divorce, Stanley Turrentine continued to record for CTI Records and released several critically acclaimed album. This included  Salt Song, Cherry with Milt Jackson and Don’t Mess With Mister T.  Then in 1974, Stanley Turrentine left CTI Records and signed for Fantasy Records. It was the end of an era.

Just like his time at Blue Note Record and CTI Records, Stanley Turrentine was prolific during his time at Fantasy Records. He released nine albums between 1974 and 1980 which encompassed a variety of styles.  These albums were orchestrated by the likes of Gene Page and featured an all-star group. Despite that, the albums received mixed reviews, with some of the negative reviews often unwarranted. The Fantasy Records’ years weren’t as successful as Stanley Turrentine’s time at Blue Note Record and CTI Records.

In 1978, Comin’ Your Way was discovered in the Blue Note Records’ vaults and belatedly released as part of the Jubilee Shouts’ two LP compilation in America. 

Another nine years passed before Comin’ Your Way  was released on LP and CD by Blue Note Records in 1987. It was a case of better late than never. At last, record buyers were able to hear Stanley Turrentine’s stunning, mythical lost album of soul-jazz, hard bop and beautiful ballads which had the potential to transform his nascent solo career if it had been released in 1961.

Cult Classic: Stanley Turrentine-Comin’ Your Way.

CULT CLASSIC: PHAROAH SANDERS-WELCOME TO LOVE.

Cult Classic: Pharoah Sanders-Welcome To Love.

By the time Pharoah Sanders began recording Welcome To Love on the ‘17th’ of July 1990, at Studio Gimmick, Yerres, France, the American saxophonist and pioneer of free jazz was fifty, and was signed to the Dutch independent label, Timeless Records. 

Pharoah Sanders debut for his new label was Moon Child, a much more traditional jazz album which featured ruminative and contemplative sounding tracks and was released in 1989. This was very different to the albums of blistering avant-garde and free jazz which feature his overblowing, harmonic, and multiphonic techniques. While this might not have pleased his longterm fans, Moon Child was a much more accessible album that had the potential to introduce Pharoah Sanders’ music to newcomers. 

So had the followup, Welcome To Love, which was a similar sounding album. It was recorded by the quartet Pharoah Sanders led during three days in July of 1990. This was the latest chapter in the story of Pharoah Sanders’ career.

Born Farrell Sanders, in Little Rock, Arkansas, in October 1940, Pharoah Sanders’ career began in Oakland, California. That’s where the tenor saxophonist made his professional debut, playing in local blues and R&B bands. It’s also where Pharoah developed and honed his distinctive style. However, as the fifties drew to a close, Pharoah Sanders wanted to widen his horizons and headed to New York.

Initially, his time in New York wasn’t the happiest of his life. He was homeless, reduced to sleeping on the streets, under stairs or just about anywhere warm and dry. With his clothes reduced to rags, many a lesser man would’ve headed home. However, Pharoah Sanders wasn’t about to give up on his dream of making a living as  musician. His persistence paid off when he met another Sun Ra.

Not only did Sun Ra give him a place to stay and bought him some new clothes, but brought him into his band. This was just the start of Pharoah Sanders’ career. Then in 1964, Pharoah Sanders released his debut album Pharoah’s First, on ESP Disk. A year later, he joined John Coltrane’s band where he came to the attention of a much wider audience.

It was during the two years he spent as a member of John Coltrane’s band, that he perfected his sheets of sound technique. Pharoah Sanders was best known for his overblowing, harmonic and multi-phonic techniques and was the perfect addition to John Coltrane’s band.  

He played on albums like Ascension, Meditation and Om and playing alongside ‘Trane was a musical apprenticeship worth its weight in gold. Sadly, John Coltrane’s career was cut short, when he died in July 1967, aged just forty. Having learnt from the master, Pharoah Sanders returned to his solo career.

During his time playing with John Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders had released two solo albums, 1965s Pharoah and 1966s Tauhid, which his debut for Impulse!. It was at Impulse! where he released the best music of his career. Just like before, Pharoah Sanders split his time between his solo career and accompanying some of the giants of jazz. Among the artist he accompanied, were Alice Coltrane, McCoy Tyner and Don Cherry, and collaborated with Terry Callier, Sun Ra and Ornette Coleman. Between 1969 and 1974, Pharoah Sanders was prolific as he divided his time between his solo career and working as sideman.

In 1969, Pharoah Sanders recorded an album for the Chicago-based. This was Izipho Zam (My Gifts), which wasn’t released until 1973. By then, Pharoah Sanders had released some of the best music of his career during the Impulse! Years.

The Impulse! Years.

Karma.

Having signed to Impulse!, Pharoah Sanders released Karma, an album of spiritual jazz in May 1969. It found the pioneering saxophonist fusing avant-garde, free jazz, Indian and African music on album that was called innovative and progressive. 

Jewels Of Thought.

So was Jewels Of Thought, which was released by Pharoah Sanders in October 1969. It featured an all-star band that included Leon Thomas, Lonnie Liston Smith, Cecil McBee and Idris Muhammad, and is an oft-overlooked album in Pharoah Sanders’ back-catalogue. This was the last album he released during the sixties, and as the seventies dawned, he continued to create groundbreaking music and push musical boundaries to their limits.

Summun Bukmun Umyun.

1970 saw Pharoah release one of his most ambitious and spiritual albums. Summun Bookman Umyun or Deaf Dumb and Blind, was influenced by African music. The album is an exploration of faith, spiritual truth and enlightenment. Deaf Dumb and Blind are the “non-believers,” those who have rejected faith. Joining Lonnie Liston Smith and Cecil McBee were Gary Bartz and Woody Shaw. They played their part in what critics called an ambitious album of spiritual music.

Thembi.

Sadly, critics didn’t say the same thing about the followup, Thembi, which is an underrated album and one of three Pharoah  Sanders released during 1971. It was a quite different album to his previous albums. Gone were the lengthy jams which were replaced by shorter much more concise tracks that were breezy and uptempo. Pharoah Sanders and his band played an eclectic selection of instruments as they fused avant-garde, experimental music and free jazz during the two recording sessions. 

This resulted in the criticism that Thembi didn’t flow, and instead, seemed like parts of two albums. That was unfair as Thembi which was a transitional album for Pharoah Sanders as he tried new instruments and techniques. However, one thing never changed, and that was that the music was inventive and captivating, just like on previous albums. So was the other album he released during 1971, Black Unity.

Black Unity.

When Black Unity was released in December 1971, it marked the end of era as Pharoah Sanders decided to change tack. He decided to innovate rhythmically and concentrated on the groove.

To do this, he brought onboard younger musicians, who could fuse Afrobeat, funk, free jazz, avant-garde and experimental music during a thirty-seven minute track. His front line played their part in what was heralded as an innovative as they pushed musical boundaries to their limits, sometimes, even way beyond. The result was a musical melting pot, that produced a mesmeric, hypnotic, genre-melting, groove-laden album that was one of Pharoah Sander’s finest albums. Despite this, in 1972, he returned briefly, returned to being a sideman and released two more albums.

Pharoah Sanders had featured on Alice Coltrane’s 1971 album Journey In Satchidanada. A year later, in 1972, he returned and played on the followup Ptah, The El Daoud which was released to critical acclaim. Meanwhile, Pharoah Sanders solo career continued.

Live At The East.

When Pharoah Sanders played at The East, in New York, in 1971, he was joined by an all-star band that included  Stanley Clarke, Cecil McBee and Norman Connors. As the band took to the stage the tapes were running as they ran through Healing Song, Memories Of J. W. Coltrane and Lumkil during a forty-three minute set. It was an impassioned performance that was released to critical acclaim in 1972.

Wisdom Through Music.

The other album Pharoah Sanders release during 1972 was Wisdom Through Music. It was well received by critics, who thought that this golden period that Pharoah Sanders was enjoying would continue for the foreseeable future. How wrong they were.

In 1973, Pharoah Sanders left Impulse! after recording and releasing some of the best music of his career.

Love In Us All.

This included Love In Us All, which was released during 1972 and 1973, and included two extended, groundbreaking compositions Love Is Everywhere and To John. They were an aural representation of the way Pharoah Sanders believed that his music divided the opinion of critics and connoisseurs of jazz. When the album was released it was to plaudits and praise, unlike the other album Pharoah Sanders released during 1973.

Village Of The Pharoahs.

This was Village Of The Pharoahs which was recorded at sessions held during 1971, 1972 and 1973.  When its was released in 1973, critics felt there wasn’t the same spontaneity as previous album and the music failed to flow. Critics wondered why? Some wondered if it was because the album featured a new band? Others wondered if its was because he played tenor saxophone on one track? For the rest of the album he played soprano saxophone, and added some vocals on Village Of The Pharoahs. Although critics regraded it as a disappointing album compared to previous releases, they thought that stylistically, it was like a return to his earlier albums. It was the penultimate album that Pharoah Sanders released on Impulse!.

Elevation.

Pharoah Sanders’ swansong for Impulse! was Elevation, which was released in 1974. It was a fusion of Afrobeat, avant-garde, free jazz, post bop and progressive jazz and although it was well received, Elevation didn’t receive the same critical acclaim as previous albums. Part of the problem was free jazz was no longer as popular and was perceived as yesterday’s music. With musical tastes changing, record buyers missed out on an ambitious, bold, innovative and progressive album that brought to an end Pharoah Sanders’ Impulse! years.

