CULT CLASSIC: HERBIE HANCOCK-MY POINT OF VIEW.

Cult Classic: Herbie Hancock-My Point Of View.

By the time Herbie Hancock signed to Blue Note Records, the Chicago-born pianist was just twenty-two, and had already worked with Donald Byrd and Coleman Hawkins.

On May the ‘28th’ 1962, he recorded his debut solo album Takin’ Off which featured the jazz standard Watermelon Man. The album was released to widespread critical acclaim later in 1962. This was the start of productive period that saw Herbie Hancock release seven studio albums for Blue Note Records between 1962 and 1969.

This includes his sophomore album My Point Of View, which featured was the first recording by his classic hard bop small group. This landmark is a reminder of one of the greatest jazz pianists of his generation as he embarks upon a long and illustrious career.

Herbert Jeffrey Hancock was born in Chicago on April the ’12th’ 1940. His father Wayman Edward Hancock was a government meat inspector and his mother Winnie worked as a secretary. They named their son after the singer and actor Herb Jeffries. This was fitting as the new addition to their family turned out to be prodigiously talented musician.

Growing up,  Herbie Hancock like many other jazz pianists studied classical music. His talent was soon spotted and teachers realised that he was a child prodigy. 

Aged just eleven, Herbie Hancock played the first movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 26 in D Major at a young people’s concert on February the ‘5th’ 1952 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra which was led by assistant conductor George Schick. The young pianist was one of the stars of concert.

As a teenager, Herbie Hancock attended Hyde Park High School on the South Side of Chicago.  Despite eventually making a career as a jazz pianist, he never had a jazz teacher during his teenage years. However, he spent time developing his ear and a sense of harmony. One of his musical influences were The Hi-Lo’s a vocal quartet who sometimes supported Frank Sinatra. 

After graduating from Hyde Park High School, Herbie Hancock enrolled at Grinnell College and graduated in 1960 with degrees in electrical engineering and music. 

In 1960, Herbie Hancock heard Chicago-born jazz pianist Chris Anderson play and was so impressed that he asked him to accept him as a student. He agreed and was a huge influence on the young pianist who later, called him his “harmonic guru.” 

After graduating from Grinnell College, Herbie Hancock returned to the Windy City and began working with Donald Byrd and Coleman Hawkins. During this time, he enrolled in courses at the Roosevelt University, in Chicago. 

During 1960, Donald Byrd was studying at the Manhattan School of Music and he suggested that Herbie Hancock studied composition with Vittorio Giannini. This he did briefly, but by then, Herbie Hancock’s star was in the ascendancy and he was invited  to play on sessions Oliver Nelson and Phil Woods.

Just two years later, in 1962, Herbie Hancock signed to one of jazz’s premier labels, Blue Note Records. This would be his home for the next seven years.

Takin’ Off.

Having signed to Blue Note Records, Herbie Hancock began work on his debut album, Takin’ Off. He wrote six new compositions including Watermelon Man which were recorded at on May the ‘28th’ 1962, at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey and produced by Alfred Lion. 

Joining pianist Herbie Hancock in the rhythm section were drummer Billy Higgins and double bassist Butch Warren. The front line featured trumpeter Freddie Hubbard and tenor saxophonist. It was an all-star band that was accompanied Herbie Hancock on an album that was produced by Alfred Lion and engineered by Rudy Van Gelder.

Later in 1962, Takin’ Off was released to widespread critical acclaim. It was an album of cerebral music that was light, tight,  bluesy, funky, imaginative and sometimes ruminative. Always the music was memorable on this album of hard bop and soul-jazz. The standout track was Watermelon Man with Three Bags Full, Empty Pockets and Alone and I receiving honourable mentions. Takin’ Off had launched Herbie Hancock’s career which was well underway, and has since been hailed as one of the most accomplished debut albums in the history of jazz.

My Point Of View.

Buoyed by the critical response to his debut album Takin’ Off, Herbie Hancock began work on his much-anticipated sophomore album My Point Of View. He wrote five new compositions Blind Man, Blind Man, A Tribute To Someone, King Cobra, The Pleasure Is Mine and the album closer And What If I Don’t. These tracks were recorded by Herbie Hancock’s classic hard bop small group.

The rhythm section included  seventeen year old drummer Tony Williams, bassist Chuck Israels, guitarist Grant Green who played on two tracks and pianist and bandleader Herbie Hancock. They were joined by a front line of trumpeter Donald Byrd, tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley and trombonist Graham Moncur III. This new band made the journey to Van Gelder Studio, on March the ’19th’ 1963, where they were joined by producer Alfred Lion and engineer Rudy Van Gelder .

My Point Of View was released in the autumn of 1963, to plaudits and praise. Herbie Hancock wasn’t content to stand still and began to push the boundaries of hard bop on his sophomore album. Especially on A Tribute To Someone which is a nine minute epic that sometimes can be challenging a listen but is ultimately rewarding. Very different is the beautiful ballad The Pleasure Is Mine which is one of the album’s highlights.

Then King Cobra heads in the direction of modal jazz. It has a silty edgy sound and there’s similarities to one of Herbie Hancock’s most famous compositions, Maiden Voyage. The seeds to that jazz classic were sown here.

Bookending My Point Of View are the two tracks with a much more pronounced soul-jazz sound. This came courtesy of guitarist Grant Green who plays a starring role on the both tracks. The album opener Blind Man, Blind Man was a track that Herbie Hancock later said reminded him of a  blind man who stood on the corner playing his guitar in the neighbourhood of Chicago he grew-up in. It’s also a track that owes a debt of gratitude to one of his classic tracks,Watermelon And What If I Don’t bookends the album and has a laidback, bluesy groove that’s the perfect way to close Herbie Hancock’s sophomore album My Point Of View.

Nowadays, Takin’ Off is regarded as one of the finest debut albums by a jazz artist. Herbie Hancock had set the bar high. However, the twenty-three year old pianist returned with a stunning sophomore album My Point Of View. The album’s  foundation is hard bop but there’s also soul-jazz and modal jazz as well as elements of blues and funk. Herbie Hancock was determined to reinvent hard bop and take it in a new direction. He was a musical pioneer who was determined never to stand still musically.

Not long after Herbie Hancock recorded My Point Of View, he was invited to join what became Miles Davis’ Second Great Quintet which also featured drummer Tony Williams. Herbie Hancock had come a long way in a short space of time.

He had only released his debut album Takin’ Off in the autumn of 1962, with My Point Of View following a year later  in 1963 which nowadays is regarded as a jazz classic. This was just the start of a period when Herbie Hancock could do no wrong with 

This was something he continued to do throughout his time at Blue Note Records releasing Inventions and Dimensions in early 1964 with Empyrean Isles following in November 1964; Maiden Voyage in March 1965 and Speak Like A Child in the summer of 1968. Bringing the Blue Note Records Years to a close in 1969 was one of Herbie Hancock’s most ambitious and innovative albums, The Prisoner, which was produced by Duke Pearson and dedicated to the memory of the late Dr Martin Luther King. The seven studio albums that Herbie Hancock released on Blue Note Records are among his finest albums and are the perfect introduction to one of the greatest jazz pianists of his generation. 

Cult Classic: Herbie Hancock-My Point Of View.

CULT CLASSIC: PATCHWORK-MEAN AND DIRTY.

Cult Classic: Patchwork-Mean and Dirty.

Nowadays, library music is highly collectable, especially the albums released by KPM, Amphonic, Conroy,  Sonoton and De Wolfe between the late-sixties and early eighties. That is regarded by many collectors as a golden age for library music. This is ironic as the 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 scenes, 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. That is still the case today, and nowadays, many original albums of library music are highly collectable.  This includes Patchwork’s Mean and Dirty.

The album was released in 1978, and the twenty tracks were written and performed by Patchwork which featured Chris Rae and Frank McDonald. Some of the tracks they cowrote while others they wrote themselves.The emphasis of the music is on “drama, activity, industry” and they’re also atmospheric and cinematic. Others are driving, exciting, moody and tense while others are ruminative and even comedic or light-hearted. All of the tracks paint pictures in the mind’s eye. 

Side One.

The album opener Moving Target was a dramatic track where  searing guitar riffs play their part in a track where Patchwork combine funk and fusion. Bank  Job is moody and there’s a degree of tension in a track that sounds as if it belongs in an episode of The Sweeney. 

Then the tempo drops on the atmospheric sounding Slow Fuse and on Blue Mood which has a laidback and almost sensual sound. 

Flying Squad is a funky rock track that wouldn’t sound out of place on The  Sweeney as Regan and Carter chase villain snd “spin drums.” Arrival Time is a mid-tempo slice of good time funky music. 

Quite different is the mid-tempo Prowler where a degree of tension is apparent during this mesmeric track. The funky Route 67 breezes along and so does the percussive sounding and Fast Mover where funk meets fusion and closes side one.

Side Two.

Side two of Mean and Dirty opens with Dragster which is fast, dramatic and features blistering guitars. Listen carefully, and there’s a nod to the legendary surf guitarist Dick Dale. 

The tempo drops on the moody sounding Night Moves while Easy Drive is an uptempo track that has an almost light-hearted sound. Smash and Grab is a cinematic sounding track that conjures up images of cops chasing the bad guys after a robbery has gone down. Then Mean and Dirty heads in the direction of fusion while Mind’sEye is ruminative and Zero Hour is a dramatic track that chugs along. Pulsating and dramatic describes The Boys In Blue whole Nightwatch is slow, moody, broody and dramatic. It’s one of the highlights of side two and the perfect way to close the album.

Nowadays, Mean and Dirty is a library music classic from Patchwork that’s  rarity. It’s Patchwork’s finest hour and a reminder of the golden age of library music which was between the late-sixties and early eighties. Much of the music recorded during this period was heard by millions but the viewers knew nothing of those that wrote and recorded such an eclectic selection of music.

Musicians like Chris Rae and Frank McDonald had to be versatile and be able to write music to suit moods, themes  and scenes. They were capable of writing music that was atmospheric, dramatic, exciting, moody, ruminative and even comedic or light-hearted. Other times, there was a degree of tension to the music which was always cinematic and was the perfect accompaniment to television shows in 1978 and beyond. 

The music was funky, jazz-tinged, rocky and sometimes even headed in the direction of jazz-funk and fusion. Chris Rae and Frank McDonald were versatile and formed a potent partnership as they recorded albums of library music including as Patchwork. Of all the albums they recorded Mean and Dirty which was Patchwork’s sophomore album is their finest.

Cult Classic: Patchwork-Mean and Dirty.

CULT CLASSIC: RUDOLPH JOHNSON-SPRING RAIN.

Cult Classic: Rudolph Johnson-Spring Rain.

When pianist Gene Russell and percussionist Dick Schory founded Black Jazz Records in Oakland, California, in 1969, the nascent label’s raison d’être was “to promote the talents of young African American jazz musicians and singers.” This was only part of their vision for their new label.

They were determined that Black Jazz Records would released an alternative to what they saw as the old school jazz that was popular at the time. They wanted to release an alternative to traditional jazz, and this included albums that featured political and spiritual influenced music. However, spiritual jazz was just part of the Black Jazz Records’ story and the label between 1971 and 1975 it released twenty albums that included everything from free jazz and funk to soul-jazz.

Black Jazz Records’ first release was Gene Russell’s sophomore album New Direction which was released in 1971. This was just the start of a prolific year for the label.

Later in 1971, Black Jazz Records released Walter Bishop Jr’s Coral Keys and then Doug Carn’s Infant Eyes. Other labels looked on enviously at the new label and artists were keen to sign to Black Jazz Records.

Cofounder Dick Schory had founded Chicago-based Ovation Records which was a successful country and western label. It was providing funding for Black Jazz Records and distributing its releases. This gave the label a much needed helping hand and meant it had an edge on its competitors.

