FEELING GOOD-FUNK, SOUL AND DEEP JAZZ GEMS: THE SUPREME SOUND OF PRODUCER BOB SHAD.

FEELING GOOD-FUNK, SOUL AND DEEP JAZZ GEMS: THE SUPREME SOUND OF PRODUCER BOB SHAD.

Bob Shad was a music man. He was someone who saw the bigger picture musically. As a result, Bob Shad he was always one step ahead of the competition. So it’s no surprise that Bob Shad enjoyed a long and successful career that spanned over forty years and five decades.

Originally, Bob Shad started life as a session musician, but in the later forties moved into production. Little did he realise that this was the start of a long and successful career as a producer. Then in 1949 Bob Shad founded his first record label, Sittin’ In With. It was the first of many labels Bob Shad would go on to found.

Fifteen years later, Bob Shad founded one of his most successful record labels, Mainstream Records. Key to its success and longevity, was Bob Shad’s ability to realise that music was changing, and to stay relevant, so should Mainstream Records. 

Bob Shad relaunched  Mainstream Records in 1970 as a  jazz label. However, the lines between what was soul and jazz were blurring. So Bob Shad decided that Mainstream Records should released a more eclectic selection of music, including soul, funk and jazz. Many tracks from this period of Mainstream Records’ history is celebrated on a forthcoming compilation, Feeling Good-Funk Soul and Deep Jazz Gems: The Supreme Sound Of Producer Bob Shad. It’s been compiled in conduction with Bob Shad’s grandchildren, Mia and Judd Apatow, and will be released by Wewantsounds 18th October 2016. Feeling Good-Funk Soul and Deep Jazz Gems: The Supreme Sound Of Producer Bob Shad is a fitting tribute to one of the great music men. His career began back in the forties.

Back then, Bob Shad was a session musician. Not for long though. Even then, Bob made it his business to know everyone within the New York music scene. He knew everyone that mattered. Whether it was Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker or Coleman Hawkins, Bob knew them. There was a reason for this. Bob Shad was looking to the future.

Bob Shad didn’t want to remain a session player. The role of musical hired gun wasn’t for Bob. He had ambition and saw the bigger picture. Soon, Bob Shad was working as a producer in post-war New York. Mostly, Bob was producing R&B. This was just the next step in Bob’s game-plan.

In 1948, Bob founded his first label  Sittin’ In With. He was inspired to do this because of his love of jazz. This resulted in Bob discovering the blues. With his portable tape recorder, Bob Shad headed South and taped some of the greatest names in blues music. Lightnin’ Hopkins, Memphis Slim, Big Bill Broonzy and Smokey Hogg. Having recorded one blues player, they would tell Bob about another. So he crisscrossed the South taping blues players. Mostly, these singles appeared on his own labels. 

Somehow, Bob still found time to freelance. Some of the artists he discovered were released on other labels. This includes Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson and Savannah Churchill. While these records sold in vast volumes, Bob didn’t make much money. It taught him an important lesson. That was only to release music on his own labels.

Despite founding  a series of labels during the early fifties, Bob agreed to work full-time for Mercury Records. Still, Bob founded a series of labels. This included the Castle, Harlem, Jackson,  Jade, Jax and Spirituals’ labels. He realised the importance of having separate labels for separate genres of music. Bob realised that when record buyers saw a label, they had to know what type of music it would release. This was the case throughout his career.

By 1958 had tired of being a company man, and decided to focus entirely on his own labels.  Bob Shad founded further labels, including Shad, Time and Warner. Then in 1959, Bob founded Brent Records which for eight years, was Bob Shad’s soul label. Between April 1959 and October 1967, Brent released seventy-five singles. However, midway through this, in 1964, Bob Shad released a new label Mainstream Records.

When Bob founded Mainstream Records in 1964, it was originally a jazz label, which mainly released albums and a few singles. However, by 1965, rock was king and Bob Shad decided that Mainstream Records should release a wider range of music. This included rock. For the next five years, Mainstream Records’ new roster proved popular and profitable. That was until 1970, that was no longer the case. So Bob decided to relaunch Mainstream Records.