He was without a record deal, and only released one album since leaving Impulse in 1973, Pharoah in 1977 on the American independent label India Navigation. However, things were soon to change when a musician from his past would reenter his life, Norman Connors. 

The Arista Years.

He had first played with Pharoah when he was just sixteen, and part of John Coltrane’s band. Due to Trane’s regular drummer Elvin Jones not being able to play, Norman Connors replaced him. After this, Norman Connors and Pharoah Sanders paths continued to cross. 

By 1978, Norman had released a trio of successful albums, 1976s You Are My Starship, 1977s Romantic Journey and Norman’s first album for Arista, 1978s This Is Your Life. Having seen the conditions Pharoah Sanders was living in, and realized how their careers had taken quite different paths Norman Connors decided to try and help his idol. 

He approached Clive Davis, head of Arista, and broached the subject of signing  Pharoah to Arista. Clive Davis agreed to this, and Pharoah Sanders who then signed a recording contract with Arista. 

This saw Pharoah Sanders leave his rundown flat in  New York, as he headed to California where he recorded two albums for Arista. The first was 1977s Love Will Find A Way  which reached number forty-one on the US R&B Charts. This marked a change in Pharoah Sanders fortunes commercially. 

The following year, 1978,  Pharoah Sanders retrained with his second album for Arista, Beyond A Dream. However, the album failed to find an audience and not long after this, Pharoah Sanders left Arista. However, three years later, Arista released the live album Beyond A Dream. By then, a new chapter was unfolding for Pharoah Sanders.

Theresa Records.

Just seven years after leaving Impulse!, which was one of the greatest labels in jazz history,  Pharoah Sanders released his first album for Theresa Records.  This was the double album Journey To The One, which was released in 1980. It was followed in 1981, by Rejoice, a captivating double album that was one of Pharoah Sanders’ finest albums for Theresa Records.

He returned in 1982 with another Pharoah Sanders Live and  Heart Is A Melody in 1983. It featured drummer Idris Muhammad, while Andy Bey, Deborah McGriff and Jes Muir were among the vocalists on Heart Is a Melody of Time (Hiroko’s Song). It’s one of the highlights of the album which is a hidden gem in Pharoah Sanders’ back-catalogue.

Two years later, Pharoah Sanders returned with Shukuru, in 1985. At times, the album harked back to his Impulse! years, and other times, it seemed that he was paying homage to his mentor John Coltrane and sometimes, sounded like him. However,  Pharoah Sanders time at Teresa Records was almost at an end.

A Prayer Before Dawn was released in 1987, and brought to an end another chapter in the career of Pharoah Sanders.

After leaving Teresa Records, Pharoah Sanders released one album for the Doctor Jazz label. This was Oh Lord, Let Me Do No Wrong in 1987. Next stop for Pharoah Sanders was Timeless Records.

Timeless Records.

Moon Child.

Pharoah Sanders debut for Timeless Records was Moon Child, which was released in 1989. It was an album  where new compositions and standards rub shoulder on what was a  much more traditional jazz album. Moon Child featured ruminative and contemplative sounding tracks and showed a different side to  Pharoah Sanders.  While this may have disappointed some of his fans, it was a much more accessible album that had the potential to introduce Pharoah Sanders to a much wider audience. So would the followup Welcome To Love.

Welcome To Love.

Recording of Welcome To Love began on the ‘17th’ of July 1990, at Studio Gimmick, Yerres, France. Joining Pharoah Sanders who switched between tenor and soprano saxophone, were drummer Eccleston W. Wainwright Jr, bassist Stafford James and pianist William Henderson. They recorded a mixture of standards and the Pharoah Sanders’ composition The Bird Song, over the next three days.

Three of the standards had been recorded by John Coltrane. This included two tracks from his 1961 album Ballads. They were You Don’t Know What Love Is which opened the album, and Nancy (With The Laughing Face), while Mal Waldron’s Soul Eyes featured on ‘Trane’s 1960 album Coltrane.

Other tracks included the Hoagy Carmichael and Ned Washington composition The Nearness Of You; Guy Wood an Robert Mellin’s My One and Only Love; Billy Eckstine’s I Want to Talk About You and  Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke’s Polka Dots and Moonbeams. They were joined by Frank Loesser and Jimmy McHugh’s  Say It (Over and Over Again); J. J. Johnson’s Lament and John Blackburn and Karl Suessdorf’s Moonlight In Vermont which closed the album which was produced by Russ Musto and Tetsuo Hara and was completed on the ‘19th’ of July 1990.

When Welcome To Love was released in 1991, Pharoah Sanders continued to reinvent his music. Pharoah Sanders’ eschewed his trademark sheets of sound and overblowing. Instead, his music was much more subtle and understated on what critics called a much more traditional jazz album. It feature a much gentler, understated sound on an album that was a tribute to John Coltrane’s 1961 album Ballads. 

On Welcome To Love, Pharoah Sanders plays within himself, and chooses each  note with the utmost care. His plays with a subtlety and there’s a serene sound to the music which has a  much more subtle and understated sound. It was what some critics called a much more traditional jazz album. There were no detours via avant-garde nor free jazz on an album where  the music was variously beautiful, emotive and tugged at the listener’s heartstrings. Other times, the music was melancholy, wistful and sometimes was ruminative and invited reflection. Pharoah Sanders was certainly in a reflective mood during as he was homesick during the recording. Despite that, there’s a warmth to the music on Welcome To Love, which is a beautiful album of what’s often referred to as “straight up” jazz from a musical master craftsman Pharoah Sanders.

Despite being released to critical acclaim upon its release in 1991, Welcome To Love wasn’t a commercial success and nowadays, it’s a rarity. This oft-overlooked album is one of the hidden gems Pharoah Sanders’ back-catalogue. That’s not all.

Welcome To Love shows another side to one of the legends of jazz,  saxophonist Pharoah Sanders who throughout his career continued to reinvent his music. That was case during his time with Timeless Records when he released Welcome To Love a beautiful and sometimes ruminative sounding album that is perfect late night listening for those in love and those who have loved and lost and have lived to tell the tale.  

Cult Classic: Pharoah Sanders-Welcome To Love.

 

CULT CLASSIC: EZE-NRI ROYAL DRUMMERS VOL. 1

Cult Classic: Eze-Nri Royal Drummers Vol. 1.

One of the most important labels in the history of African music is Tabansi  Records, which  was founded in Onitsha, a trading centre in the Igbo southeast of Nigeria, in 1952. Chief (Dr) G.A.D. Tabansi had watched as  Decca, and then  Philips, closed the doors on their Nigerian operations. His new label became the most important and influential Nigerian record label, and consistently released music that was groundbreaking and of cultural significance.

Without doubt, one of the most culturally significant albums Tabansi even released was a  live recording of the investiture ceremony of an Eze-Nri King. Given the cultural  importance of the album, nowadays, original copies of Eze-Nri Royal Drummers Vol. 1 are incredibly rare and valuable. Sadly, this puts copies beyond the budget of the majority of record buyers. However, anyone who is lucky enough to find an original copy of the album at a reasonable price will be able to hear what is a hugely important ceremony. The album was very different to the majority released by the Tabansi label.

Having founded his new label in 1952, Chief (Dr) G.A.D. Tabansi began recording artists and then pressed the records at The United African Company’s pressing plant. After that, record vans promoted the latest releases in Nigerian villages. This was just the start for Tabansi Records.

In the sixties, The United African Company decided to concentrate on importing American and European music. With very little competition Tabansi Records was able to concentrate on local  music which The United African Company had turned its back on. This was a big mistake.

During the seventies, Tabansi Records was the most successful Nigerian label, and its founder  Chief (Dr) G.A.D. Tabansi was one of the leading light’s of country’s thriving and vibrant music scene. He had invested in the company he had founded in, in Onitsha, Lagos, all these years ago, which had its own studios and pressing plant. The company was going from strength-to-strength.

By the eighties, Chief (Dr) G.A.D. Tabansi was joined in the company by his son Godwin. He helped with promotion and developing the artists on the Tabansi roster. This included many of Nigeria’s young and up-and coming musicians plus some of its biggest names. However, by then, the label was also releasing albums of culturally significance.

This included a  live recording of the investiture ceremony of an Eze-Nri king. Historians believe that the musical elements of the ceremony have never changed in over a thousand years. That is despite there being many changes in Nigeria, and indeed other parts of West Africa. 

Nowadays, the majority of the countries in West Africa are republics. However, there are still a few countries that are traditional and ritual kingships. The oldest of these in Nigeria is the Nri kingdom, which is situated within the Igbo area which coincidentally, is where  Tabansi  Records was founded in 1952.

Originally,  the kingdom of Nri was a medieval society in what’s now known as Nigeria. In medieval times, the kingdom was an area of political and religious centre and influenced around  a third of the population of Igboland.  It was administered or ruled by a sacred king or priest king called an Eze Nri. Their role was to manage trade and diplomacy on behalf of the Nri people. They were group of the Igbo speaking people who had divine authority in religious matters. 

The kingdom of Nri welcomed anyone who had been rejected by their community and was a safe  haven for them. It was also a place for slaves to free themselves from their bondage. Over the years, the kingdom expanded but never through force. Instead, Nri expanded by forming allegiances with neighbouring communities. That was all in the future.

Nri’s royal founder Eri, was said to be a “sky being” who came down to earth and established civilisation. Later, Nri culture went on to have a permanent influence in Northern and Western Igbo, and especially through religion and taboos. 