The cofounders were determined that as wide an audience as possible hear the albums that the label was releasing so Gene Russell organised a promotional tour. In September 1971, Gene Russell and his Ray Lawrence who was his marketing consultant toured America giving interviews to newspaper journalists and featured on radio and newspaper where they showcased Black Jazz Records and its artists. This resulted in valuable publicity for the label.

By then, the label had released Rudolph Johnson’s Spring Rain which was the fourth of six albums that Black Jazz Records released during 1971 and would later he hailed as a genre classic. 

Rudolph Johnson was born in Columbus, Ohio, in the mid-forties and grew-up on the East Side and eventually made his name as a saxophonist. He also played flute and harmonica as well as tenor and soprano saxophone.  His introduction to music came in high school.

Growing up, Rudolph Johnson could hear organist Bobby Pierce who was a neighbour practising day in day out. However, it was saxophonist Gene Walker who taught Rudolph Johnson the scales when they were attending Champion Junior high school. Little did he realise this was how he was going to make a living.

Soon, Rudolph Johnson and Bobby Pierce were rehearsing together on the East Side. This wasn’t just a pastime for the pair. They wanted to make it their career and eventually decided to do that, they would have to head West. Their destination was California. 

By the sixties, Rudolph Johnson was living in San Francisco and could often be found playing in the clubs in the Filmore area of the city. He was a member of a trio that also featured organist Chester Thompson and Herschel Davis. However, when he wasn’t playing live Rudolph Johnson sometimes worked as a sideman.

He also toured in support of organist Jimmy McGriff and accompanied him on four albums released by Sue Records between 1963 and 1965. The most notable was Jimmy McGriff At The Apollo. However, during the sixties most of Rudolph Johnson’s time was spent playing live.

As the sixties gave way to the seventies there was no sign of Rudolph Johnson making the transition from sideman to solo artist. However, in 1971 he came to the attention of Black Jazz Records’ Gene Russell and Dick Schory. They signed Rudolph Johnson on a two album deal and later in 1971 he released his debut album Spring Rain and also played on Chester Thompson’s album Powerhouse. 

For Rudolph Johnson this was the break he was looking for and he began work on his debut album and the seven new compositions eventually became Spring Rain. 

It was a quartet recording that featured drummer Ray Pounds, bassist Reggie Johnson, pianist John Barns and tenor saxophonist Rudolph Johnson who also arranged the album. Spring Rain was produced by Gene Russell and became Black Jazz Records’ fourth release.

When Spring Rain was released it wasn’t a hugely successful album and didn’t sell in the same quantities as the label’s previous release which was Doug Carn’s Infant Eyes. However, the album was well received by critics who were starting to take notice of Black Jazz Records. Other labels didn’t have the same budget or access to the distribution network which  gave Black Jazz Records the edge. 

Spring Rain opened with Sylvia Ann and is a swinging slice of bebop that packs a punch. Ray Pounds literally pounds the kit as John Barns sonorous piano plays to Rudolph Johnson’s wailing, howling tenor saxophone. It’s reminiscent of John Coltrane in his prime and is a thing of beauty on a track that whets the listener’s appetite.  

The classic jazz sound continues on Fonda which has a  much more restrained sound. Here, the rhythm section is focusing much more on the groove. Their playing is tight while bandleader Rudolph Johnson’s playing is much more understated but also eloquent and emotive as he channels the spirit of ‘Trane.

It’s all change on Diswa where Rudolph Johnson and Co. head get funky on a track that’s been influenced by sixties soul-jazz. For just over six-and-a-half minutes Ray Pounds’ drums powers the arrangement along as he gives a musical masterclass.

Very different is the cinematic sounding Mr. TJ which wouldn’t sound out of place on an early sixties soundtrack.

Little Daphne is a laidback mid-tempo track where Ray Pounds’ drums and Reggie Johnson’s bass lock into a groove and provide the heartbeat. Rudolph Johnson’s playing is inventive especially later in the track where he twists the notes out of shape during a quite beautiful track.

On Devon Jean the rhythm section lock into a funky groove while pianist John Barns draws inspiration from Les McCann. There’s even a nod to Eddie Harris during an upbeat and memorable track that combines funk, jazz and pop. 

Spring Rain closes with the title-track which has a late-night, smokey, cinematic sound. It’s the type of track that those who have loved and lost will listen and appreciate. Especially when the bartender shouts last  call for alcohol and they wind their way along the boulevard of broken dreams to the place that they once called home.

After nearly a decade as a professional musician Rudolph Johnson released his debut album Spring Rain on Black Jazz Records in 1971. It was the label’s fourth release and although the album was well received upon its release it didn’t find the audience it deserved.  

Just like many albums, it wasn’t until much later when Spring Rain like the rest of the albums released by Black Jazz Records was rediscovered in the early nineties. This came after several of Doug Carn’s including Infant Eyes, Adam’s Apple and Spirit In A New Land found a new audience in the UK and Japan. By then, hip hop artists were sampling some of the tracks from the twenty albums Black Jazz Records released between 1971 and 1975. Suddenly, a new generation decided to dig deeper into the label’s back-catalogue. Since then, interest in Black Jazz Records has continued to grow and this includes the two albums that Rudolph Johnson released on the label.

This includes Spring Rain which was the long-awaited debut album from  multi-instrumentalist Rudolph Johnson. He leads a tight, talented and versatile quartet who seamlessly switch between genres and paint pictures with their music. They start off with bebop and classic jazz before getting funky and then drop the tempo as the music becomes laidback and filmic. It’s all change when funk, jazz and pop melt into one before saving the best on cinematic and smoky title-track which is moody and wistful. 

Spring Rain is a hidden gem of an album and one of the finest of the six albums that Black Jazz Records released in 1971. This was a decade after Rudolph Johnson decided to follow his dreams and headed west to pursue a career as a professional musician. He served his time playing in  clubs, touring and working as a session musician before signing for  Black Jazz Records and releasing Spring Rain. Sadly, Rudolph Johnson only recorded one more album for the label and that was The Second Coming which was released in 1973. Of the two albums, Spring Rain is regarded as his finest and is a reminder of a truly talented and versatile saxophonist who sadly passed away in 2007.

Cult Classic: Rudolph Johnson-Spring Rain.

CULT CLASSIC: BOBBY HUTCHERSON-THE KICKER.

Cult Classic: Bobby Hutcherson-The Kicker.

Less than three years after Bobby Hutcherson made his recording debut, the twenty-three year old vibraphonist recorded his debut album The Kicker for Blue Note Records in 1963. This was the start of the most prolific period of his long and illustrious career. 

Over the next fourteen years, Bobby Hutcherson released fifteen studio albums, one live album, two collaborations with Herbie Hancock and five with Harold Land. Bobby Hutcherson was also the go-to-guy for anyone looking for a vibes player and played on over forty albums during his time at Blue Note Records. These albums featured the great  and good of jazz, and most of them were released on  Blue Note Records. 

In 1977, Bobby Hutcherson released Knucklebean which was his fifteenth solo album and his swan-song for Blue Note Records. It was the end of era for Bobby Hutcherson whose recording career began seventeen years earlier.

On the ‘3rd’ of August 1960 nineteen year old Bobby Hutcherson made his debut with the Les McCann Trio when they recorded a single that was released on Pacific Jazz in 1961.

Just over four months after making his recording debut, Bobby Hutcherson joined the Curtis Amy-Frank Butler Sextet when they recorded Groovin’ Blue on December the ‘10th’ 1960. This was the first of many albums that featured Bobby Hutcherson’s vibes.

In 1962, Bobby Hutcherson moved to New York as he was determined to make a career as a full-time jazz musician. He found a place to live in the Bronx and soon, was spending part of the time working as a session musician. The rest of the time he drove a taxi to supplement his income.This he knew was only a temporary arrangement.

That was the case. Bobby Hutcherson met his childhood friend, the bassist Herbie Lewis who at the time, was working with The Jazztet and also hosted jam sessions at his apartment. 

Bobby Hutcherson soon became a regular at the jam sessions which was where Grachan Moncur III who was a member of Jazztet and Jackie McLean’s band saw him play. Straight away, he realised that he might be a useful addition to Jackie McLean’s band and recommended him. When Jackie McLean heard him play, he asked him to join his band and he made his debut on the recording of One Step Beyond on April the ’30th’ 1963. This was also Bobby Hutcherson’s first session for Blue Note Records.

Over the new few months he played on three more Blue Note Records sessions. The first was on the ‘30th’ September when Jackie McLean recorded Destination… Out!  Then on the ‘4th’  and ‘15th’ of November, Bobby Hutcherson played on Grant Green’s classic album Idle Moments. Less than a week later, on the ‘21st’ of November Bobby Hutcherson played on the sessions for Grachan Moncur III’s album Evolution. However, Bobby Hutcherson still had one more album to record and this time it was his debut solo album The Kicker which has just been reissued by Blue Note Records as part of their Tone Poet Series.

On the ‘29th’ of December 1963, Bobby Hutcherson and his band journeyed to Van Gelder Studio, in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey where they would record The Kicker. Joining Bobby Hutcherson were drummer Al Harewood, bassist Bob Cranshaw,  pianist Duke Pearson and tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson. Guitarist Grant Green played on two of the six tracks on the album which was produced by Alfred Lion and engineered by Rudy Van Gelder.

Bobby Hutcherson only wrote one track on The Kicker, For Duke P. It was joined by a cover of Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s If Ever I Would Leave You, Joe Chambers’ Mirrors, Duke Pearson’s Bedouin plus Joe Henderson’s The Kicker and Step Lightly. These tracks were recorded during a one day session and became The Kicker.

Side One.

The album opens with Bobby Hutcherson’s reinvention of the ballad If Ever I Would Leave You. It starts off slowly and soon the band are moving up through the gears and have transformed this familiar and much-love ballad into an energetic example of hard bop where the all-star band are firing on all cylinders and showcasing their skills collectively and individually. 

Quite different is Mirrors where the tempo drops and Joe Henderson’s tenor saxophone and Bobby Hutcherson’s vibes play leading roles in this ruminative sounding track that encourage the listener to reflect.

The tempo increases on For Duke P which is the only Bobby Hutcherson composition on the album. He flits in and out the track playing with speed and precision. Meanwhile, Duke Pearson’s fingers dance across the keyboard with Joe Joe Henderson’s saxophone matching him every step of the way as the drums add a degree of drama. The result is a breathtaking and scorching track that showcases a talented composer and his band.

Side Two.

Grant Green joins the band on The Kicker which epitomises everything that’s good about hard bop. This includes a dazzling performance from Joe Henderson. His blazing saxophone is played with power and speed while Duke Pearson’s hands dance across and pound the piano keyboard. Later, the saxophone drops out and is replaced by what’s one of dizzying vibes solo before Grant Green steps forward and shows why he was regarded as one of jazz’s leading guitarist. However, it’s Duke Pearson who steals the show on what’s without doubt the highlight of the album.

The tempo drops on Step Lightly which is just over fourteen minutes long. It starts off slowly with the rhythm section, slinky piano and tenor saxophone combining. The playing is understated with the band playing within themselves. However, it’s effective and Grant Green’s guitar solo is proof of this. Then when the solos come round they enjoy the opportunity to showcase their considerable skills. This includes bandleader and vibes virtuoso Bobby Hutcherson, pianist Duke Pearson and tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson who play their part in this beautiful blues based track where this talented band Step Lightly on another of The Kicker’s highlights. 