The newly relaunched Mainstream Records would feature a newly designed label and would release just jazz. Mostly, Bob intended to return to releasing mostly albums, with the occasional single. However, Bob had a criteria for the albums he was willing to release. He was going to only release what he saw as traditional jazz albums. Bob didn’t want to release albums where synths and electronics featured. This was unrealistic given that fusion’s popularity was on the rise. So it wasn’t surprising that this new policy didn’t last long, and Mainstream Records began to release soul and jazz.

This was no surprise. By then, the there had been a blurring of the lines between what was soul and jazz. Even critics and record buyers were confused. However, this blurring of the lines resulted in Mainstream Records’ musical policy changing, and the label releasing a much wider selection of music. Suddenly, Mainstream Records were releasing singles and albums by Alice Clark, Afrique, Art Farmer, Barry Miles, Blue Mitchell, Carmen McRae, Clark Terry, Ellerine Harding, Hadley Caliman, Sarah Vaughan and Shelly Manne. They’re among the fifteen tracks on Wewantsounds forthcoming compilation, Feeling Good-Funk Soul and Deep Jazz Gems: The Supreme Sound Of Producer Bob Shad. They were released after the relaunch of Mainstream Records in 1970.

Opening Feeling Good-Funk Soul and Deep Jazz Gems: The Supreme Sound Of Producer Bob Shad, is House Of The Rising Funk from Afrique. They were a Los Angeles’ based studio band, that featured some of the city’s top session players. Afrique went into the studio and recorded their debut album Soul Makossa.  When it was released in 1973, House Of The Rising Funk was chosen as the lead single. It features the combined talents of guitarists Arthur Wright and David T. Walker. Both break out their wah-wah pedals, in an uber funky, pulsating and cinematic track. Later, House Of The Rising Funk later became a favourite of sample hungry hip hop producers and DJs. No wonder, as it’s a funk classic.

Bob Shad signed trumpeter Blue Mitchell to Mainstream Records in 1971. By then, Blue Mitchell had released a dozen solo albums and had collaborated with some of the biggest names in jazz. That was the past though. Two years had passed since Blue Mitchell had released an album in 1969. However, Bob Shad believed in the veteran trumpeter, and signed him to Mainstream Records. This would become home for Blue Mitchell until 1974. The first of these albums was entitled Blue Mitchell. One of the highlights of this hidden gem of an album is Soul Village. It finds Blue Mitchell roll back the years, as this slow burner heads in the direction of fusion. In doing so, Blue Mitchell ensured his music stays relevant.

When Sarah Vaughan signed to Bob Shad’s Mainstream Records, she had released around fifty albums. However, Sarah Vaughan’s albums weren’t selling in the vast quantities that they once had. Despite this, Bob Shad decided to sign his old friend.  He produced A Time In My Life, which was released later in 1971. One of the highlights of the album, was Magical Connection, a beautiful, heartfelt ballad where soul-jazz meets vocal jazz.

By 1972, jazz trumpeter and flugelhorn player Art Farmer had spent the best part of thirty years recording for various record labels. He had signed to Bob Shad’s Mainstream Records in 1971, and later that year, Homecoming became his Mainstream Records’ debut. Less than a year later, Gentle Eyes was released in 1972. One of the highlights was Soulsides, a meandering,  dreamy and orchestrated slice of jazz funk. It’s a beautiful and captivating track that’s a reminder of the late, great Art Farmer. 

When American jazz drummer Shelly Manne was thirty-two, he signed to Mainstream Records. The one and only album he released for Bob Shad’s label was Mannekind in 1972.  One of the standout tracks was Mask. It’s another track that would become a favourite of sample hungry hip hop producers looking for ‘beats.’ No wonder.  Shelly Manne was a talented and versatile drummer. He was also a musician who sought to reinvent himself. This he does on this smouldering version of Mask, where elements of funk and fusion are combined by the Shelly Manne and his band.

Alice Clark is without doubt, the greatest soul singer you’ve never heard. That might sound like a big statement, but one listen to Never Did I Stop Loving You and you’ll realise that this is no exaggeration. It’s a track from Alice Clark’s 1972 eponymous album. It features at impassioned and soul-baring vocal, where Alice Clark combines power, passion and emotion.