By the eighteenth Century the Nri kingdom was no longer as influential. However, remnants of the eze hierarchy persisted until the establishment of colonial Nigeria in 1911, and even today, it represents one of the traditional states within modern Nigeria. Some things it seems don’t change in Nigeria.

That includes the music on Eze-Nri Royal Drummers Vol. 1. It historians and archaeologists believe is similar to what people in Igboland heard in the early agrarian settlements at the time of Christ, or even before. That is the case with the music played by the royal investiture music group. It features three or four musicians playing hand and stick drums of various sizes as well as a large Alou Ogene. This is an Igbo cowbell, which is struck by two musicians who are seated facing each other and each strike the bell in a series of intricate cross patterns. However, on Eze-Nri Royal Drummers Vol. 1 another instrument is deployed an Oja flute which is sometimes referred to as a talking flute.

The Oja flute  is wooden, and is hand carved and has a cavity inside. On the top, is a wide opening which fits the shape of the human lower lip. There’s also a small hole at the bottom and two smaller holes close to the top on the opposite side. The musician blows through the wide opening, and places their thumb and ring fingers on the two smaller holes to control rhythm and tempo. This unique and ancient instrument can be heard throughout Eze-Nri Royal Drummers Vol. 1. 

It’s an album of huge cultural significance and Eze-Nri Royal Drummers Vol. 1 allows a wider audience to hear a live recording of the investiture ceremony of an Eze-Nri king. This is an important, ancient ceremony which previously very few people have heard. It’s an important part of Nri culture and historians and archeologists believe this has been the case since the time of Christ, or maybe even before. 

While much has  changed in Nigeria the investiture ceremony of an Eze-Nri king stayed the same. Now for the first time, many people will be able to listen to this ancient and scared ceremony. The music on Eze-Nri Royal Drummers Vol. 1 is powerful and spiritual, and it’s a privilege to hear such an important musical document that will be of interest to anyone who is interested in Nigeria, its history, culture or African music. 

Cult Classic: Eze-Nri Royal Drummers Vol. 1.

CULT CLASSIC: SUN RA AND HIS MYTH SCIENCE ARKESTRA-WHEN ANGELS SPEAK OF LOVE.

Cult Classic: Sun Ra and His Myth Science Arkestra-When Angels Speak Of Love.

One of the most prolific artist of the twentieth century was the inimitable Sun Ra, who released around 125 albums during a career that spanned six decades. One that is a render of one of   jazz’s pioneer and innovators is When Angels Speak Of Lovse. It’s also one of Sun Ra’s rarest albums as it was recorded in 1963 and only a small quantity were released in mono in 1966. By then, Sun Ra had achieved much.

Before dawning the moniker Sun Ra, Herman Poole Blount was born on the ‘22nd’ of May 1914, in Birmingham, Alabama. Very little is known about Herman Poole Blount’s early life. So much so, that for many years, nobody knew what age he was. What we do know, is that growing up, Herman Poole Blount immersed himself in music. 

He learnt to play the piano at an early age and soon, was a talented pianist. By the age of eleven, Herman Poole Blount was to able read and write music. However, it wasn’t just playing music that Herman Poole Blount enjoyed. When musicians swung through Birmingham, Herman Poole Blount was there to see everyone from Duke Ellington to Fats Waller play. Seeing the great and good of music play live inspired Herman Poole Blount to become a professional musician.

By his mid teens, Herman Poole Blount was a high school student, but even by then, music was his first love. His music teacher John T. “Fess” Whatley realised this, and helped Herman Poole Blount’s nascent musical career. 

John T. “Fess” Whatley was a strict disciplinarian, and this rubbed off on Herman Poole Blount. Later, he would acquire a reputation as a relentless taskmaster when he formed his Arkestra. He was determined that the musicians in his Arkestra to reach his high and exacting standards and fulfil the potential that he saw in them. At rehearsals, musicians were pushed to their limits, but this paid off when they took to the stage. Led by Sun Ra, the Arkestra in full flow were peerless. However, that was way in the future. Before that, Herman Poole Blount’s career began to take shape.

In his spare time, Herman Poole Blount was playing semi-professionally in various jazz and R&B groups, and other times, he worked as a solo artist. Before long, Herman was a popular draw. This was helped by his ability to memorize popular songs and play them on demand. Strangely, away from music, the young Herman Poole Blount was very different.

He’s remembered as studious, kindly and something of a loner. Herman Poole Blount was also a deeply religious young man despite not being a member of a particular church. One organisation that Herman Poole Blount joined was the Black Masonic Lodge. This allowed him access to one of the largest collection of books in Birmingham. For a studious young man like Herman Poole Blount, this allowed him to broaden his knowledge of various subjects. Whether this included the poetry and Egyptology that would later influence his musical career.

In 1934, twenty-year-old Herman Poole Blount was asked to join a band that was led by Ethel Harper. She was no stranger to Herman Poole Blount, and just a few years earlier, had been his high school biology teacher. Just a few years later, and he was accepting Ethel Harper’s invitation to join her band.

Before he could head out on tour with Ethel Harper’s band, Herman Poole Blount joined the local Musicians’s Union. After that, he embarked on a tour of the Southeast and Midwest. This was the start of Herman Poole Blount’s life as a professional musician. However, when Ethel Harper left her band to join The Ginger Snaps, Herman Poole Blount took over the band.

With Ethel Harper gone, the band was renamed The Sonny Blount Orchestra, and it headed out on the road and toured for several months. Sadly, The Sonny Blount Orchestra wasn’t making money, and eventually, the band split up. However, other musicians and music lovers were impressed by The Sonny Blount Orchestra.

This resulted in Herman Poole Blount being always in demand as a session musician. He was highly regarded within the Birmingham musical community, so much so, that he was awarded a music scholarship to Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University in 1937. Sadly, he dropped out after a year when his life changed forever.

In 1937,  Herman Poole Blount experienced what was a life-changing experience. It’s a story he told many times throughout his life. He describes a bright light appearing around him and his body changing. “I could see through myself. And I went up … I wasn’t in human form … I landed on a planet that I identified as Saturn. They teleported me. I was down on a stage with them. They wanted to talk with me. They had one little antenna on each ear. A little antenna over each eye. They talked to me. They told me to stop attending college because there was going to be great trouble in schools … the world was going into complete chaos … I would speak through music, and the world would listen. That’s what they told me.” For a deeply religious young man, this was disturbing and exciting. It certainly inspired the young Herman Poole Blount.

After his: “trip to Saturn,” Herman Poole Blount decided to devote himself to music. So much so, that he hardly found time to sleep. Day in, day out, Herman Poole Blount spent his time practising and composing new songs in his first floor home which he had transformed into a musical workshop. That was where also where he rehearsed with the musicians in his band. Away from music, Herman Poole Blount took to discussing religious matters. Mostly, though, music dominated his life. 

It was no surprise to when Herman Poole Blount announced that he had decided to form a new band. However, his new band was essentially a new lineup of The Sonny Blount Orchestra. It showcased the new Herman Poole Blount, who was a dedicated bandleader, and like his mentor John T. “Fess” Whatley, a strict disciplinarian. Herman Poole Blount was determined his band would be the best in Birmingham. This proved to be the case as seamlessly, The Sonny Blount Orchestra were able to change direction, as they played an eclectic selection of music. Before long, The Sonny Blount Orchestra were one of most in-demand bands in Birmingham, and things were looking good for Herman. Then in 1942, The Sonny Blount Orchestra were no more when Herman was drafted.

On receiving his draft papers, Herman Poole Blount declared himself a conscientious objector. He cited not just religious objections to war and killing, but that he had to financially support his great-aunt Ida. Then there was the chronic hernia that blighted Herman Poole Blount’s life. Despite his objections the draft board rejected his appeal, and things got worse for Herman Poole Blount.

Herman Poole Blount’s family was embarrassed by his refusal to fight, and some turned their back on him. Eventually, though, Herman Poole Blount was offered the opportunity to do Civilian Public Service. However, he failed to appear at the camp in Pennsylvania on the December ‘8th’ 1942.

This resulted in Herman Poole Blount being arrested, and when he was brought before the court, Herman Poole Blount debated points of law and the meaning of excerpts from the Bible. When this didn’t convince the judge Herman Poole Blount said he would use a military weapon to kill the first high-ranking military officer possible. This resulted in Herman Poole Blount being jailed. For Herman, this led to one of the most disturbing periods in his life.

Herman Poole Blount’s experience in military prison were so terrifying and disturbing that he felt he no option but to write to the US Marshals Service in January 1943. By then, Herman felt he was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. He was suffering from stress and feeling suicidal. There was also the constant fear that he would be attacked by others within the military prison. Fortunately, the US Marshals Service looked favourably on his letter. 

By February 1943, Herman Poole Blount was allowed out during the day to work in the forests around Pennsylvania. At nights, he was able to play the piano. A month later, Herman Poole Blount was reclassified and released from military prison. This brought to an end what had been a harrowing period of his life.

Having left prison, Herman formed a new band. They played around the Birmingham area for the next two years. Then in 1945, when his Aunt Ida died, Herman Poole Blount left Birmingham, and headed to the Windy City of Chicago.

Phase One-Chicago.

Now based in Chicago, Herman quickly found work within the city’s vibrant music scene. This included working with Wynonie Harris and playing on his two 1946 singles, Dig This Boogie and My Baby’s Barrelhouse. After that, Herman Poole Blount worked with Lil Green in some of Chicago’s strip clubs. Then in August 1946, Herman Poole Blount started working with Fletcher Henderson but by then, the bandleader’s fortunes were fading.