Joe Henderson wrote Bedouin which closes The Kicker and his tenor saxophone and Duke Pearson’s piano are to the fore as the rhythm section playing briskly and inject some swing. Spurts of rapid fire saxophone are sprayed across the arrangement. A motif is repeated on the piano before the saxophone starts to play a freedom and swings. Meanwhile, stabs of piano and the repeated motif combine with a chirping, crystalline guitar before the vibes enter and a lengthy solo unfolds. Later, a slinky piano and drum rolls are added to a track that sometimes is mesmeric and is always memorable, melodic and swings.

When Bobby Hutcherson left Van Gelder Studio on the ’29th’ of December 1963, he must have thought it was only a matter of time before Blue Note Records released his debut album. He and his all-star band had recorded an album of hard bop and blues based jazz that had the potential to launch his solo career. However, The Kicker wasn’t released in 1964.

That was despite him winning the Talent Deserving Of Wider Recognition award in the 1964 DownBeat readers’ poll. The Kicker had been shelved indefinitely and what should’ve been Bobby Hutcherson’s debut album lay unreleased in the Blue Note Records’ vaults.

Bobby Hutcherson wasn’t alone and many artists signed to Blue Note Records recorded albums that weren’t released until much later. Sometimes, thirty or forty years passed before the albums were released and occasionally the artist had died by the time the album was released. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case with Bobby Hutcherson.

Somewhat belatedly The Kicker was released by Blue Note Records in 1999, and at last, jazz aficionados were able to hear Bobby Hutcherson’s lost classic of blues based jazz and hard bop for the first time. 

Twenty-one years later and The Kicker is now regarded as a jazz classic, and is a welcome reissue of The Kicker which is a reminder of the prodigiously talented Bobby Hutcherson as he embarked on what was a long, illustrious and successful solo career.

Cult Classic: Bobby Hutcherson-The Kicker.

CULT CLASSIC: DR. LONNIE SMITH-ALL IN MY MIND.

Cult Classic: Dr. Lonnie Smith-All In My Mind.

Forty-six years after he left Blue Note Records, Dr. Lonnie Smith returned in 2016 and released a new studio album Evolution. It was released to critical acclaim and marked the homecoming of the last of the great soul-jazz organists.

His career began in 1960, and in the Dr. Lonnie Smith was about to celebrate his seventy-fifth birthday by recording a live album at the Jazz Standard in New York City with his Trio. It was producer by Don Was, the Blue Note Records’ President. 

Joining the veteran Hammond organist were drummer Jonathan Blake and guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg. They had been playing together for many years and formed a formidable partnership. That would become apparent when they took to the stage that night and showcased their considerable skills. The set was recorded, and became the live album All In My Mind. It was originally released in 2018, and according to Dr. Lonnie Smith is much more representative of him as a musician.

“When I’m playing live, the people get exactly what I’m about. When you do studio work, they have a tendency to want you to record over and over again, but you can mess up the song and make it sound very mechanical.” Dr. Lonnie Smith would rather his band plays with freedom, feeling, honesty and sincerity.“ That’s what I want, I want exactly what you feel at that moment when you’re playing it. Of course, people say I could have done a better job or there’s a mistake here, but who cares? It’s all about the feeling, and I want to hear that feeling.” That was the case when All In My Mind was recorded.

The set opens with a smoking cover Wayne Shorter’s Juju. It’s Jonathan Kreisberg’s fluid freewheeling crystalline guitar that takes centrestage which he plays effortlessly. When Dr. Lonnie Smith’s Hammond organ enters he’s not to be outdone as his fingers fly up and down the keyboard as subtitles and nuances of the original melody. Later, drummer Jonathan Blake powers his way round then kit during a stunning solo as the guitar plays a supporting role before the maestro returns and stamps his soul-jazz sound on this modal classic.

The tempo drops on Devika which initially has an understated sound as a chirping, spacious guitar meanders as the distant Hammond swirls and wheezes. Meanwhile, drummer Jonathan Blake caresses his kit as the guitar and Hammond move centrestage and play starring roles. The tempo and volume briefly increase before returning to a much more understated sound, and is dreamy, beautiful and ruminative before it reaches a crescendo.

Paul Simon’s Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover might seem an unusual inclusion, but it’s been part of his sets for many years. As it unfolds, Jonathan Kreisberg’s chirping, crystalline guitar plays the melody. Joe Dyson replaces drummer Jonathan Blake and his drums have a ratty sound. However, his funky, syncopated breaks combines well with what’s one of Dr. Lonnie Smith’s best solos. Fleet-fingered and funky he puts fifty-seven years of experience to good use as the Trio reinvent this classic which veers between languid and laid-back to funny and soulful.

Very different is the rendition of Tadd Dameron’s On A Misty Night. It’s a slow, spacious and understated sounding track. Less is more and nobody overplays. Instead they play within themselves on what’s a beautiful, sensuous, expressive and emotive reading of this classic.

A jaunty rework of Up Jumped Spring closes All In My Mind. There’s a playfulness as the veteran organist’s fingers glide and dance up and down the keyboard. Other times he jabs and stabs the keyboard adding a degree of drama. As he works his way through the gears, Jonathan Blake and Jonathan Kreisberg match the maestro every step of the way. They prove the perfect foil on what’s a flawless cover of this Freddie Hubbard composition that closes the album on resounding high.

Dr. Lonnie Smith’s 2018 album All In My Mind was his second album since he returned home to Blue Note Records after a forty-six year absence. He was by then, the last great soul-jazz organist, and showcases his considerable talent and versatility on the album. 

Joining him in the Trio were Jonathan Blake and Jonathan Kreisberg who play their part in the sound and success of All In My Mind. Both are outstanding musicians, and without them, it wouldn’t be the same album. They were augmented by drummer Joe Dyson who plays on Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover. Good as he is, and he’s a talented and inventive drummer he won’t unseat Jonathan Blake anytime soon. The current trio gel perfectly and the chemistry between them resulted in what’s one of the best albums Dr. Lonnie Smith released in a number of years. 

All In My Mind  one of the best jazz albums released during 2018. In fact, All In My Mind is also one the best albums that Dr. Lonnie Smith has released in the past couple of decades. He rolls back the years on All In My Mind which is a reminder of why Dr. Lonnie Smith is regarded as one of the greatest Hammond organists of his generation.

Cult Classic: Dr. Lonnie Smith-All In My Mind.

LORD SHANGO ORIGINAL 1975 MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK BY HOWARD ROBERTS.

Lord Shango Original 1975 Motion Picture Soundtrack By Howard Roberts.

Label: Tidal Waves Music.

Format: LP.

During first half of the seventies, Blaxploitation films started to grow in popularity and by soon, Hollywood producer saw the potential in what was a relatively new genre. However, there’s much debate about what was the first Blaxploitation film?

Some critics believe that it was They Call Me Mister Tibbs! which was released in 1970 and featured a soundtrack by Quincy Jones. However, other film critics believe the that the first Blaxploitation film was released a year later.

In 1971, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song and Shaft were released and nowadays many film critics believe that they invented the Blaxploitation genre. The two films also feature two of the finest Blaxploitation soundtracks. Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song featured soundtrack that was written by Melvin Van Peebles. Meanwhile Isaac Hayes had been asked to write the soundtrack to Shaft. Both are now regarded as classic Blaxploitation soundtrack and set the bar high for what followed.

Over the next few years some of the biggest names in soul and funk were asked to provide the soundtrack to Blaxploitation films. In 1972, Bobby Womack wrote the score to Across ‘110th ‘Street, Curtis Mayfield Superfly and Gene Page Blacula. Meanwhile, Marvin Gaye had been asked to write the soundtrack to Troubled Man which nowadays is regarded as a classic album. Soon, other big names were writing Blaxploitation soundtracks.

In 1973, James Brown contributed the soundtrack to Black Caesar. It was so popular a sequel was made and later that year, Hell Up In Harlem, which featured  a soundtrack by Edwin Star. Meanwhile, Roy Ayers wrote the score to Coffy while jazz trombonist, composer and arranger JJ Johnson was asked to write the soundtrack to Cleopatra Jones. As 1973 drew to a close, the popularity of Blaxploitation films continued to grow and Hollywood was taking interest in the new genre.

With many producers jumping on the Blaxploitation bandwagon the quality of the films being released suffered. Often, the best thing was the soundtrack which later would become rarities and nowadays are collectables. Some of these soundtracks featured stars of soul, funk and jazz.

In 1974, Willie Hutch contributed the soundtrack to Foxy Brown while Isaac Hayes wrote the score to Truck Turner. Meanwhile, Willie Dynamite featured another  soundtrack by JJ Johnson. The Impressions who were trying to kickstart their ailing career contributed the soundtrack to Three The Hard Way. However  one of the finest soundtracks released that year wasSun Ra and His Arkestra’s ambitious and innovative score to the psychedelically-themed Blaxploitation film Space Is The Place. Nowadays, the soundtrack is a cult classic and so is one that was released a year later.

That is Lord Shango Original 1975 Motion Picture Soundtrack By Howard Roberts which was reissued for Record Store Day 2021 by Tidal Waves Music. The film was very different to the majority of Blaxploitation films which seemed to be full of tough guys, hustlers and pimps. It wasn’t a horror film and certainly wasn’t a drama or romance. Instead, it was a thoughtful, ruminative and spiritual film that eschewed the exploitation, sex and violence that were part and parcel of so many of the films that gave Blaxploitation its name.

Lord Shango was written by playwright Paul Carter Harrison and when it was released in 1975 the promotional materials stated that it was a horror film. However, this was slightly misleading and maybe even off-putting as it was thoughtful, ruminative and spiritual film that was a mixture of disparate genres. It wasn’t a fast-moving, all-action release and featured a much more measured pace. Some critics compared the content and theme to the 1973 film Ganja and Hess which also starred Marlene Clark. Other critics drew comparisons to early ‘20th’ century films directed by Oscar Micheaux and Spencer Williams. deal with racial consciousness and without doubt illustrated the Afrocentrism and Black Power movement of the sixties and early seventies.

Lord Shango was released in 1975 by Bryanston Pictures and featured a score by composer, conductor, singer and trumpeter  Howard Roberts who had previously worked with the many of the biggest names in music including Nina Simone, Miles Davis and Aretha Franklin. He had already released two solo albums including 1968s Let My People Go; Black Spirituals/African Drums on Columbia, where he set ten traditional African-American spirituals to African percussion. This album is now regarded as the perfect precursor to Lord Shango and it’s no surprise that he was asked to wrote the score to the film.

Howard Roberts wrote twelve of the thirteen tracks that would eventually feature on the soundtrack to Lord Shango. The exception was Bankoko which was a traditional song. Maureen Meloy also wrote the lyrics to Some People. Everything else on the soundtrack came courtesy of Howard Roberts. It would  showcase a clash of different musical worlds and genres.

This meant that it was imperative that Howard Roberts brought the right personnel onboard when the soundtrack was being recorded. He decided to eschewed the great and good of music that he had previously worked with and instead, brought a case who were capable of recording the music on the soundtrack.

There were three different musical genre that feature during Lord Shango, and each and ever one sets the tone for one of the primary settings. This includes  gospel in and around the church, African drumming in the Yoruba village and jazz, funk and R&B in the day-to-day everyday “real world.” These disparate genres that feature in Lord Shango meant that the film had almost had its own character. It was certainly very different to other Blaxploitation albums released during 1975.

When the soundtrack was recorded, the multitalented Peter Roberts brought onboard his own Chorale who had worked with Ahmad Jamal and Little Richard. They were joined by Ella Mitchell who was a member of the Gospel All Stars’ member and sang backing vocals for Sylvester and Peter Tosh. Adding vocals were the well known Aaron Staples Community Choir. They were joined by Chief Bey who had worked with Art Blakey and Pharoah Sanders and pioneering free jazz percussionist Milford Graves who was tasked with supervising the African drumming, which was supposedly performed by a pair of “African priests.” The result was a Blaxploitation soundtrack like no other.