When Buddy Terry signed to Mainstream Records in 1971, he had only released two album. Soon, two became three, when he released Awareness, later that year. It featured the Stanley Cowell penned Abscretions, proved the perfect way to close the album. Buddy Terry and his talented and versatile band, take the listener on  a magical mystery tour where elements of jazz, funk and fusion are combined. There’s even a brief excursion into free jazz during Abscretions, which is an ambitious and innovative, genre-melting track.

Maxine Weldon was another of the soul divas that Bob Shad signed to Mainstream Records . She went on to record two albums with members of The Jazz Crusaders. One of these albums was Right On, which was released in 1971. One of the highlights of the album is the title-track, Right On. It features Maxine Weldon delivering a vocal that veers between power and soulful to sassy and theatrical. She lives the lyrics, while her band combine funk, soul and jazz. Alas, neither of the albums Maxine Weldon released on Mainstream Records were a commercial success. However, three years later in 1974, Maxine Weldon’s third album Some Singin’ became her best-selling album when it reached number forty-eight in the US R&B charts.

Having signed to Mainstream Records in 1971, pianist Barry Miles released his third album White Heat later that year. It was followed up in 1972, with Scatbird. Just like White Heat, Scatbird was another album of fusion. Opening the album was Scatbird, which found the small but tight and talented band giving one of their finest performances. It’s features a mixtures past and present. A scatted vocal sits above the slow arrangement, as funk gives way to fusion. From there Barry Miles showcase their considerable skills and whet the listener’s appetite for what was about to unfold.

Jazz guitarist Jack Wilkins was twenty-nine when he signed to Mainstream Records in 1973. By then, he had played with some of the biggest names in jazz. However, there was still one thing Jack Wilkins had still to do…record an album. So producer Bob Shad took  Jack Wilkins and his small band into the studio. Later in 1973, Jack Wilkins released his debut album Windows. It featured Red Clay, which features Jack Wilkins at his best. Effortlessly, he plays with fluidity and speed on Red Clay, which is a welcome addition to Feeling Good-Funk Soul and Deep Jazz Gems: The Supreme Sound Of Producer Bob Shad. 

When Clark Terry recorded his 1966 album Rum and Mumbles, he was no stranger to a recording studio. His recording career began in the fifties. The bandleader, composer and jazz trumpeter had also worked with some of the biggest names in jazz, including Billie Holliday and Ella Fitzgerald, and influenced Miles Davis. So it was no surprise that Bob Shad signed Clark Terry in 1966. Later that year, he released the album Mumbles. One of the highlights was Rum and Mumbles, a delicious fusion of jazz and Latin music.

There are many artists who only ever release one album. This includes Alice Clark and Ellerine Harding. Her only album was Ellerine, which was released in 1972. It features the beautiful, needy and soulful ballad I Ain’t Got Much. It’s without doubt, one of the highlights of Feeling Good-Funk Soul and Deep Jazz Gems: The Supreme Sound Of Producer Bob Shad.

Blue Mitchell is the only artist to feature twice on Feeling Good-Funk Soul and Deep Jazz Gems: The Supreme Sound Of Producer Bob Shad. His second contribution is Granite and Concrete, a Hadley Caliman composition. In Blue Mitchell’s hands, it becomes a glorious slice of smouldering jazz funk.

1971 was the year that flautist Hadley Caliman signed to Mainstream Records, and released his much-anticipated, eponymous debut solo album.  Just a year later, in 1972, Hadley Caliman returned with his sophomore albim Iapetus. It featured Quadrivium, where Hadley Caliman’s flute takes centre-stage in this ruminative, compelling and beautiful fusion of musical genres and influences. It’s the perfect introduction to one of jazz music’s best kept secrets, Hadley Caliman.