By then, Fletcher Henderson’s band was full of mediocre musicians, and to make matters worse, the bandleader was often missed gigs. This couldn’t be helped as Fletcher Henderson, was still recovering after a car accident. What Fletcher Henderson needed was someone to transform his band’s failing fortunes and this was where Herman came in. His role was arranger and pianist, but realising the band needed to change direction, he decided to infuse Fletcher Henderson’s trademark sound with bebop. However, the band were resistant to change and in 1948, Herman left Fletcher Henderson’s employ.

Following his departure from Fletcher Henderson’s band, Herman formed a trio with saxophonist Coleman Hawkins and violinist Stuff Smith. Alas, the trio was somewhat short-lived and didn’t release any recordings. 

By then, Chicago was changing, and was home to a number of African-American political activists. Soon, a number of fringe movements sprung up who were seeking political and religious change. When Herman became involved  he was already immersing himself in history, especially, Egyptology. He was also fascinated with Chicago’s many ancient Egyptian-styled buildings and monuments. This resulted in Herman Poole Blount discovering George GM James’ book The Stolen Legacy which turned out to be a life-changing experience.

In The Stolen Legacy, George GM James argues that classical Greek philosophy actually has its roots in Ancient Egypt. This resulted in Herman concluding that the history and accomplishments of Africans had been deliberately denied and suppressed by various European cultures. It was as if Herman’s eyes had been opened and was just the start of a number of changes in his life.

As 1952 dawned, Herman had formed a new band, The Space Trio. It featured saxophonist Pat Patrick and Tommy Hunter. At the time, they were two of the most talented musicians Herman knew. This allowed him to write even more complicated and complex compositions. However, in October 1952 the author of these tracks was no longer  Herman Poole Blount was Sun Ra had just been born.

Just like Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali, adopting the name Sun Ra was perceived by some as Herman choosing to dispense with his slave name. This was a kind of spiritual rebirth for Sun Ra, and was certainly was a musical rebirth.

After Pat Patrick got married, and moved to Florida, this left The Space Trio with a vacancy for a saxophonist. Tenor saxophonist, John Gilmore was hired and filled the void. He would become an important part of Sun Ra’s band in the future. 

So would the next new recruit alto saxophonist Marshall Allen. They were then joined by saxophonist James Spaulding, trombonist Julian Priester and briefly, tenor saxophonist Von Freeman. Another newcomer was Alton Abraham, who would become Sun Ra’s manager. He made up for Sun Ra’s shortcomings when it came to business matters.

While he was a hugely talented bandleader, who demanded the highest standards, Sun Ra, like many other musicians, was no businessman. With Alton Abraham onboard, Sun Ra could concentrate on music while his new manager took care of business. This included setting up El Saturn Records, an independent record label, which would release many of Sun Ra’s records. However, El Saturn Records didn’t released Sun Ra and His Arkestra’s debut album, Jazz By Sun Ra.

Instead, Jazz By Sun Ra was released in 1956, on the short-lived Transition Records. However, Sun Ra and His Arkestra’s sophomore album Super Sonic Jazz was released in March 1956, on El Saturn Records. Sound Of Joy was released on Delmark in November 1956. However, it was El Saturn Records that would release the majority of Sun Ra and His Arkestra’s albums.

In 1961, Sun Ra deeded to leave Chicago and move to New York where he would begin a new chapter in his career. Much had happened to Sun Ra since he first arrived in Chicago 1945 as the World War II drew to a close. Back then, he was still called Herman Poole Blount and was trying to forge a career as a musician. By the time he left Chicago he was a pioneer of free jazz

Phase Two-New York.

Sun Ra and His Arkestra journeyed to New York in the autumn of 1961, where they lived communally. This allowed Sun Ra to call rehearsals at short notice, and during the rehearsals, he was a relentless taskmaster who was seeking perfection. However, this paid off and Sun Ra and His Arkestra recorded a string of groundbreaking albums. This included Secrets of the Sun in 1962 which was the most accessible recording from their solar period. However, Sun Ra and his music continued to evolve in the Big Apple

The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra Volume 1 was released by Sun Ra and his Solar Arkestra in 1965. Sun Ra had dispensed was the idea of harmony and melody, and also decided there should be no continuous beat. Instead, the music revolved around improvisation and incorporated programmatic effects. This was the case The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra Volume 2 which was released later in 1965.

As Sun Ra and His Arkestra came to the end of their time in New York, their music was often described as “avant-garde jazz” or “free jazz.” However, Sun Ra  started to reject the free jazz label that was attached to his music. He pointed out that his music had been influenced by different types of ethnic music and he often used percussion, synths and in one case strings. Regardless of the the name given to Sun Ra’s music, it was album innovative. This was the case with Sun Ra and His Myth Science Arkestra’s 1966 album When Angels Speak Of Love.

A year after releasing Secrets Of The Sun, Sun Ra And His Myth Science Arkestra released When Angels Speak Of Love in 1966. It was also reissued by Grey Scale and showed a very different side of Sun Ra.

When Angels Speak Of Love was released on Sun Ra’s El Saturn label, and was only available by mail order or at concerts. Those that bought When Angels Speak Of Love discovered what some critics at the time called “a bizarre record” However, these critics failed to discover what was a truly groundbreaking album where Sun Ra And His Myth Science Arkestra continued to move free jazz in a new direction. 

To do this, they used increasingly shrill notes, layered rhythms and effects including echo reverb. During Next Stop Mars, which is the centrepiece and highlight of the album, a space chant sets the scene for Marshall Allen and John Gilmore braying, growling and shrill horns as they push them to the limits. Meanwhile, Sun Ra’s keyboards underpin the arrangement, during Next Stop Mars, which was part of genre-melting album of groundbreaking album. 

It finds Sun Ra And His Myth Science Arkestra fusing avant-garde and free jazz with their unique brand of space age jazz on When Angels Speak Of Love. For fans of Sun Ra’s music this was album where not for the first time, he was way ahead of the curve musically.

Sadly, Sun Ra died on May the ’30th’ 1993, aged just seventy-nine. That day, music lost an innovative musician who had played his part in rewriting the history of jazz. Sun Ra is remembered as one of the pioneers of free jazz, and helped shape the genre on over 125 albums.

For nearly forty years, Sun Ra pushed musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes, way beyond. He was a pioneer and innovator, and also a perfectionist and relentless taskmaster. With some of most talented, inventive and adventurous musicians of their generation, Sun Ra set about honing his Arkestra’s sound. He was demanding and exacting standards. Second best was no use to Sun Ra. What he was after was an Arkestra who were innovators and musical adventurers.

Sun Ra was never content to stand still musically, and was always looking to reinvent familiar tracks. The original version of a song was merely the starting point. What it became, was anyone’s guess? Sun Ra was forever determined to innovate, and when he reinvented a track, he took the music in the most unexpected direction. He combined Egyptian history and space-age cosmic philosophy with free jazz, avant-garde, improv. Another component of Sun Ra’s music was his unique and inimitable brand of futuristic, space-age jazz which was part of an innovative fusion that totally transformed the career of the man born Herman Poole Blount.

Very little is know about the early years of Herman Poole Blount. However, over a long and illustrious career that spanned six decades, Sun Ra fulfilled his potential and became a giant and legend of jazz. This took time, patience and dedication and by his death in 1993, Sun Ra had come a long way since his early days as musician in Birmingham, Alabama.

The early days of Sun Ra’s career  as a musician in Birmingham, Alabama, helped shape him, and make him the man and musician that he later became. So did his mentor John T. “Fess” Whatley, his religion and the time Herman Poole Blount spent studying at the Black Masonic Lodge, in Birmingham. That was where his love of poetry and interest in Egyptology blossomed. This helped shape the future Sun Ra’s philosophy and music. However, it was his ‘trip’ to Saturn that changed his life forevermore and influenced the music he made as Sun Ra. 

By his death in 1993, Sun Ra had released over 125 albums with a variety of different bands. This includes Sun Ra and His Myth Science Arkestra who released When Angels Speak Of Love in 1966. It’s a reminder of the Sun Ra, the man simply known as Mr. Mystery, who was musical pioneer who spent six decades creating groundbreaking, innovative and inventive music which nowadays, is more popular than ever.

Cult Classic: Sun Ra and His Myth Science Arkestra-When Angels Speak Of Love.

CULT CLASSIC: TERRY CALLIER-TURN YOU TO LOVE.

Cult Classic: Terry Callier-Turn You To Love.

Talent alone sadly, is no guarantee of success. If it was, the late, great, Terry Callier would’ve enjoyed  a long and successful career. Sadly, for much of his career, he was one of music’s best kept secrets whose music was appreciated more in Britain than it was in own country. 

Even by the time his music started to find an audience in Britain, Terry Callier had already released six albums. This included two for Elektra. The second of these albums was Turn You To Love which was a new chapter in the Terry Callier story.

He was born in Cabrini–Green, on the North Side of Chicago and grew up alongside Curtis Mayfield, Jerry Butler and Major Lance. As a child, Terry Callier learnt to play the piano and later the guitar.This would stand him in good stead for the future.

By the time he was a teenager, Terry Callier was singing in doo wop groups. Little did he realise that this was the start of a long musical career that spanned five decades.

In 1962, Terry Callier auditioned at Chicago’s famous Chess Records and this resulted in him recording his debut single. This was Look At Me Now, a minor classic and future favourite on the UK’s Northern Soul scene.