There’s mesmeric Yoruba drums, call-and-response chants, uplifting, rousing and spiritual contributions from the gospel choir who are just as comfortable adding  Doo-wop backings to the more contemporary sounding R&B jams. Sometimes, there’s a laidback easy-going soulful sound that’s reminiscent of early seventies Al Green. Other times, it’s all change and there’s blistering, blazing funk that’s much more similar to the music found on other  Blaxploitation soundtracks.

Elsewhere, the soundtrack head in the direction of jazz and there’s even relaxing piano ballads which are joined by cool mid-tempo horns. There’s even a mixture of lounge, Latin, fusion and jazz-funk during this musical potpourri where Howard Roberts and his cast of multitalented friends created a very different sounding Blaxploitation soundtrack.

His soundtrack to Lord Shango was ambitious and innovative as he combined disparate genres and takes the listener on a musical adventure where they wonder what’s going to happen next? He throws a series of curveballs and on what’s a refreshing alternative to the Blaxploitation soundtracks that were being released in 1975.

By then, many producers had jumped on the Blaxploitation bandwagon and films were being produced quickly and so were the soundtracks. Soon, the quality suffered. Many of the Blaxploitation films that were released were tired and formulaic and their soundtracks were the musical equivalent to paint-by-numbers. It wasn’t long before Blaxploitation was a dirty word in the film and music industries. 

It was only much later that critics revisited many Blaxploitation films and soundtrack and discovered many cult classics. This included Howard Roberts’ oft-overlooked but groundbreaking and genre-melting soundtrack to Lord Shango which stands head and shoulders above the majority of Blaxploitation soundtracks released during 1975. 

Lord Shango Original 1975 Motion Picture Soundtrack By Howard Roberts.

CULT CLASSIC: MASAHIKO SATO-KAYOBI NO ONNA. 

Cult Classic: Masahiko Sato-Kayobi No Onna.

By 1969, Tokyo-born composer and pianist Masahiko Sato about to turn twenty-nine, and had been a professional musician since he was seventeen. He had started out accompanying magicians, singers and strippers in a cabaret in Ginza, a district of Tokyo. Now eleven years later he had just written the score to the “suspense drama” Kayobi No Onna which was to to be shown on Japanese televisions during 1969 and 1970. 

After Kayobi No Onna was aired, a decisions was made to release the music from the soundtrack as released as a Masahiko Sato solo album. Kayobi No Onna was released by Toho Records in 1970, and fifty years later, this cult classic has just been released by the Swiss label Mitsuko and Svetlana Records. It was the latest chapter in Masahiko Sato’s career.

Masahiko Sato was born in Tokyo on the ‘5th’ of October 1941. His mother Setsu, and father Yoshiaki, owned various small businesses. In 1944, the Sato family moved into a new home and in the house was a piano. 

Just two years later, aged just five years old Masahiko Sato starting playing the piano. Little did his parents realise that this was how their son would make a living.

When Masahiko Sato was seventeen, he became a professional musician and started out accompanying magicians, singers and strippers in a cabaret in Ginza. This was akin to a musical apprenticeship for the young pianist.

In 1959, Masahiko Sato joined Georgie Kawaguchi’s band. He found himself playing alongside tenor saxophonist Akira Miyazaw and Sadao Watanabe who would become one of the great Japanese saxophonists of his generation. 

Meanwhile, Masahiko Sato was combining his musical career with his studies at Keio University in in Minato, Tokyo. However, when he graduated that wasn’t the end of his studies.

When he was twenty-six moved to America and enrolled at Berklee College Of Music, in Boston. For the next two years, he studied composition and arranging. To make ends meet, Masahiko Sato worked in a food shop and also played the piano in a local hotel. However, he was also writing new compositions during his time at Berklee College Of Music.

In 1968, Masahiko Sato travelled to New York where a series of compositions he had written were going to be combined with music. That night, in the Big Apple he conducted his new compositions when they were being performed. 

After two years at Berklee College Of Music, Masahiko Sato returned home to Tokyo, and soon, began work on a new album. This was the Masahiko Sato Trio’s album Palladium which was released in 1969.The same year, Masahiko Sato began work on the soundtrack to a television “suspense drama.”

Eventually, Masahiko Sato had composed nine new pieces which he also arranged. He played piano and led the sextet during the recordings for the soundtrack to Kayobi No Onna. The lineup included drummer Akira Ishikawa; bassists Kunimitsu Inaba and Yasuo Arakawa; guitarist Kiyoshi Sugimoto and jazz vocalist Yoshiko Goto. They recorded the nine tracks for the soundtrack to Kayobi No Onna which aired later in 1969.

The “suspense drama” Kayobi No Onna was first so shown on Japanese television during 1969 and continued into 1970. After the series was finished, a decision was made to release the soundtrack to Kayobi No Onna as a Masahiko Sato solo album.

When Kayobi No Onna was released by Toho Records in 1970, the music was mixture of jazz-folk, fusion, jazz, modern classical and soul-jazz. Masahiko Sato’s sextet were responsible for music that was variously atmospheric, beautiful, haunting, melancholy  cinematic and melodic soundtrack to Kayobi No Onna. 

Side One.

It’s no surprise that some of the music on Kayobi No Onna has a quintessential 1960s sound. This includes the opening track Yoko Ai To Kako (Mimikazari) where there’s a nod to French films from the sixties. 

Noriko Ai To Omei (Utsukushiki Emono) is a beautiful emotive and dramatic track that has been inspired by modern classical musical. Jazz and lounge music combine on Chie Ai To Shinjitsu (Ame No Hi No Wana) where Yoshiko Goto scats and adds a melancholy sound. There’s an understated and ruminative sound to the jazz-tinged Miyako Ai To Tsuiseki (Koi No Wana). Then he rest of the band create an element of drama on Nobuko Ai To Tobo (Shi To Sora To) before Yoshiko Goto scats on one of the album’s highlights. 

 Side Two.

Atmospheric, dramatic and cinematic is the best way to describe Miyako Ai To Gisei (Aoi Kemonotachi) is a cinematic. Then Misako Ai To Kibo (Tobosha) which features a tender, heartfelt scat from Yoshiko Goto  heads in the direction of folk jazz. Sakiko Ai To Uragiri (Hitokui) is another track with a Gallic influence. It’s also filmic and becomes dramatic as the tempo rises. Closing Kayobi No Onna is Sanae Ai To Kyofu (Konoha No Fune) a stunning example of late-sixties fusion where guitarist Kiyoshi Sugimoto steals the show.

Fifty years have passed since the release of Kayobi No Onna in 1970. Since then, it’s become something of a cult classic and is regarded as one of the hidden gems in Masahiko Sato’s discography. He’s released over eighty albums during a long and distinguished career. His music is highly regarded by aficionados of J-Jazz.

While Masahiko Sato and his play straight ahead jazz on Kayobi No Onna, there’s much more to the album than that. There’s elements of easy listening, folk jazz, fusion, lounge, modern classical and soul-jazz on  this oft-overlooked soundtrack. It’s atmospheric, beautiful, melancholy and melodic as Masahiko Sato and band paint pictures on this cinematic sounding and genre-melting album Kayobi No Onna. It’s the perfect introduction to a truly talented composer, arranger, bandleader and pianist Masahiko Sato. 

Cult Classic: Masahiko Sato-Kayobi No Onna.

CULT CLASSIC: GRANT GREEN-NIGERIA.

Cult Classic: Grant Green-Nigeria.

On January the ’13th’ 1962 Grant Green journeyed to New Jersey, and what were by now the familiar environs of the Van Gelder Studio. He was twenty-five and had already recorded eight albums for Blue Note Records since he signed for the label in 1960. Grant Green had his friend Lou Donaldson to thank for that.

He thought back to that day in 1959 when alto saxophonist Lou Donaldson discovered him playing in a bar in St. Louis. He was so impressed that he hired Grant Green for his touring band. This was just the start for Grant Green.

Having moved to New York, Lou Donaldson introduced Grant Green to Alfred Lion the cofounder of Blue Note Records. When he heard Grant Green play his guitar he was so impressed that he arranged for him to record an album as bandleader rather than sideman. This was almost of unheard of, but Grant Green was a special talent who thought and played like a horn player. He had a different mindset and this was apparent throughout his career.

First Session.

Grant Green like so many musicians who had just signed to Blue Note Records travelled to the Van Gelder Studio on  November ’16th’ 1960,  where he led a quartet that recorded five tracks. However, when Alfred Lion heard the recordings he shelved the project, and decided to record another session which would become his debut album.

Sadly, what became First Session wasn’t released until 2001, and by then, Grant Green had been dead for twenty-two years. The album featured seven tracks including two takes of Woody ‘N You recorded  on October the ’27th’ 1961. 

Critics were won over by First Session and felt that the album featured an album who had already matured and was blossoming when surrounded by an all-star band.There was a simplicity to Grant Green’s playing as well as a warmth and urgency on the album. First Session more than hinted at what was to come from Grant Green who would become one of the great jazz guitarists of the sixtes and seventies.

Grant’s First Stand.

After his first recording was shelved, Grant Green returned to the Van Gelder Studio on January the ‘28th’ 1961. This time he was accompanied by drummer Ben Dixon and organist Baby Face Willette. The trio recorded six tracks including three by Grant Green. Alfred Lion who was producing must have felt vindicated as he watched on.

Grant’s First Stand was a stunning album of hard swinging soul-jazz. The album was released to widespread critical acclaim in May 1961, and later, was regarded as the purest album of soul-jazz Grant Green ever recorded. He had set the bar high early on in his career. 

Sunday Mornin’.

Alfred Lion wasted no time getting Grant Green back into the Van Gelder Studio, and on  June the ‘4th’ 1961  he led a quartet that recorded Sunday Mornin’. Drummer Ben Dixon returned and was joined by bassist Ben Tucker and pianist Kenny Drew. They recorded an album that combined new compositions and cover versions

Eighteen months passed before Blue Note Records released  Sunday Mornin’ in November 1962. It was Grant Green’s fourth album and was well received by critics. Some felt it was his finest album and a flawless set with a distinctive sound. Already Grant Green had established his own sound.

Grandstand.

There was no rest for Grant Green between his session work and recording his solo albums. He returned to the Van Gelder Studio, and on  August the ‘1st’ 1961 and with an all-star that featured  drummer Al Harewood,  bassist Ben Tucker, organist Brother Jack McDuff and Yuseef Lateef who played flute and tenor saxophone. With Alfred Lion producing the quintet recorded a smoking album of soul-jazz. 

When Grandstand was released in April 1962, the album was hailed as another stunning and swinging album of soul-jazz. The new band clicked and were responsible for what’s new regarded as another of Grant Green’s finest soul-jazz albums. 

Remembering.

Four weeks after he recorded Grandstand, Grant Green returned to the Van Gelder Studio on the ‘29th’ August 1961 for another session. This time, it was a trio recording with drummer Al Harewood and bassist Wilbur Hare accompanying Grant Green. The new band recorded an album of standards which later became Remembering.

Just like Grant Green’s debut album First Session, the tracks that became Remembering weren’t released by Blue Note Records Japan until 1980. 

By then, Grant Green was dead and jazz critics and fans were Remembering one of its great guitarists. Critics were won over by Remembering and praised Grant Green’s playing. They realized that they were hearing him at the peak of his powers on this pared back trio recording. It was a welcome addition to Grant Green’s discography. 

Gooden’s Corner.

Two days before Christmas 1961, Grant Green made his way to the Van Gelder Studio to record what became Gooden’s Corner. He was joined by a different lineup to the one that featured on Remembering. 