Closing Feeling Good-Funk Soul and Deep Jazz Gems: The Supreme Sound Of Producer Bob Shad is Carmen McRae’s Feeing Good. It’s a track from Haven’t We Met?, which was the first album Carmen McRae released for Mainstream Records. By then, she was an experienced recording artist, who had released over twenty albums since 1953. Carmen McRae puts all her years of experience to good use on Feeling Good, as she breathes life and meaning to the lyrics. This is a welcome reminder of the quality of  music that Bob Shad’s Mainstream Records constantly released.

That was the case throughout the fourteen year history of Mainstream Records. It was founded by Bob Shad in 1964, and closed its doors in 1978. During that fourteen year period, Bob Shad ensured that Mainstream Records remained relevant. 

Music was constantly changing between 1964 and 1978. Bob Shad saw this happening, and unlike many independent labels, ensured that Mainstream Records changed direction. Especially as the sixties gave way to the seventies. By then, the lines between what was soul and jazz were blurring. Bob Shad decided that Mainstream Records should released a more eclectic selection of music, including soul, funk and jazz.

So Bob Shad relaunched Mainstream Records in 1971.His ability to see the bigger picture, ensured that the Mainstream Records’ success story continued. Meanwhile, some of his competitors were shutting their doors. Not Bob Shad.

He continued to rejuvenate the career of artists whose careers had stalled, and launch the career of the artists. With his help, older artists reinvented themselves, while new artists released new and innovative music. This includes Afrique, Hadley Caliman and Jack Wilkins. That’s not forgetting soul divas Maxine Weldon, Ellerine Harding and Alice Clark. She was one of Bob Shad’s greatest discoveries, and a singer that should’ve gone on to enjoy a long and successful career. Alas, that wasn’t to be. However, Bob Shad ensured that Alice Clark and many other artists, had the chance of fulfilling their potential and enjoining commercial success and critical acclaim.  

To do this, Bob Shad didn’t hesitate to employ top quality songwriters, musicians, arrangers and producers. Especially when he believed in an artist. In such cases, he brought onboard arrangers like Wade Marcus and Gene Page. Sadly, often the singles and albums Mainstream Records released, didn’t enjoy the commercial success they deserved. Part of the problem was, that Mainstream Records was a small fish in a big pond.

Major labels, and independent labels funded by majors had much bigger budgets, to promote and distribute their releases. Bob Shad was fighting a losing battle. Still, he continued his search for talented artists that might bring Mainstream Records that elusive hit single, during a period that soul music was enjoying a resurgence in popularity.

Since the early seventies, Hi and Stax in Memphis, and Philadelphia International Records were enjoying commercial success and critical acclaim. Sadly, Mainstream Records didn’t make the leap and join them at soul’s top table. That’s despite releasing music that’s timeless, and has stood the test of time. 

Sadly, that music never found the winder audience it deserved.  Unlike Hi, Stax and Philadelphia International Records there were neither number ones nor million sellers. Instead, the Mainstream Records’ story is a case of what might have been. The label that had been relaunched in 1970, closed its doors in 1978.

By the time Tamara Shad relaunched Mainstream Records in the early nineties, Bob Shad had passed away on March 13th 1985. Bob Shad was just sixty-five, but had enjoyed a long and successful career. He had founded numerous labels, including Mainstream Records in 1964.

Fifty-two years later, and the music Mainstream Records released between 1964 and 1978 is beginning to find a wider audience. Everyone from sample hungry hip hop DJs, to DJs and compilers have dipped into Mainstream Records’ illustrious back-catalogue. Recent compilations of music released by Mainstream Records have been introducing record buyers to the music of Bob Shad’s most famous label. So will Feeling Good-Funk Soul and Deep Jazz Gems: The Supreme Sound Of Producer Bob Shad. It’s been compiled in conduction with Bob Shad’s grandchildren, Mia and Judd Apatow, and will be released by Wewantsounds 18th October 2016. Feeling Good-Funk Soul and Deep Jazz Gems: The Supreme Sound Of Producer Bob Shad is a celebration of the life of a music man, Bob Shad, who for over forty years, and five decades, always saw the bigger picture musically, and was one step ahead of the competition, in an ever-changing music industry.

FEELING GOOD-FUNK, SOUL AND DEEP JAZZ GEMS: THE SUPREME SOUND OF PRODUCER BOB SHAD.

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