Although he had released his debut single Terry Callier was attending college in Chicago. It was also around that time that he started playing in folk clubs and coffee houses around the city. By then, he had discovered John Coltrane’s music who would be an important influence on his music.

Two years after releasing Look At Me Now, Terry Callier met Samuel Charters of Prestige Records in 1964. The following year, 1965,  The New Folk Sound of Terry Callier was recorded. However, for some reason best known to himself, Samuel Charters took the master tapes with him to the Mexican desert. It was three years later before Terry Callier’s debut album was released in 1968.

That year,  psychedelic rockers H. P. Lovecraft covered Spin, Spin, Spin and It’s About Time on their eponymous album. This introduced Terry Callier’s music to a wider audience.

In 1969, H. P. Lovecraft’s George Edwards coproduced several tracks for Terry Callier. By then, he had been part of the Chicago music scene for the best part of a decade. However, he still had only released one album.

As the seventies dawned, Jerry Butler founded the Chicago Songwriters Workshop in 1970. By then, he and his songwriting partner Larry Wade were writing songs for Chess Records and its Cadet imprint which would sign Terry Callier.

Having signed to Cadet, Terry Callier began work on his sophomore album. This became Occasional Rain, which was released in 1972 and was the first of a triumvirate of criticality acclaimed albums Terry Callier released for Cadet. Sadly, Occasional Rain wasn’t a commercial success and it wasn’t until much later, that the album started to find a wider audience.

It was a similar case with What Color Is Love which followed in 1973. What Color Is Love, showcased a truly talented singer-songwriter who was maturing with every album. What Color Is Love was released to widespread critical acclaim, but just like Occasional Rain, failed to find a wider audience.  For Terry Callier this was a disaster and must have been disheartening.

Terry Callier returned in 1974 with his third album for Cadet, I Just Can’t Help Myself. It was the fourth album of his career and released to plaudits and praise. However, sadly, the album failed commercially and was not long after this, Terry Callier dropped by Cadet. 

Later in his career, the trio of albums Terry Callier released for Cadet were recognised as the finest of his career. However, a lot would happen before that.

Six years after Jerry Butler founded the Chicago Songwriters Workshop in 1970, it closed its doors for the last time in 1976. For Terry Callier who had been a regular at the Chicago Songwriters Workshop since 1970, this was another disappointment. However, his luck changed in 1977.

Three years after the release of his Cadet swansong I Just Can’t Help Myself, Terry Callier was signed by Elektra in 1977 and began work on the fifth album of his career Fire On Ice.

For Fire On Ice, Terry Callier wrote four of the nine songs and cowrote four more with his songwriting partner Larry Wade. He then entered the studio with producer Richard Evans and an all-star band.  They played their part in an album that combined elements of soul, jazz and funk on Fire On Ice which won over critics. It was released to critical acclaim, but just like Terry Callier’s trio of albums for Cadet it failed to find an audience. The followup to Fire On Ice was the already looking like a hugely important album for Terry Callier.

Not long after the release of Fire On Ice, work began on the followup Turn You To Love. Eventually, the Terry Callier and Larry Wade songwriting partnership contributed four of the nine tracks tracks Sign Of The Times, Turn You To Love, A Mother’s Love and You and Me (Will Always Be In Love) with Reginald “Sonny” Burke. Larry Wade wrote Pyramids Of Love and Terry Callier covered two songs from his Cadet years, Ordinary Joe and Occasional Rain. The other two tracks were covers of Steely Dan’s Do It Again and Still Water (Love) co-written by Smokey Robinson and Frank Wilson. Turn You To Love was a  mixture of something new, something borrowed and something blue.

Producing Turn You To Love was Reginald “Sonny” Burke, and just like its predecessor, the album saw an all-star band join Terry Callier. This included drummer James Gadson, Keni Burke who played bass and synths, guitarists David T. Walker, Wah-Wah Watson and Larry Wade, saxophonist Ernie Watts and trombonist Fred Wesley. They  accompanied Terry Callier on the nine tracks that became Turn You To Love which was released in 1979.

Sadly, when Turn You To Love was released in 1979, it was a familiar story for Terry Callier the critics loved the album but it wasn’t a commercial success. At the time, disco was king and albums by singers like Terry Callier were almost unfashionable. Singers like Bobby Womack, O.V. Wright, Syl Johnson and Ann Peebles suffered the same fate and failed to find an audience. 

There was one small crumb of comfort for Terry Callier with Turn You To Love. That was when Sign of the Times provided him with the biggest hit single of his career. It was released as a single after DJ Frankie Crocker used it as the theme for his radio show. On its release, it reached number seventy-eight in the US R&B Charts. This sadly, was the only success from Turn You To Love.

Not long after this, Terry Callier was dropped by Elektra, and for the second time in three years, he was without a record label. His second and final album for Elektra Turn You To Love, was a hidden gem in his back-catalogue that later, would find a wider audience.

Of the two albums Terry recorded for Elektra, Turn You To Love was quite different from its predecessor Fire On Ice. Terry Callier and his tight and talented all-star band continue to combine soul, jazz, funk and R&B and even elements of rock on the cover of Steely Dan’s Do It Again. 

It’s part of a carefully crafted album that is variously  beautiful, joyous, thoughtful, moving, understated,  spacious and full of emotion.  The music veers  between jazzy, soulful, funky and rocky  as Terry Callier showcases breathes life and meaning into a selection of songs that are best described as something old, new borrowed and blue.

As well as revisiting two of his classics Occasional Rain and Ordinary Joe, Terry Callier delivers a beautiful cover the Smokey Robinson and Frank Wilson track Still Water (Love). Terry Callier  breathe new life and meaning into these tracks and they’re welcome additions to Turn You To Love.

The other cover was Steely Dan’s Do It Again, which critics weren’t sure about. Some felt it was the wrong song for Terry Callier. However, he and his multitalented band take the track in a new direction and reinvent it. Do It Again was an unlikely song for Terry Callier to cover but he and his all-star band transform this classic tracks and make it work.

Of the songs that Terry Callier and Larry Wade cowrote, Sign Of The Times and Turn You To Love are the best, and among the album’s highlights. Sadly, very few record buyers heard these tracks as Turn You To Love which was the wrong album at the wrong time.

When Turn You To Love was released in 1979, disco was at the peak of its popularity and Terry Callier’s second album for Elektra failed commercially. Not long after this, he was dropped by Elektra and just like Bobby Womack he was left without a record label. Little did he realise it would be nearly twenty years before he released another album.

Terry Callier continued to tour until 1983, but never made another studio album during this period. By 1983, changes were afoot in his life. 

He won custody of his daughter, and started taking evening classes in computer programming. This lead to him taking what would be a prolonged sabbatical from music that lasted fifteen years. During this period, Terry Callier gained a degree in sociology, raised his daughter, and worked at the University of Chicago. Sadly, during this period he never recorded any music, and the only album that was released was a live album of a 1982 show in Washington, TC In DC. 

This sabbatical from music meant that one of the most talented singer, songwriter and musician of his generation was lost to music for far too long. 

In 1991, Terry Callier made his first visit to Britain playing gigs during his  vacation from his job at the University of Chicago. It wasn’t until 1998 that he recorded a new album Timepeace which marked a return to form from Terry Callier whose music had been discovered by a new generation of DJs, musicians and record buyers. 

The following year, 1999, Terry Callier retrained with his seventh studio album Lifetime. It was released to plaudits and praise and Terry Callier’s comeback continued apace. Of all the albums Terry Callier would release between 1998 and his tragic death on October the ’27th’  2012,  Timepeace and Lifetime are by far the highlight of his comeback years and essential listening.

Of all the albums Terry Callier released during a career that spanned five decades, he never surpassed the trio of albums he released for Cadet.  For newcomers to Terry Callier’s music, Occasional Rain, What Color Is Love and I Just Can’t Help Myself are the best place to start. After that,  the two albums Terry Callier released for Elektra, Fire On Ice and Turn You To Love are a reminder of one of music’s best kept secrets, and a truly talented singer, songwriter who was at the peak of his creative powers during the seventies.

Cult Classic: Terry Callier-Turn You To Love.

CULT CLASSIC: ANDY BEY-BALLADS, BLUE AND BEY.

Cult Classic: Andy Bey-Ballads, Blue and Bey.

By the time Andy Bey released Ballads, Blue and Bey in 1996, his career had already spanned four decades. His career began in 1959 when he worked on the Startime television show with Connie Francis. This continued until 1960, and by then, he had also sang for legendary musician, songwriter and bandleader Louis Jordan. However,  when he was seventeen Andy Bey decided to form a new group with his sisters.

The new group became Andy and The Bey Sisters. They recorded a trio of albums 1961s Andy and The Bey Sisters, 1964s Now! Hear and 1965s Round Midnight. Andy and The Bey Sisters also toured extensively,  and spent sixteen months touring Europe. However, two years after releasing Round Midnight, the group split-up in 1967 and Andy Bey embarked upon a  new chapter in his career working with various jazz musicians.

He had already worked with the Howard McGhee Orchestra on their 1966 album Cookin’ Time. Two years later in 1968, he worked on Max Roach’s Members, Don’t Git Weary. The following year, 1969,  Andy Bey worked with Duke Pearson on How Insensitive. However, as the sixties gave way to the seventies, Andy Bey entered one of the busiest and most fruitful periods of his career.

As the new decade dawned, in  1970, Andy Bey was one of a trio of featured vocalists on Horace Silver’s album That Healin’ Feelin’. This was the first of four Horace Silver albums that Andy Bey would feature on over the next three decades.