Drummer Louis Hayes, bassist Sam Jones  and pianist Sonny Clark accompanied Grant Green. They recorded six tracks that ranged from standards to a cover of Shadrack which gave Brook Benton  hit single and two Grant Green compositions Gooden’s Corner and Two For One.

Just like Remembering, Gooden’s Corner wasn’t released until 1980. This was ironic as it was released to critical acclaim with the interplay between Grant Green’s guitar and Sonny Clark’s piano playing starring roles in the sound and success of what’s a sometimes overlooked album.

Nigeria.

It was a case of deja vu as Grant Green travelled to the Van Gelder Studio at 445 Sylvan Avenue, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey on  on the ‘13th’ of January 1962.  Grant Green had recorded a solo album just three weeks previously and here he was again making the same journey again.  It was the perfect environment to record an album, and he felt at home in Rudy Van Gelder’s custom built recording studio with its high ceilings. The studio had opened in 1959 which was the year Grant Green was discovered by Lou Donaldson. Now he was about to record one of the most important albums of his career, Nigeria. 

Grant Green had come a long way in a relatively short space of time. He was twenty-six and  had  come a long way since his days playing in bars in St Louis. That was where his friend Lou Donaldson had discovered him. Now Grant Green was about to record another album with some of the best jazz musicians America had to offer.

For the Nigeria sessions drummer Art Blakey, bassist Sam Jones  and pianist Sonny Clark accompanied Grant Green. They were about to record five tracks with producer Alfred Lion. This included  Sonny Rollins’ Airegin and the standards It Ain’t Necessarily So, I Concentrate On You, The Things We Did Last Summer and The Song Is You. These tracks Grant Green must have hoped would be his next album.

Sadly, history repeated itself and just like  Remembering and Gooden’s Corner, Nigeria wasn’t posthumously  released until 1980. For eighteen years jazz fans missed out on hearing Nigeria, which ironically was one of Grant Green’s finest albums.

Opening Nigeria was the Sonny Rollins’ composition Airegin, which is Nigeria spelt backwards. Sonny Rollins said that: “It was an attempt to introduce some kind of black pride into the conversation of the time.” Airegin was originally recorded on the album Miles Davis With Sonny Rollins and later on Cookin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet which featured John Coltrane. On Nigeria, Art Blakey’s thunderous drums power the arrangement along while Grant Green’s playing is clear, clean and melodic and then when he improvises he comes into his own during what’s a breathtaking performance. Pianist  Sonny Clark also enjoys the opportunity to shine during the solos and so does Art Blakey.  The quartet set the bar high and whet the listener’s appetite for the rest of the album.

The tempo drops on George and Ira Gershwin’s It Ain’t Necessarily So. Art Blakey plays his trademark shuffle and Sam Jones is responsible for a walking bass line. Having locked into a groove, pianist Sonny Clark  and Grant Green improvise and seem to feed off other as the all-star band drive each other to even greater heights. As they do, this much-love standard is transformed  into a ten minute opus. It  takes on a late-night bluesy sound and seductive and sensual sounding. 

In Grant Green and his quartet’s hands Cole Porter’s I Concentrate On You takes on new life. Their uptempo take on this standard glides along the arrangement spacious and propelled by the rhythm section who ensure that arrangement swings. Art Blakey adds fills while  Sonny Clark’s piano accompanies Grant Green and provides the perfect foil to the guitarist and bandleader. His playing seems effortless as he plays an elegance and fluidity and a sound that is instantly recognisable as Grant Green.  Later he leaves space for a Sonny Clark solo and lets him shine as he plays a supporting role in the sound and success of this timeless take on a standard.

Sammy Cahn wrote The Things We Did Last Summer which Grant Green and his ensemble rework. It’s best described as laid-back, understated, melodic and mellifluous with Grant Green deciding taking a less is more approach.  Sometimes, there’s a wistful, melancholy sound to Grant Green’s guitar. As the tempo increases his fingers fly across the fretboard and his playing is flawless. The same can be said of pianist Sonny Clark. They form a potent partnership and not for the first time play starring roles on Nigeria.

Closing Nigeria is Oscar Hammerstein and Jerome Kern’s The Song Is You. The tempo rises and the quartet unleash a brisk swinging arrangement.  Grant Green seems to have saved his best performance until last playing with speed, fluidity and a dexterity. Sonny Clark who has been  Grant Green’s muse throughout the album plays a supporting role and then steps out of the shadows when he plays one of his finest solos. They seem to bring out the best in each other. Then bassist Sam Jones and drummer Art Blakey both showcase their considerable skills during the solos before Grant Green picks up where left off, before he and the rest of quartet take a well deserved bow.

Sadly, after the recording of Nigeria, Alfred Lion decided to shelf the album. It’s thought that he didn’t want to confuse Grant Green’s fans who had grown to love his soul-jazz sound, by issuing what was essentially an album of hard bop flavoured standards. However, many other artists signed to Blue Note Records released albums that were different stylistically. 

For Grant Green the shelving of Nigeria must have have been  huge disappointment. He had recorded seven albums and First Session, Remembering, Gooden’s Corner and Nigerian had all been had all been shelved and Grant Green never saw them released.

Grant Green was a solo artist between 1961 and 1970, yet still found time to work as a sideman, However, between August 1971 and April 1978 he only recorded eight albums. After that, his health deteriorated in 1978, and Grant Green was forced to spend much of that year in hospital. During this period, Grant Green wasn’t earning money, and before long the guitarist’s finances were in a perilous state.

Against doctor’s advice, Grant Green headed back out on the road to try to make some much-needed money. His final gig was at his fiend George Benson’s Breezin’ Lounge in New York, but sadly, Grant Green collapsed in his car of a heart attack and died on January the ’31st’ 1979 aged just forty-three. That day, jazz music lost a truly talented and versatile guitarist, bandleader and composer who left behind a rich musical legacy. This includes Nigeria, which was released posthumously in 1980 and is a reminder of Grant Green at the peak of his powers as he leads an all-star quartet on what’s now regarded a classic album.

Cult Classic: Grant Green-Nigeria.

CULT CLASSIC: NKEM NJOKU AND OZZOBIA BROTHERS-OZABIA SPECIAL. 

Cult Classic: Nkem Njoku and Ozzobia Brothers–Ozobia Special.

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 had its own studios and pressing plant. The company was going from strength-to-strength.

By the eighties, Chief Tabansi was joined in the company by his son Godwin. He helped promoting and developing the artists on the Tabansi roster. This included Nkem Njoku and Ozzobia Brothers’ debut album Ozobia Special.

When Nkem Njoku and Ozzobia Brothers came to record Ozobia Special in the early eighties, Igbo highlife was still a hugely popular genre. Its roots can be traced back to the late-fifties, and Onitsha,  a city which was located on the banks of the Niger River in Nigeria’s Anambra State. That was where Igbo highlife was born.

Igbo highlife grew in popularity during the sixties,  just after Nigeria gained independence. However, all wasn’t well in Nigeria. There was poverty, wages were low  and housing was overcrowded and dangerous. This resulted in strikes and  by June 1964 the Nigerian people had enough and there was a general strike. Although this resulted in wage increases, therek was tension between the army and civilians who believed the government was corrupt.  It went to the polls at the end of 1964.

On the ‘30th’ of December 1964, there was meant to be an election in Nigeria. However, in some parts of the country the election didn’t take place until the ‘18th’ of March 1965. The Northern People’s Alliance won the election, but the result was marred by violence accusations that the result had been manipulated. Sadly, things were about to get worse for the people of Nigeria.

Ten month later  was a military coup on the ’15th’ of January 1966. Just four months later, the 1966 anti-Igbo pogrom began in  May and lasted until September. By then, an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 Igbos and people of southern Nigerian origin had been murdered. Another million Igbos fearing for their lives fled from the Northern Region to eastern Nigeria. 

This led to the secession of the eastern Nigeria region and the declaration of the Republic of Biafra. Sadly, those that had sought sanctuary were now caught up in the Nigeria-Biafra war which began on the ‘6th’ of July 1967, and lasted until  the ’13th’ of January 1970. After a war lasting two years, six months, one week and two days there had been 100,000 military casualties, while  between 500,000 and three million Biafran civilians died of starvation and Biafra rejoined Nigeria.

During what was a bloody period in Nigerian history,  Igbo highlife’s popularity grew. It was primarily guitar-based music, which also included a combination of horns and vocal rhythms. They’re sung in a call and-response style in Igbo or pidgin English.  The music takes its 6/8 time signature from the Ogene bell that take a prominent place at the front of Igbo gatherings. It can be heard on Nkem Njoku and Ozzobia Brothers’s debut album Ozobia Special.

The six tracks that became Ozobia Special  were recorded and later mixed at Tabansi Recording Studio, Onitsha, in Nigeria. Just like all the Tabansi sessions, top musicians were used including a rhythm section of drummer and percussionist George Atomba, bassist Isidore Modjo and John Kante who adds his unmistakable soukous guitar. They were joined by pianist Sonny Enang, Highlife keyboard keyboard maestro Jake Sollo on synths, plus percussionists Chukwudi Nwafor, Friday Pozo and Candido Obajimi. The horn section featured saxophonist Ngoma and trumpeters Kofi Adjololo and Ray Stephen Oche, and adding backing vocals on Ozobia Special were Judith Ezekoka and Kenny George. They played their part in what would later be regarded as a cult classic.

When Nkem Njoku and Ozzobia Brothers released  their debut album Ozobia Special the music was joyous, uplifting with an infectious and memorable sound. Igbo highlife combines with boogie era keyboards and funk. The vocals veer between heartfelt, impassioned and soulful. There’s even a touch of gospel righteousness on Ozobia Special. Most of the time, it’s feel-good music that shows another side to highlife.  

Ozobia Special opens the album and  is special with a capital S.  No wonder given the ingredients used to make this musical feast. Part of the recipe is a circus fanfare horn chart. Add to that  boogie synths, a mesmeric guitar motif  and an impassioned vocal  sung in a call and response style. Set the musical oven at 6/8 tempo and enjoy the celebratory sound Igbo highlife in full flight. 

Like the other tracks Ofu Obi (Onye Achuna Uwa Nike) is in 6/8 time but is a shuffle, with bells, whistles and blazing horns getting the party started. A boogie era Prophet synth punctuates the arrangement while the vocal is heartfelt and soulful. It’s Igbo highlife meets boogie, and is joyous, uplifting and memorable with vocalist Nkem Njoku and keyboardist Jake Sollo playing starring roles.  

Unlike other tracks on the albumOsula Nwa Eje Ubi Eje Oba is played in 4/4 time. Straight away, where there’s an elements of drama before the arrangement reveals its secrets and heads for the dancefloor. It’s an irresistibly catchy call to dance with a timeless sound, and  is one of the album’s highlights.

It’s as if Nkem Njoku and Ozzobia Brothers are determined to grab the listener’s attention as  Ije Eluwa unfolds. Isidore Modjo lays down an uber funky bass line that bounds over John Kante’s repetitive guitar licks that eventually mesmerise. Old school synths join drums and a myriad of percussion before the vocal enters. Nkem Njoku seems to be in a hurry, his vocal is emotive and a mixture of power and passion. When all this is combined the result is a track that leaves the listener with a smile on their face. 

Akwa Obi is played at 6/8 time and marks the return of the Ogene bell. Initially, the arrangement is understated, soulful and sounds as of it’s been influenced by gospel. Then it’s all change as the rhythm section, chiming guitar, percussion and the Ogene bell combine with Nkem Njoku’s vocal. He alternates between  Igbo or pidgin English as  soulful backing vocals reply to his call . Meanwhile, Ogene drumming,  gospel tinged harmonies and braying horns are a feature of the arrangement. By the, the band and Nkem Njoku are in full flight and it’s a joy to behold on what’s the best track on Ozobia Special.

Closing Ozobia Special is Egwu Oyoliba which bursts into life as if Nkem Njoku and Ozzobia Brothers are  keen to close the album on a high.  To do that, they combine percussion and whistles  with robotic and squelchy synths. They provide the backdrop to the vocal on what’s highlife with a twist. Later, blazing horns the whistles are punctuate the arrangement on before the vocal returns and Nkem Njoku and Ozzobia Brothers succeed in leaving a lasting impression.  

For anyone with even a passing interest in African music, then Nkem Njoku and Ozzobia Brothers’ debut album Ozobia Special will be of in test to them. It’s an album of the finest Igbo highlife which is combined with elements of boogie, funk, gospel, jazz and soul.  Ozobia Special features some of Nigeria’s top musicians making music that is joyful, uplifting, catchy, soulful  and dancefloor friendly. It makes you want to smile and dance for joy even in such difficult times. 

Ozobia Special is a reminder of what’s the most important, influential and innovative Nigerian record label of the past six decades. They released so many important albums during the seventies and eighties which was golden era for Chief Tabansi’s label. This was when Tabansi Records released Nkem Njoku and Ozzobia Brothers’s oft-overlooked debut album of Igbo highlife Ozobia Special, which is a cult classic that is guaranteed to brighten up your day and will bring some sunshine into your life. 

Cult Classic: Nkem Njoku and Ozzobia Brothers–Ozobia Special.

CULT CLASSIC: ALAIN BELLAICHE-SEA FLUORESCENT.

Cult Classic: Alain Bellaïche-Sea Fluorescent.

Alain Bellaïche was born in Tunis, the capital of Tunisia, but spent his childhood in Cannes, on the French Riviera which was where he discovered music and played his first concerts. 

Initially, he played in friends’ houses where he was guaranteed a captive and appreciative audience. Soon, he had graduated to the local folk clubs where he continued to hone his sound and stagecraft. By then, Alain Bellaïche’s talent was apparent and he was already dreaming of making a living as a musician. That however was all in the future. 

Before that, he journeyed to Paris where he enrolled at the influential and prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Having graduated, Alain Bellaïche continued his musical career and in 1973 headed to he left France and headed to America.

That was where his home for the next ten years and where he recorded two albums for David Geffen’s Asylum Records. The first album was a collaboration with a fellow countryman.

Metropolitain.

This was Metropolitain which was Alain Bellaïche collaboration with Alain Renaud of Heldon, the Paris-based progressive rock and space rock band. For the album, Alain Bellaïche had written nine new tracks and cowrote The Last One with Alain Renaud. The only cover version was Steve Winwood’s Can’t Find My Way Home. These track were recorded at Bell Studio, New February and March of 1974 in Bell Studio, in New York, with a tight talented band that included keyboardist Nils Lofgren, and the album was released later in 1974.

Billed as Alain Bellaïche avec Alain Renaud on Metropolitain, the pair fused elements of blues, folk, jazz, pop and rock on what was a vastly underrated album. Sadly, the album slipped under the musical radar and record buyers missed out on what was a carefully crafted and enchanting album.

Sea Fluorescent.

After Metropolitain failed to find an audience, Alain Bellaïche began work on his debut solo album Sea Fluorescent. He wrote another nine new tracks which he decided to record at Bell Studio, New York during September and October 1975.

Joining Alain Bellaïche who played acoustic guitar, electric guitar, 12-string guitar, percussion and vocals during the Sea Fluorescent sessions was a small but talented band. This included drummer and percussionist Jean-François Fabiano who also played bells, cabasa, celesta, congas, maracas, triangle, tambourine, vibes and whistle. They were joined by bassist Wornell Jones and Jerry Goodman who played electric violin. Taking charge of the arrangements and production was bandleader Alain Bellaïche who spent the next two months recording his debut album. By October 1975 Sea Fluorescent was complete and ready for release in 1976. So was another album Alain Bellaïche had featured on.

Alain Bellaïche had joined Heldon in the studio when they recorded their fourth album. He only played on one track Perspective IV, which was a near twenty-two minute epic which was the highlight of Heldon IV “Agneta Nilsson” when it was released in 1976.

When Asylum Records were preparing for the release of Sea Fluorescent in 1976 Alain Bellaïche’s debut album sat alongside releases by Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, The Byrds and Tom Waits. He was rubbing shoulders with music royalty. The only problem was the music on Sea Fluorescent was very different and he had been influenced by Herbie Hancock, John McLaughlin, Led Zeppelin, The Spencer Davis Group and Weather Report. This resulted in what was an eclectic sounding album that referenced a variety of genres.

Opening Sea Fluorescent is California where the funky rhythm section are soon joined by Alain Bellaïche’s vocal powerhouse. It seems to have been inspired by Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant. Meanwhile, the bandleader’s guitar veers between funky to rocky and references the West Coast. Later, keyboards are added to this memorable example of West Coast funk that whets the appetite for the rest of the album.

A lone acoustic guitar plays on San Andreas and is joined by vibes and a scatted vocal. What follows is a beautiful, dreamy cosmic ballad that is truly timeless and should be a favourite of compilers. 

From the opening bars of I’m Angry there’s  more than a nod to The Who. Alain Bellaïche’s vocal is full of frustration and hurt at the betrayal he’s experienced. This is reflected in his scorching, searing guitar licks as the rhythm section drive the arrangement to this rocky anthem along.

The rhythm section and guitar combine before Alain Bellaïche’s impassioned vocal enters on Got My Place In The Country. He unleashes rocky and funky guitar licks as a walking bass is dropped in and out. Later,  Jerry Goodman’s electric violin is added to this genre-melting track. It features elements of jazz-funk, folk, fusion and pop-rock on a truly memorable song.

A strummed guitar opens Reggae and Western before the bass, drums and piano enter and the song starts to build. When Alain Bellaïche’s vocal enters it’s tender as he sings of leaving the city behind and being with the woman he loves. Backing vocalists accompany him on this cinematic ballad and soar above the piano-led arrangement. 

Understated describes Spanish Roots as an acoustic guitar plays and weaves its way across the arrangement. At first it’s played gently but sometimes it’s played with power and passion. Just vibes accompany the guitar on a track that shows yet another side of Alain Bellaïche.

From  the get-go, it’s obvious that Foolin’ Myself is one of the album’s highlights. Alain Bellaïche delivers a soul-baring vocal and with his band combine blues, jazz-funk and fusion. His vocal is rueful, emotive and fool of regret as he sings of a relationship that broke up and the partner he loved, lost and can’t find now that he’s changed his way. When his vocal drops out blistering guitars punctuate the arrangement to this memorable and melodic tale of love lost.

Sun Blues is another short track where an acoustic guitar plays before an  impassioned vocal is added. Soon, it drops out and the before long track this quite beautiful track is at an end.

Closing Sea Fluorescent is the title-track which is an instrumental that lasts 6:30. It’s a case of less is more with a chiming guitar being joined joined by a bass that cuts through the arrangement which is punctuated by drums as cymbals rinse and hiss. Later, the sound of birdsong is added as this laidback and cinematic arrangement meander along as Alain Bellaïche saves one of the best songs on the album until last.

Sadly, when Alain Bellaïche’s debut album Sea Fluorescent was released by Asylum Records in 1976 it failed to find the audience it deserved. Part of the problem that the record company didn’t know how to market him? Alain Bellaïche was put in the Asylum Records’ catalogue beside Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, The Byrds and Tom Waits. However, his music sounded nothing like theirs. That was a mistake as Alain Bellaïche had honed his own inimitable sound.

On Sea Fluorescent, Alain Bellaïche flits between and fuses avant-garde, funk, fusion, jazz, jazz-funk and pop-rock and rock. Sometimes, the album heads in the direction of AOR and West Coast funk and there were the occasional forays in the direction of folk. Sea Fluorescent was an ambitious, innovative and eclectic album where the music was variously anthemic, beautiful, cinematic, melodic and memorable. It also showed the different sides to Alain Bellaïche who was a talented and versatile musician who should’ve gone onto to greater things. Sadly, it was five years before he returned with new music.

In 1981, Kirlian Effect released their epigynous debut single on the French label Carrere.  It found Kirlian Effect combining fusion and jazz-funk on Armadillo-Botafogo which featured a vocal from Alain Bellaïche. Tucked away on the B-Side was the hidden gem Chacha Emotionnel. However, history repeated itself when then the single failed commercially. It must have been a bitter blow for Alain Bellaïche given the quality of the music and sadly, he never released any more music after Kirlian Effect. It was his one and only single. 

Just like many albums and singles that failed to find an audience first time round, a new generation of record buyers have discovered both Sea Fluorescent and Kirlian Effect which nowadays are rarities. Nowadays, original copies of Sea Fluorescent change hands for as much as $300.  It’s a much-prized and hugely underrated album.

Alain Bellaïche’s album Sea Fluorescent is a long-lost hidden gem which was recorded  during his ten year American adventure. Sea Fluorescent should’ve been the start of a long and successful solo career for Alain Bellaïche, but sadly, commercial success and critical acclaim eluded this talented and versatile singer, songwriter, arranger and producer whose  music is somewhat belatedly starting to find an appreciative audience.

Cult Classic: Alain Bellaïche-Sea Fluorescent.

CULT CLASSIC: STEVE POTTS-MUSIQUE POUR LE FILM D’UN AMI. 

Cult Classic: Steve Potts-Musique Pour Le Film D’Un Ami.

Sadly, musical history is littered with artists whose music never received the recognition that it deserved. Often, it’s only much later that their albums start to find the audience that they so richly deserve. That was the case with Alice Clark, Gram Parsons, Laraaji, John Martyn, Nick Drake, Terry Callier, William Onyeabor and Steve Potts whose 1975 soundtrack Musique Pour Le Film D’Un Ami was recently reissued by the Souffle Continu label. It was the latest chapter in the story of the former architecture student turned jazz saxophonist.

Steve Potts was born in Columbus, Ohio, on January the ’21st’ 1943 and grew-up in a musical family. At an early age, he discovered the saxophone when he heard his cousin Buddy Tate playing in Count Basie’s orchestra. Not long after this, Steve Potts decided to follow in his elder cousin’s footsteps and began playing the saxophone. Initially, this was just a hobby, but this soon changed.

After graduating from high school, Steve Potts headed to Los Angeles where simultaneously he studied architecture and music with Charles Lloyd. Eventually, he decided to dedicate himself to music and headed to New York where he continued his studies with Eric Dolphy. 

Having settled in New York, Steve Potts became friends with bassist Ron Carter, and in his spare time was a regular in the city’s jazz clubs where he saw many jazz greats play. This included everyone from John Coltrane, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter to Jimmy Garrison, Larry Coryell and Tony Williams. However, it wasn’t long before Steve Potts was sharing the stage with some familiar faces.

When Steve Potts started working as a sideman he found himself accompanying Roy Ayers, Richard Davis, Joe Henderson and Reggie Workman. He also spent four years working with Chico Hamilton. This was all part of his musical apprenticeship and was good experience Steve Potts who had decided to leave New York and head to Europe.

In 1970, Steve Potts left New York behind and headed to Paris, France, where the next chapter in his career began. By then, he was regarded as one of the most talented avant-garde musicians of his generation. His decision to relocate to Paris allowed him to work with like minded musicians and fulfil his potential.

Over the next three years Steve Potts worked with a variety of French and American artists and groups. This included jazz guitarist Boulou Ferré, avant-garde pop vocalist and poet Brigitte Fontaine, gypsy guitarist Christian Escoudé, bebop tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon as well as Johnny Griffin, Mal Waldron, Ben Webster, Hal Singer and free jazz pioneers Art Ensemble Of Chicago. Working with such a wide variety of artists and groups was good experience for Steve Potts. Despite that, by 1973 he was  ready was to make the move from sideman to bandleader.