In 1970, Andy Bey  collaborated for the first time with jazz saxophonist Gary Bartz on his latest project NTU Troop. They combined jazz, funk, and soul with social comment and powerful messages. Andy Bey, who was then thirty-one, featured on  Gary Bartz NTU Troop’s sophomore album Harlem Bush Music Taifa. He returned for the followup Harlem Bush Music Uhuru which was released in 1971. That wasn’t the only album Andy Bey worked on during 1971.

He was invited to join the Mtume Umoja Ensemble when they recorded what became their debut album  Alkebu-Lan: Land Of The Blacks (Live At The East). It was released by the Chicago-based label Strata East in 1972. The same year, Andy worked on two albums. 

This included Children Of Forever the debut album by jazz fusion bassist Stanley Clarke. Andy Bey and Dee Dee Bridgewater were the two featured vocalists on the album which was released to critical acclaim and launched Stanley Clarke’s solo career.

The other album released during 1972 that featured Andy Bey was Gary Bartz NTU Troop’s Juju Street Songs. It was hailed as one of the group’s finest releases. However, like so many groundbreaking groups Gary Bartz NTU Troop’s only really started to find a wider appreciative audience at a later date.

In 1973, Gary Bartz NTU Troop released Follow, The Medicine Man. This was the fourth and final album that Andy Bey recorded with Gary Bartz NTU Troop. The thirty-four year old vocalist was about to embark upon a solo career.

A year later, in 1974, Andy Bey released Experience and Judgment on Atlantic Records. It had been recorded during two sessions at New York’s Regent Sound Studios on July ‘26th’ and September the ’19th’ 1973. Jazz, funk, soul and Indian music were combined by Andy Bey and his band on what’s regarded as the finest album of his long and illustrious career. Sadly, it failed to find the audience it deserved upon its release and it was seventeen years before Andy Bey returned with the followup. 

Two years later, in 1976, Andy Bey took to the stage in a theatre production of Adrienne Kennedy’s A Rat’s Mass, directed by Cecil Taylor at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club in the East Village of Manhattan. However, the following year Andy Bey returned to music.

Andy Bey featured on Grachan Moncur III’s  1977 album Shadows. This was the last album released during the seventies to feature Andy Bey.

After six years away, he made a guest appearance on Heart Is A Melody Of Time (Hiroko’s Song), a track from  Pharoah Sanders’ 1983 album Heart Is A Melody.  Alas, it was another five years before Andy Bey returned.

He was reunited with Horace Silver on Music To Ease Your Disease, which was released in 1988. This was the second album Andy Bey had recorded with Horace Silver and they could continue to collaborate until 1996.

Andy Bey’s long-awaited sophomore album As Time Goes By  was rcorded live in B.P. Club, on the ‘4th’ of May 1991 and released that year. It found Andy Bey delivering a set of that included a jazz classics like It Ain’t Necessarily So and As Time Goes By. However, it would another five years before he released anther album and much had happened in his professional and private life.

In 1993, Andy Bey featured on Horace Silver’s  It’s Got to Be Funky. It featured an an-star band was released to plaudits and praise. Things seemed to be going well for Andy Bey. Then in 1994, he received devastating news.

Andy Bey had never hid his sexuality, and was openly gay. However, in 1994 he was diagnosed as HIV-positive. Despite the diagnosis, Andy Bey decided to continue his musical career.

In 1995,  Andy Bey featured on tenor saxophonist Bob Malach’s album The Searcher. Then in 1996 he joined forces with his old friend Horace Silver.

Total Response  which was released in 1996 was the fourth and  Horace Silver to feature Andy Bey. They had first collaborated in 1970, and three decades later in were still making music. 

1996 was also the year that Andy Bey returned with his much-anticipated third album Ballads, Blue and Bey. This was only the second studio album that Andy Bey had released since his 1974 debut album Experience and Judgment. However, Ballads, Blue and Bey which has just been released as 2 LP set by Ko Ko Music is very different to Andy Bey’s debut.

Instead of a band, Ballads, Blue and Bey features just Andy Bey who accompanies himself on piano on the ten jazz standards. These he extends and delivers with in his own  inimitable style with his four octave baritone vocal.  

Opening Ballads, Blue and Bey is a beautiful heartfelt version of Ira and George Gershwin’s Someone To Watch Over Me. It gives way to a cover of Cole Porter’s You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To where Andy Bey’s piano provides the perfect accompaniment as his vocal veer. 

Andy Bey then covers two songs cowritten by Duke Ellington. The first is a soul-baring take of I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart. It’s followed by a beautiful, emotive rendition of In A Sentimental Mood . This seven minute epic features one of Andy Bey’s best vocals and showcases his skills as a pianist.

A wistful sounding cover Willow Weep For Me where Andy Bey lays bare his soul is followed by a thoughtful reading of Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach Yesterdays. Then on If You Could See  Me Now Andy Bey breathes meaning and emotion into the lyrics.

Duke Ellington and Mack David’s I’m Just A Lucky So and So features a vocal that’s joyous as he reflects on his good fortune at having found the one he loves. Day Dream is another song that Duke Ellington cowrote and this time he joined forces with Billy Strayhorn and John Latouche. Here, Andy Bey takes the track in a new direction and partly this is because of the understated arrangement where the piano sets the scene for Andy Bey’s vocal masterclass. He paints pictures against an arrangement where less is more on another of the album’s highlights. Embraceable You which was written bye George and Ira Gershwin closes Ballads, Blue and Bey on a high thanks to what can only be described as a spellbinding vocal.

For anyone yet to discover Andy Bey’s music, Ballads, Blue and Bey is one of his finest albums. His finest hour was his 1974 album Experience and Judgment which is a cult classic that’s highly regarded by connoisseurs of funk and soul. However, Ballads, Blue and Bey which was Andy Bey’s third album was very different from his debut.

By then, twenty-two years had passed and Andy Bey’s music had evolved and Ballads, Blue and Bey is album of jazz. This wasn’t the only change. 

Andy Bey isn’t accompanied by a band on Ballads, Blue and Bey and instead, accompanies himself on piano. These understated arrangements are hugely effective and provide the perfect backdrop to the vocals on the ten standards. He makes good use of his four octave baritone vocal throughout the album as he breathes life, meaning and emotion into these familiar and oft-covered songs. Sometimes, Andy Bey’s vocals are heartfelt, other times hurt-filled, reflective,  rueful, thoughtful, wistful and worldweary.  Like an actor in a play, Andy Bey lives the lyrics on the standards on Ballads, Blue and Bey, which is a truly timeless jazz album that is the perfect introduction to one of music’s best kept secrets.

Cult Classic: Andy Bey-Ballads, Blue and Bey.

 

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF MUSICAL PIONEER EMILIO APARICIO.

The Life and Times Of Musical Pioneer Emilio Aparicio.

Nowadays, the words pioneer and innovator tend to be overused, and musicians who create truly groundbreaking music seem to be sadly, few and far between. While there are some pioneering musicians whose music continues to push musical boundaries, there are no longer as many as there once were. Especially in the sixties and seventies which was a golden period for music that saw creativity and innovation blossom.

The sixties and seventies was also when Emilio Aparicio, an electronic experimental musician from Guatemala, pioneered the use of the Moog synth in Latin America. Between 1969-1971 he used his newly acquired Moog synth to record new and groundbreaking music which was released on the Salvavidas Roja label. It showcases a true musical pioneer, Emilio Aparicio.

Just two years before Emilio Aparicio started to record the music on Expansión Galáctica, he was a student at the National Music School, in Guatemala City. That was where he first came across fellow student and member of Abularach dynasty, Roberto Abularach. Twenty-one year Roberto Abularach came from a very different background to Emilio Aparicio, but their paths would cross again after they had completed their respective studies.

After leaving the National Music School, the friendship between Emilio Aparicio and Roberto Abularach continued. By then, Roberto Abularach was managing the La Estrella warehouse in the Zona 1. It was where musical instruments were imported into Guatemala and sold. However, before long the warehouse was a favourite place for local musicians and bands.

Soon members of Apple Pie, Modulo 5 and Cuerpo y Alma and were hanging out at the La Estrella warehouse. So were local musicians who weren’t part of bands. Some of these musicians went on to form bands, including Les Prince. Many of the bands and musicians were supported by Roberto Abularach who became their patron. There was no ulterior motive to this as Roberto Abularach was a kind, generous and wealthy young man. 

Not only did Roberto Abularach’s generosity include helping musicians buy their instruments, he sometimes gave instruments to musicians embarking upon musical careers. One of the musicians who made their way to the La Estrella warehouse was Emilio Aparicio.

A graduate of the National Music School, Emilio Aparicio had two passions in life, music and electronics. When he entered the La Estrella warehouse he remembered Roberto Abularach from the National Music School. Soon, they started talking and realised that they had much in common. This was the start of a close friendship.

Emilio Aparicio and Roberto Abularach enjoyed long conversations on music and electronics. By then, Roberto Abularach had spotted Emilio Aparicio’s potential, and was keen to help his friend.  

The opportunity arose when Emilio Aparicio decided to buy purchase what was his very first piano. However, the piano was expensive, so Roberto Abularach helped his friend buy the piano. This Emilio Aparicio put to good use, and his talent blossomed.

Over the next year, Emilio Aparicio interest in electronic and experimental music grew. This was something he discussed at length with his friend Roberto Abularach, who in 1969 was about to journey to New York.

During Roberto Abularach’s visit to New York, he visited the Modern Art Museum. That was where Roberto Abularach saw the very first Moog synth, which had been presented to the Modern Art Museum by its founder Robert Moog. Having seen the Moog synth, Roberto Abularach decided to purchase one directly from its inventor, Robert Moog and take it home to Guatemala.

When Roberto Abularach met Robert Moog, he bought a 3P modular synth which bore the serial number 00003. This was only the third Moog modular synth that Robert Moog had made, and Roberto Abularach was taking it home to Guatemala, where it would go to a good home.

Given his interest in electronic and experimental music, it seemed fitting that Roberto Abularach gave the Moog 3P modular synth to his friend Emilio Aparicio. His passion for music and electronics, and interest in both electronic and experimental music meant he would put the Moog to good use.

Having gifted the Moog 3P modular synth to Emilio Aparicio, Roberto Abularach had it installed in his friend’s home in late 1969. Roberto Abularach told Emilio Aparicio that the Moog was his, and he had complete freedom to use the synth in whatever way he wished. While Emilio Aparicio had gained a synth, he had also gained a patron and the man who would support and champion his music.

From late-1969 until 1971, Emilio Aparicio transformed a room in Roberto Abularach country mansion in Zona 12 into a makeshift studio. This was the perfect location for a recording studio, as the  country house was empty for much of the year, which allowed  Emilio Aparicio to concentrate all his efforts on writing and recording new and innovative music.

In his new studio, was Emilio Aparicio’s newly acquired Moog 3P modular synth and some of the early drum machines. Compared to the drum machine available nowadays, the drum machines were almost primitive. Meanwhile, it took time and patience to work with the Moog 3P modular synth. 

It was a relatively instrument which its inventor Robert Moog had demonstrated in early 1967. Even two years later, only a relatively small number of people knew how to setup and use the Moog synth. Through patience and persistence this now included Emilio Aparicio, who had even worked out how to deal with a couple of common problems. 

One of the problems that Moog users encountered were that the its oscillators were somewhat unstable. However, soon, Emilio Aparicio realised that if he switched the machine on way before the session began, this allowed them to warm up. Occasionally, the Moog failed to stay in frequency and the tuning was out. Emilio Aparicio knew to expect teething problems with such a complex and groundbreaking piece of equipment. Having got to grips with the Moog 3P modular synth, Emilio Aparicio started making music.

Sometimes, the seclusion that Emilio Aparicio enjoyed was interrupted when Roberto Abularach arrived at his country house. Sometimes, he was joined by various musicians and poets, and the assembled company experimented with hallucinogenic drugs including LSD and Floripondio. This helped Emilio Aparicio open the doors of perception, as he created experimental, innovative and ambitious music.

Not only did the Moog 3P modular synth transform now Emilio Aparicio made music, but also what type of music he made. It was unlike most of the music being made within Guatemala, especially what the pop and rock bands were making. Instead, the music that Emilio Aparicio was making had more in common with the electronic and experimental music being made in Europe and America.

As the sixties gave way to the seventies, Emilio Aparicio continued to spend long periods of time in the studio he had built in Roberto Abularach’s country home. Little did anyone who visited the studio or even heard the music realised that Emilio Aparicio was making the music of tomorrow, today. 

After two years locked away in his studio, Emilio Aparicio had completed the ten tracks that feature on Expansión Galáctica. There was only one problem, though, Emilio Aparicio had no idea what to do with the music?

Emilio Aparicio wasn’t chasing the rock star dream, and had no interest in fane and fortune. His interest was making music. Fortunately, his friend and patron, Roberto Abularach, who continued to champion Emilio Aparicio’s pioneering music had come up with a plan to introduce his friend’s music to a wider audience. 

To do this, Roberto Abularach planned to use one of one of the Abularach dynasty’s businesses, Salvavidas Rojas. It was a popular drink within Guatemala, and Roberto Abularach had come up with a plan that if customers sent four corks from Salvavidas Rojas’ bottles and three quetzal coins they would receive the five volumes of 45 singles featuring the music that Emilio Aparicio had recorded between late-1969 and 1971. This must have seemed a good idea at the time.  

Sadly, very few people took the time to collect the corks and return them to Salvavidas Rojas. Those that sent away for Emilio Aparicio’s five singles, didn’t understand the music. It was unlike anything they had heard on the radio or bought in local record shops. What didn’t help was that Emilio Aparicio didn’t play live and wasn’t part of a band. Instead, he was a relative unknown, who was part scientist, sonic explorer and musician, whose natural habitat was the recording studio. That was where he had spent the best part of two years recording the singles.

It was frustrating that people who sent away for the records often threw them away, or that they were recycled with the other discarded vinyl. Meanwhile, in the Salvavidas Rojas factory piles of unclaimed vinyl sat in the store rooms. They too, were destined for the recycling plant. This was something that many people would later regret.

Following the failure of his first release, Emilio Aparicio dusted himself down and created his next project, La Banda Plastica. Just like his previous project, La Banda Plastica was an experimental and non-commercial project. It was signed to Guatemala’s biggest record label Dideca. They gave Emilio Aparicio total freedom to record whatever he wanted. 

This was unusual for Dideca, who usually told bands and artists what type of sound they expected from them. Dideca frowned upon music that wasn’t commercial or had an aggressive sound. That was a no-no. The exception to this was Emilio Aparicio and his new La Banda Plastica project. However, deep down, executives at Dideca and Emilio Aparicio knew that a single from La Banda Plastica had no commercial appeal. La Banda Plastica released just a couple of singles, including Libertad Viene, Libertad Va. Neither single sold well, and the majority of the singles were given away to DJs at radio stations during the Christmas period. This brought to an end what was a somewhat surreal period for Emilio Aparicio.

Sadly, after the commercial failure of La Banda Plastica, Emilio Aparicio became a much more reclusive figure who recorded purely for his own interest. The music Emilio Aparicio made he had no intention of releasing. That was his hobby, while the jingles and videos he made for television and technical companies paid the bills.

Later, Emilio Aparicio changed direction and started working with computers. He went on to build the first ever computer to be used by the National Bank of Guatemala. Emilio Aparicio had come a long way from when he started working with his Moog synth.

By the early eighties, Emilio Aparicio was one of the leading lights in electronics and technology in Guatemala. He was also working on a new piece of musical technology which he hoped would be used by musicians and bands across the world. This was a guitar synth, and he presented the prototype at Audio Engineering Society’s conference when it took  place in Anaheim, California, in 1982. While Audio Research bought patent for the guitar synth, developing it proved problematic. Emilio Aparicio’s invention never made the same impression as Robert Moog’s Moog 3P modular synth.

Still, Emilio Aparicio never lost his love of music, and he continued to record at the home he shared with his wife. Now Emilio Aparicio was recording onto cassettes, which were cheaper and allowed him to record much more music. These recordings were only heard by the person who was closest to him…his wife. She was his musical confidante. It was as if Emilio Aparicio feared that his music would be rejected for a third time. As a result, the music he recorded has never been released.

While music was Emilio Aparicio’s first love, he gradually started to concentrate his efforts on video art in his spare time. By day, Emilio Aparicio was a professor at the Galileo University, which was founded on October ’31st’ 2000 in Guatemala City. Emilio Aparicio taught a new generation of computer scientists, who knew nothing about his former career in music.

Sadly, Emilio Aparicio fell victim to prostate cancer and passed away in 2012. By then, Ruffy Tnt had rediscovered the five volumes of music that Emilio Aparicio had recorded between late-1969 and 1971.

Ruffy Tnt was on a crate-digging expedition in Quetzaltenango in Guatemala, and found himself in a dusty basement that had once been the warehouse of Iximché, who had once distributed the rock-o-la machines. With dust and detritus on the floor, Ruffy Tnt was wary as he hunted through the warehouse. The last thing he wanted was to be bitten by one of the rats that had obviously been present. However, his patience, persistence and bravery was rewarded when he spotted two rooms crammed full of old singles. In amongst some incredibly rare records were two of the five privately pressed volumes of Emilio Aparicio’s music released by Salvavidas Rojas.

The two volumes of Emilio Aparicio’s music that Ruffy Tnt left the warehouse with were Brujería (Witchcraft) and Transmutación del iniciado (Transmutation Of The initiated). However, this was just the start of a seven-year treasure hunt.

Over the next seven years, Ruffy Tnt searched far and wide for the remainder of Emilio Aparicio’s recordings. By 2017, Ruffy Tnt  had found the eight singles released baring Emilio Aparicio’s name. This includes the five volumes that were released by Salvavidas Rojas as part of special offer, which Roberto Abularach hoped would introduce Emilio Aparicio’s music to a much wider record buying public. 

Sadly, that wasn’t the case, and very few Guatemalan record buyers were won over by the music on the five singles that recently featured on Expansión Galáctica. They’re a reminder of  Emilio Aparicio, who throughout his career, was a musical pioneer, who pushed musical boundaries to their limits, and sometimes, way beyond. Proof of that are the ten genre-melting Emilio Aparicio recorded. 

The genre-melting tracks that Emilio Aparicio made between late-1969 and 1971, were way ahead of their time and  incorporated elements of disparate musical genres. This included everything from electronic and experimental music, to abstract and avant-garde, through to Latin and psychedelia. There’s also occasional elements of dub, jazz, musique concrète pop and rock on Expansión Galáctica, which was lysergic and mind-expanding magical mystery tour where a true musical pioneer combines the music of the past and present to make the music of the future.

Apart from a few aficionados of electronic and experimental music, sadly, very few people will have heard of the late Emilio Aparicio Moog. This little known musical pioneer, who created ambitious, innovative and imaginative music during what was a short, but unsuccessful recording career. 

Emilio Aparicio Moog only released eight singles, which sadly, failed to find the audience they so richly deserved. Especially the five singles he released as part of an offer in conduction with the popular drinks’ company Salvavidas Rojas. Very few people took up the offer, and those that did, failed to understand the music. Many of the singles were thrown away or recycled and nowadays, the five singles are extremely rare. Fortunately, Ruffy Tnt rediscovered these singles, which are a a welcome reminder of Emilio Aparicio Moog, who was a groundbreaking musician whose music was way ahead of its time.

That was why people failed to understand Emilio Aparicio Moog’s music, which is ambitious, innovative, imaginative and even today, has the potential to inspire a new generation of electronic musicians. 

Emilio Aparicio Moog spent two years recording the music on Expansión Galáctica, where he pushed musical boundaries to their limit, and sometimes, way beyond. In doing so, musical pioneer Emilio Aparicio Moog created the truly timeless, genre-melting music which hopefully, will somewhat belatedly find the audience that it deserves.

The Life and Times Of Musical Pioneer Emilio Aparicio.

 

CULT CLASSIC: DON ELLIS-SHOCK TREATMENT.

Cult Classic: Don Ellis-Shock Treatment.

Bandleader, composer and trumpeter Don Ellis’ life was changed forevermore in 1974, when he was diagnosed with an abnormal heart condition, and a year later, in 1975, suffered his first heart attack which very nearly cost him his life. Fortunately, Don Ellis recovered and in 1977 signed to Atlantic Records.

Later in 1977, he  released his Atlantic Records’ debut Music From Other Galaxies and Planets. This was his first album in three years and was the start of the comeback of Don Ellis. His  comeback was complete after playing at the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Switzerland on July the ‘8th’ 1977. That concert was recorded and was released in 1978 as Don Ellis Live At Montreux and was a poignant release.

By 1978, all the years of touring were taking a toll on Don Ellis. After what was his final concert on April the ’21st’ 1978, his doctor advised him to stop touring and playing the trumpet as the strain on his heart was proving too great. 

Sadly, just under eight month later, on December the ’17th’ 1978, Don Ellis returned from a Jon Hendricks concert and suffered what proved to be a fatal heart attack at his North Hollywood home. Don Ellis was just forty-four and that day, jazz lost one of its great trumpeters.

Just over forty-two years after his death and sadly , Don Ellis’ music is often overlooked by the majority of jazz fans, and only a small but appreciative audience remember a man who was one of the great jazz trumpeters. His career began  in 1956 and over the next twenty-two years his raison d’être was to innovate and take jazz in a new and different direction. A reminder of this truly talented bandleader, composer and trumpeter is his 1976 album Shock Treatment which nowadays is regarded as a cult classic. However, the story began ten years earlier.

As 1968 dawned, Don Ellis was already regarded as an innovative bandleader, composer and trumpeter within jazz circles due to his use of willingness to experiment, and particularly due to his use of different time signatures. This had been the case since he released his debut album How Time Passes in 1960. Eight years later, and Don Ellis was preparing to record Shock Treatment which was his ninth album and second for Columbia Records. It was the followup to Electric Bath.

Electric Bath.

In 1967, Don Ellis left Pacific Jazz after releasing three albums, and signed to Columbia which would be his musical home for the next five years. During that time, he would release six albums including his Columbia debut, Electric Bath.

Having signed to Columbia, Don Ellis was paired with jazz producer John Hammond and on the ‘19th’ of September 1967 he and his big band entered Columbia Recording Studios, in Hollywood, California to record what became Electric Bath. It took two days to record five tracks and by the end of the ‘20th’ of September 1967 Don Ellis had recorded his eighth album. It was a stylistic departure for the thirty-three year old trumpeter.

When Electric Bath was released later in 1967 it was to widespread critical acclaim. Critics and cultural commentators were won over by what was a groundbreaking album of fusion. Don Ellis  had been heavily influenced by rock and  incorporated electronics during the recording. The result was a breathtaking and exhilarating album of fusion that nowadays, is regarded as a genre classic. It was nominated for a Grammy Award and won the Down Beat Reader’s Poll. It was the perfect way for Don Ellis to start his career at Columbia. 

Just like many artists who had released a groundbreaking, genre classic like Electric Bath, Don Ellis knew the difficult thing was following it up. He had set the bar high and knew this wasn’t going to be easy. However, he as keen to build on the success of Electric Bath, and began work on his ninth album Shock Treatment. 

Shock Treatment. 

For his ninth album, Don Ellis wrote five new tracks Homecoming, Star Children, Beat Me Daddy, Seven To The Bar, Milo’s Theme and The Tihai. He also joined forces with Kelly MacFadden to write Night City. John Magruder who played baritone saxophone, clarinet and flute in Don Ellis’ band wrote Zim. These tracks were joined by four cover versions.

This included Hank Levy’s A New Kind Of Country and Mercy Maybe Mercy. The other two tracks were covers of Howlett Smith’s Opus 5 and Seven Up. These eleven tracks would eventually became Shock Treatment.

It took just two days to record Shock Treatment. Don Ellis and his twenty-four piece orchestra  recorded the eleven tracks on February the ’14th’ and ’15th’ 1968. It was an impressive sight and sound with the rhythm and horn sections combining with keyboards, percussion and Eastern instruments as bandleader Don Ellis played a starring role and  unleashed a series of  trumpet solos. Once again, John Hammond took charge of production on Shock Treatment, which was the much-anticipated followup to Electric Bath.

Shock Treatment opens with A New Kind Of Country which becomes funky, energetic and vibrant in the hands of Don Ellis and his orchestra who play part of a composition in 7/4 time. Briefly, the tempo drops on Night City, but soon builds and reveals its secrets as lysergic soulful harmonies combine with Don Ellis and his orchestra, and play their part in the sound and success of this genre-melting track. Straight away, the soulful blues Homecoming takes on a late-night sound, and is played in 3/4 time before  bandleader Don Ellis seamlessly changes to 7/4 time on Mercy Maybe Mercy where drummer Steve Bohannon provides the heartbeat as horns and Hammond organ play leading roles. Very different is Zim, which is a more ruminative piece, while Opus 5 finds Don Ellis and his orchestra showcase their versatility and talent by switching to 5/4 time during this nine minute modal jazz epic.

Star Children could only have been recorded during the late-sixties, with its captivating mixture of cosmic sounds, Eastern influences, drama and Don Ellis’ Hispanic-tinged trumpet interjections. The bandleader then switches to 7/4 time on Beat Me Daddy, Seven To The Bar and takes centre-stage for the first thirty-seconds before he and his orchestra combine jazz and Latin influences during this six-minute propulsive opus which eventually reaches an explosive crescendo. Milo’s Theme offers the opportunity for experimentation as Don Ellis plays electric trumpet and effects are deployed during this ambitious and innovative piece. Seven Up finds Don Ellis returning to 7/4 time during this dazzling, jaunty and lively composition. Closing Shock Treatment is The Tihai which is played in 9/4 time and initially is mellow before becoming exuberant and ultimately a complex rhythmic piece that allows Don Ellis and orchestra to showcase their considerable skills while combining elements of jazz and Latin.

When critics heard Shock Treatment, they realised that it was an ambitious and innovative album. Don Ellis incorporated elements of blues, experimental music , funk,  fusion, Indian and Latin influences plus psychedelia  and rock into what was his ninth album. Shock Treatment which was Don Ellis’ much-anticipated followup to Electric Bath was the album that he hoped would transform his fortunes.

While Don Ellis was a popular live draw his albums never sold in vast quantities. That was the case with Electric Bath in 1967 and Shock Treatment when it was released in 1968. Sadly, it failed to trouble the US Billboard 200. That was despite Shock Treatment being another ambitious and innovative album and Don Ellis being one of the top jazz trumpeters. After nine albums, Don Ellis had still to make a commercial breakthrough. It must have been hugely frustrating for him.

Just ten years after the release of his cult classic Shock Treatment, Don Ellis passed away on December the ’17th’ 1978 aged just forty-four. That day, jazz lost one of its great bandleader, composer and trumpeter.

Sadly, just over forty-two years after Don Ellis’ tragic death his music is almost forgotten amongst jazz fans. His recording career began in 1960 and continued right up until his death in December 1978. During that period, Don Ellis released eighteen albums and composed nine soundtracks, including his Grammy Award-winning soundtrack to The French Connection in 1971. It’s a reminder of a truly talented bandleader, composer and musician.

So is Don Ellis’ 1968 cult classic  Shock Treatment which feature Don Ellis at the peak of his powers as a bandleader, composer and trumpeter. It’s the perfect introduced to Don Ellis whose music is oft-overlooked and sadly never reached the wider audience that it so richly deserved.

That is a great shame as Don Ellis was a talented, imaginative, inventive and innovative compeer and musician, but never enjoyed the success his talent deserved. Incredibly, even winning a Grammy Award didn’t transform Don Ellis’ fortunes, and although he was a popular live draw, cult classics like Shock Treatment and Autumn weren’t huge sellers and sadly slipped under the radar. Maybe one day that will change and Don Ellis will no longer be described as one of jazz music’s best kept secrets? 

Cult Classic: Don Ellis-Shock Treatment.