Steve Potts began putting his new band together in 1973 and the final lineup featured Boulou Ferré, Christian Escoudé, Gus Nemeth and Oliver Johnson. This was the start of a new chapter in Steve Potts career.

Later in 1973, he met soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy. Little did they know that this meeting was the start of a thirty year partnership that would see the pair tour the world several times and record over twenty-five albums.

Just two years later in 1975, Steve Potts briefly left Steve Lacy’s band when he got the chance to record his debut album Musique Pour Le Film D’Un Ami (Music For a Friend’s Film). This came about when director Joaquín Lledó needed a soundtrack to his forthcoming film Le sujet ou le secrétaire aux mille et un tiroirs. The man chosen to record the soundtrack was Steve Potts.

Joining Steve Potts in Studio Acousti was a talented and versatile band that included drummers Donny Donable and Kenny Tyler; double bassists Gus Nemeth, Jean-Jacques Avenel and guitarist Christian Escoudé. They were joined by pianist Frank Abel, Elie Ferré on acoustic guitar, accordionist Joss Basselli, trumpeter Ambroise Jackson and Keno Speller on bongos. Steve Potts played alto and soprano saxophone on Musique Pour Le Film D’Un Ami which was produced by Joachim Noessi.

When Musique Pour Le Film D’Un Ami was released later in 1975 on the small Un-Deux-Trois label, Steve Potts’ much-anticipated debut album sunk without trace. It was a bitter blow for one of leading lights of avant-garde music scene in Paris. 

Steve Potts and his band had recorded what was a quite beautiful, groundbreaking mixploitatation soundtrack where they push musical boundaries to their limits as they fuse disparate genres. They combine avant-garde, free funk, fusion, leftfield kitsch and modal jazz during the eleven tracks. Sometimes, the group enjoyed the opportunity to embark upon an ambitious genre-melting jam that draws inspiration from various musical genres. 

Other times, the music is inspired by the music of the early to mid seventies. This includes the album opener Marie-France where the keyboards sound as if they belong on an early seventies fusion album and the hissing hi-hats sound as if they belong in an early to mid seventies Blaxploitation soundtrack. Steve Potts had drawn inspiration from a variety of genres and artists and the result was an ambitious and innovative albums where genres melted into one.

Steve Potts’ genre-melting debut album Musique Pour Le Film D’Un Ami is best described as a mixploitatation album given the way he and his combined different musical genres as they provided the soundtrack to Joaquín Lledó’s film. The result was an album that went way beyond the similarly ambitious Blaxploitation soundtracks that were still popular in 1975. It was also an album that embraced and encouraged the hybridity concept of global unity. Musique Pour Le Film D’Un Ami was an album that was way ahead of its time.

It was only much later that critics and record buyers rediscovered Musique Pour Le Film D’Un Ami and the album started to attract a following. Hopefully, and albeit belatedly a new generation of music fans will rediscover Steve Potts 1975 ambitious and innovative genre-melting debut album Musique Pour Le Film D’Un Ami which for too long has been overlooked and hopefully this seminal soundtrack will receive the recognition it deserves.

Cult Classic: Steve Potts-Musique Pour Le Film D’Un Ami.

 

 

  

 

 

 

CULT CLASSIC: THE AWAKENING-HEAR, SENSE AND FEEL.

Cult Classic: The Awakening-Hear, Sense and Feel.

Of the twenty albums that Black Jazz Records released between 1971 and 1975, The Awakening’s Hear, Sense and Feel is a much prized rarity amongst collectors. Copies of the album change hands for hundreds of dollars. That is no surprise given the quality of music The Awakening recorded. It was a band that featured some top veteran musicians from the Chicago music scene. 

The Awakening was a sextet that was founded in the Windy City in the early seventies, and was the only Chicago-based band to sign and record for Black Jazz Records. Members of the band were drawn from the city’s R&B and jazz communities.

This included veteran R&B session players who had previously played on sessions at Cadet and Chess Records. They were joined by jazz musicians who were affiliated with the Association For The Advancement Of Creative Musicians. 

Most of The Awakening were connected to the Association For The Advancement Of Creative Musicians which was founded on the South Side of Chicago and had what was essentially a nine-point plan. In a time when musicians were singing about revolution, the nascent organisation had a revolutionary plan.

The Association For The Advancement Of Creative Musicians was committed to providing somewhere for musicians to play, had innovative ideas about composition and was even willing to help members build new instruments. It recognised the need to provide for schooling for up-and-coming and aspiring musicians. It also wanted to provide workshops for established musicians, find gigs for them and hoped that the concerts would stimulate spiritual growth. They also wanted to set moral standards for musicians and increase respect between musicians and booking agents, managers and promoters. This was revolutionary and ad the potential to change music.

When the members of the Association For The Advancement Of Creative Musicians went to live and play in other parts of the world they introduced these concepts. This included the Art Ensemble Of Chicago when they went to live in Paris. However, in 1972 The Awakening wrote and recorded in the Windy City.

Four of The Awakening’s lineup were members of the Association For The Advancement Of Creative Musicians. This included drummer and percussionist Arlington Davis Jr, bassist Reggie Willis, flautist and tenor saxophonist Richard (Ari) Brown plus trumpeter Frank Gordon who previously was the guitarist with Young Holt Unlimited. They were joined by two members of another collective.

Trombonist Steve Galloway and Ken Chaney were part of another musical and political collective, Philip Cohran and The Artistic Ensemble. Pianist Ken Chaney had also a been a member of Young Holt Unlimited and knew Frank Gordon. The nascent band began work on what eventually became their debut album Hear, Sense and Feel.

Members of The Awakening wrote seven tracks for their debut album. Ken Chaney penned Awakening-Prologue Spring Thing, Awakening-Epilogue and cowrote Brand New Feeling with William Keyes. Frank Gordon wrote Convulsions and Jupiter while Richard (Ari) Brown contributed When Will It Ever End. The other track on Hear, Sense and Feel was John Stubblefield’s Kera’s Dance. These tracks were recorded by label co-owner Gene Russell who took charge of production.

The Awakening headed to the Streeterville Studios, in Chicago, which was founded by engineer Jim Dolan in 1970. Joining the band was Richard Evans who was drafted in to play electric bass. Once the album was recorded, Hear, Sense and Feel was scheduled for release later in 1972.

Hear, Sense and Feel was the ninth album that was released by Black Jazz Records. When it was released in 1972, the album failed to find the audience it deserved. Just like so many albums the label released since 1971, it was a groundbreaking album that featured elements of modal jazz, R&B, soul-jazz and spiritual jazz. 

Opening the album is Awakening-Prologue Spring Thing, a joyful and optimistic sounding spoken-word recitation that calls for raising consciousness. It gives way to When Will It Ever End which references the Art Ensemble Of Chicago. This is because of the addition of the bells and whistles and somewhat dissonant solos from solos of saxophonist and flautist Ari Brown and trombonist Steve Galloway. Playing an important part in sound and success of this ambitious epic track is Reggie Willis’ single note vamps on his standup bass. 

Convulsions bursts into life and from the get-go there’s a degree of urgency as the rhythm section drive the arrangement along and the horns play a starring role. Later, they become dissonant as the track heads in the direction of free jazz before returning to its earlier joyous, uplifting and spiritual sound. 

Very different is Keira’s Dance which has a much more understated and shows the soulful side of The Awakening. They don’t eschew their jazz roots and later, heads in the direction of fusion. However, just like the previous track the horns play a leading role in this laidback and melodic ten minute opus. It’s the highlight of Hear, Sense and Feel.

Dramatic describes the introduction to Jupiter which initially seems to have been inspired by Sun Ra. Then drums signal The Awakening to up the tempo and kick loose as a stunning slice of jazz unfolds. As it does, they showcase their considerable skills and versatility. Pianist Ken Chaney unleashes a stunning fleet-fingered solo as his fingers dance across the keyboard and is at the heart of the arrangement. Later, he’s joined by the tenor saxophonist Richard (Ari) Brown before the drums and briefly the bass enjoy their moment in the spotlight as this breathtaking arrangement unfolds at breakneck speed and features The Awakening at the peak of their powers.

 Initially the tempo drops on Brand New Feeling which seems like another laidback sounding track. It also reflects where jazz was in 1972 and combines its past and the present. The horns represent jazz’s past and the keyboards take the arrangement in the direction of fusion, and after some dramatic interjections from the rhythm section and horns, jazz-funk. Later, the band jam and the horns play a starring role before the track reaches a crescendo. 

Closing Hear, Sense and Feel is Epilogue which lasts just fifty-one seconds. The Awakening combine a short spoken-word recitation with a dramatic arrangement where horns play a leading role and this is the perfect way to bookend the album.

Sadly, Hear, Sense and Feel wasn’t a commercial success despite being an ambitious album that featured innovative music that was optimistic, cerebral, sometimes soulful, joyous, uplifting and spiritual sounding music. It found The Awakening flitting between and sometimes combining free jazz, fusion, jazz-funk, modal, jazz, soul, soul-jazz and spiritual jazz. Seamlessly they switched between and fused musical genres on Hear, Sense and Feel. 

Just like any talented jazz musician the members of The Awakening enjoyed improvising and when the solos came around embraced the opportunity to showcase their considerable skills. That’s no surprise as members of The Awakening had enjoyed a musical education and were highly trained musicians. Their talent is apparent throughout Hear, Sense and Feel which is belatedly starting to find a wider and appreciative audience who understand what The Awakening were trying to achieve when they released this vastly underrated cult classic back in 1972. 

Cult Classic: The Awakening-Hear, Sense and Feel.

ART BLAKEY AND THE JAZZ MESSENGERS-THE WITCH DOCTOR.

Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers-The Witch Doctor.

Label: Blue Note Records.

Format: LP.

When The Jazz Messengers were formed in 1954, the collective was led by Horace Silver and Art Blakey when they played live. However, it wasn’t until November the ‘23rd’ 1955 when they recorded At the Cafe Bohemia, Volumes 1 and 2. That night, the lineup featured  drummer Art Blakey, bassist Doug Watkins, pianist Horace Silver and a front line of trumpeter Kenny Dorham and tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley. However, this lineup would evolve over the next six years and even the name had changed.

After Horace Silver’s departure in 1955 the collective became known as Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers. The original lineup that feared on Cafe Bohemia, Volumes 1 and 2 never recorded another album together. However, over the next six years some of the greatest jazz musicians joined the Jazz Messengers. The collective was akin to a finishing school for jazz musicians with many becoming bandleaders and recording classic albums.

On March the ’14th’ 1961, Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers travelled to Van Gelder Studio to record a new album. This was The Witch Doctor which was recently reissued by Blue Note Records as part of its Tone Poet series. The Witch Doctor featured one of the classic lineups of the Jazz Messengers. By then, it had already recorded a string of classic albums. 

Bandleader and drummer Art Blakey had recruited bassist Jymie Merritt, pianist Bobby Timmons plus a front line of trumpeter Lee Morgan and saxophonist Wayne Shorter. The new lineup made their recording debut on The Big Beat on March the ‘6th’ 1960. 

Five months later, sessions took place on the 7th’ and ‘14th’ August 1960 and this resulted in two albums. Like Someone In Love and A Night In Tunisia would both become jazz classics. This latest lineup of Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers could do no wrong.

February the ’12th’ was the first of three sessions at Van Gelder Studio where and Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers that would result in in two further classic albums, The Freedom Rider and Root and Herbs. A second session took place on the ‘16th’ February 1961 where Walter Davis Jr stood in for Bobby Timmons. This was the first time when the lineup changed since the quintet made their recording debut on The Big Beat. However, the lineup were reunited when Roots and Herbs was completed on May the ‘27th’ 1961. By then, the quintet had also recorded The Witch Doctor.

When Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers arrived at Van Gelder Studio March the ’14th’ 1961 they were about to record six tracks. The frontline contributed four of the six tracks on the album. Lee Morgan wrote The Witch Doctor and United while Wayne Shorter penned Those Who Sit and Wait and Joelle. Bobby Timmons wrote A Little Busy, and the other track was a cover Clifford Jordan’s Lost and Found. These tracks would become The Witch Doctor and were recorded by this class lineup of the collective.

Although this lineup of Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers had only been recording together for a year, it seemed like they could do no wrong. The five albums they had already recorded would all eventually be regarded as jazz classics. It’s no wonder given the lineup. 

Bandleader and drummer Art Blakey was joined by bassist Jymie Merritt, pianist Bobby Timmons plus a front line of trumpeter Lee Morgan and saxophonist Wayne Shorter. The Witch Doctor was recorded and engineered by Rudy Van Gelder with Alfred Lion taking charge of production. It took just a day to record six tracks that became The Witch Doctor. 

It turned out that The Witch Doctor was the last album that this classic lineup of Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers recorded. However, their swansong lay unreleased for six years and wasn’t released until 1967. This wasn’t unusual at Blue Note Records and six years passed before Like Someone In Love was released in 1966. Just like The Witch Doctor it featured Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers during a run of six albums where they could do wrong. However, things were very different by the time The Witch Doctor was released.

On May the ‘15th’ 1964, Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers completed  Indestructible which was their final album for Blue Note Records. It was the end of an era.

So was the departure of Wayne Shorter from Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers in September 1964. He joined Miles Davis’ band and became part of the Second Great Quintet. This was a huge blow for Art Blakey who watched as Jazz Messengers left to join other bands.

Despite the changes in the lineup, Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers signed to Limelight Records, which was an imprint of Mercury which was run by Quincy Jones. However, during their time with the label Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers only released two albums during 1965, ‘S Make It and Soul Finger. After this they left  Limelight Records and wouldn’t release another album until 1970.

With no recording contract, Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers concentrated on touring. They toured Europe and spent time in Japan. The only problem was that the lineup continued to change. No longer was their a settled lineup of Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers. It was very different from when the classic lineup recorded six classic albums during 1960 and 1961.

By 1967, music and jazz had changed. Rock music was the most popular genre and jazz musicians were experimenting with free jazz and fusion while soul-jazz was growing in popularity. However, the hard bop that Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers had pioneered was no longer as popular as it had once been. This was worrying as Blue Note Records had decided to belatedly release The Witch Doctor in 1967.  

When The Witch Doctor was released to critical acclaim in 1967. Although hard bop was no longer as popular as it had once been critics recognised the quality of the music on the album. It was the last album that the classic quintet had recorded and would eventually be regarded as a jazz classic.

The Witch Doctor opens with the title-track which was written by Lee Morgan. He and Wayne Shorter play a leading role while pianist Bobby Timmons plays a supporting role. They all play their part in the sound and success of this memorable hard bop shuffle.

It’s all change on Afrique where just Bobby Timmons’ piano plays and adds a degree of drama as the Jazz Messengers switch to 6/8 time and Art Blakey is responsible for the choppy, clave Latin beat. Soon, things change and the arrangement starts to swing as Wayne Shorter delivers a breathtaking tenor saxophone solo. This seems to lift the rest of the band when they delivered their solos. Especially Bobby Timmons and then Art Blakey who pounds his drums as unleashes one of his trademarks thunderous solos. After that, the band briefly revisit the earlier themes before this captivating track comes to a close after seven magical minutes. 

Art Blakey’s drums ring out as Those Who Sit and Wait unfolds and soon the front line of Lee Morgan and Wayne Shorter take charge. Again, pianist Bobby Timmons plays an important part while the rhythm section power the arrangement along and ensure it swings. The result is a truly memorable example of hard bop from one of its pioneers as he leads one of his finest groups.

Bobby Timmons wrote A Little Busy. Unsurprisingly it’s a piano led track. The pianist is at the heart of action and combines with the front line of Lee Morgan and Wayne Shorter as the rhythm section power and drive the arrangement along. It’s fast, funky and has a joyous and uplifting example of hard bop that sometimes heads in the direction of soul-jazz.

Joelle is the second Wayne Shorter composition on the album, and just like The Witch Doctor the front line and piano play leading roles. Their spellbinding solos are some of the finest on the album.

They play effortlessly as the arrangement reveals its secrets and subtleties. Then when the band play as one they reach new heights as they head for home and what’s the finest track on The Witch Doctor.

Closing The Witch Doctor is a cover of Clifford Jordan’s Lost and Found. It’s tailor-made for Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers and features their straight-ahead trademark sound that was a favourite of jazz fans for thirty-five years. The playing is tight on a track that’s upbeat and joyous which is a fitting swansong from this classic line of Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers.

Sadly, The Witch Doctor was the final album that this classic lineup of Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers recorded. They recorded six albums for Blue Note Records in the space of a year and nowadays, every one of them is regarded as a jazz classic. That is no surprise given the all-star lineup of the Jazz Messengers. 

They were hand-picked by Art Blakey who allowed them to shine and play a starring role. Especially the front line of Lee Morgan and Wayne Shorter as well as pianist Bobby Timmons. The three musicians play their part in the sound and success of The Witch Doctor which nowadays is regarded as a hard bop classic. 

Sadly, it was the swansong from this classic line of Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers who recorded six albums in the space of a year. This began with The Big Beat in March 1960 and a year later Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers signed off in style in March 1961 with The Witch Doctor where they cast a spell with this captivating and majestic album of hard bop.

 Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers-The Witch Doctor.

IMPULSE RECORDS: MUSIC, MESSAGE AND THE MOMENT.

Impulse Records: Music, Message and The Moment.

Label: Impulse.

Format: 2CD Set.

The roots of Impulse! can be traced to 1955 when the American Broadcasting Company decided the time was right to diversify into the record business. History was made on June ‘14th’ 1955 when  Am-Par Record Corporation was incorporated and Samuel H. Clark became the company’s first president. He oversaw the birth of what would become one of the biggest record companies in America.

Soon, the nascent label was producing and releasing records, licensing masters from independent record producers and purchasing records that had been regionally. These were then distributed nationwide by Am-Par Record Corporation. Some of the singles and albums proved popular and indeed profitable for the new label. 

Over the next five years, the Am-Par Record Corporation continued to expand. New artists joined their roster as success began to come the Am-Par Record Corporation’s way. Soon, the label was looking at expanding, and one genre they were particularly interested in, was jazz.

In 1960, Am-Par Record Corporation decided to form their own jazz label which they called Impulse! Arranger and producer Creed Taylor was hired and became the nascent label’s A&R manager. 

One of the earliest signings made by Creed Taylor was Ray Charles. Another of Impulse!’s early signings was Oliver Nelson. He released his post bop album The Blues and the Abstract Truth in February 1961. It sported Impulse!’s distinctive black, orange, and white livery.

A month later, in March 1961, Ray Charles released His Genius + Soul = Jazz was released in March 1961, and gave the label its first successful album. The decision to appoint Creed Taylor as Impulse!’s A&R man had paid off. 

Despite the success of Ray Charles’ His Genius + Soul = Jazz Creed Taylor decided to leave Impulse! in the summer of 1961. He had been approached to run Verve Records. Replacing Creed Taylor was the man who would be synonymous with Impulse!, Bob Thiele.

He would play a huge role in the rise and rise of Impulse! Bob Thiele ran Impulse! between 1961 and 1968. During that period, he began to expand the label. He had two very different roles, A&R and production. Somehow, he was able to successfully juggle the two roles. Soon, Bob Thiele was adding some of the biggest names in jazz to Impulse!’s roster. This includes the artists on Impulse Records: Music, Message and The Moment which was recently released as a two CD set by Impulse!

Disc One.

Opening disc one of Impulse Records: Music, Message and The Moment is the John Coltrane Quartet’s Africa. It was taken from Africa/Brass which was released on the ‘1st’ September 1961 and was his eighth studio album and debut for Impulse! The album features a larger band than usual. Twenty-one musicians are used and some deploy unusual instruments on what’s akin to a big band sound. This is very different album to anything ‘Trane had released before. When the album was released to critical acclaim and featured groundbreaking combination of free jazz, hard bop and modal jazz. For John Coltrane this was the start of one of the most important periods in his career when he released a string of classic albums.

In 1961, Max Roach released Percussion Bitter Sweet  which was his debut album for Impulse! He and his  band fused Cuban rhythms with post bop and hard bop on what was a emotionally charged album with political themes. This included on Garvey’s Ghost which was one of the highlights of this classic album,

In 1964, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus was released by Impulse! The album was hailed by critics as an essential collection of Charles Mingus’ finest moments during his post bop era. One of the highlights of this jazz classic is Better Get Hit In Yo Soul which is  a welcome addition to the compilation.

By 1964, Philly born Shirley Scott was just thirty but had established a reputation as one of the finest Hammond organ players. She was a prolific artist and  had already recorded over thirty albums. This included For Members Only where she leads The Shirley Scott on an album of soul jazz and hard bop. One of its highlights is Freedom Dance  which would later become a favourite of compilers.

In 1964, the Yusef Lateef Quintet released Sister Mamie as a single. It’s an innovative genre-melting track that was written by the flautist that’s bluesy and features elements of post bop and modal jazz.

Saxophonist Stanley Turrentine spent much of the sixties signed to Blue Note Records and only released one album for Impulse! This was Let It Go which was released in 1966 and featured his wife Shirley Scott who played Hammond organ. One of their finest moments on the album was Good Lookin’ Out,  a memorable and swinging slice of soul-jazz where the pair showcase their considerable skills. Then when a single was released from the album later in 1966 Good Lookin’ Out was relegated to the B-Side. That’s despite being one of the highlights of what was  Stanley Turrentine’s only album for Impulse! 

In 1967, the Oliver Nelson and His Orchestra released The Kennedy Dream (A Musical Tribute to John Fitzgerald Kennedy) . It featured The Rights Of All which like the rest of the album was recorded by a big band who play music in his honor. Oliver Nelson also used taped segments of his speeches as preludes on this tribute to the 35th President Of The United States.

Side Two.

An edit of Pharoah Sanders’ The Creator Has A Master Plan opens side two of Impulse Records: Music, Message and The Moment. It featured on his 1969 classic album Karma which was one of his most important, innovative and progressive albums. This opus took up the entire first  side of the album. Nowadays, this spiritual jazz classic is regarded as one of Pharoah Sanders’ finest moments and features a masterclass from the pioneering saxophonist.

The Ahman Jamal Trio released The Awakening in 1970. Opening the album was the title-track which found the pianist’s music continuing to evolve. His fingers dance across the piano keyboard as he combines elements of cool jazz and post bop combine on one of the highlights of what was an ambitious and adventurous album where sometimes less is more.

In 1971, Charlie Haden released Charlie Haden Liberation Music Orchestra which featured the protest song We Shall Overcome. It’s produced by Bob Thiele and is given a free jazz makeover by the pioneering bassist and bandleader.

Alice Coltrane recorded Blue Nile twice. The first time was for her album The El Daoud in 1970 which was recorded in the basement of her house and featured Pharoah Sanders and Joe Henderson. It finds the harpist switching to piano and her two featured artists playing alto flutes. Together they’re responsible for a truly beautiful, poignant and spiritual sounding track which features an all-star band at the peak of their powers.

When Pharoah Sanders released Thembi in 1971 it was quite different to 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. One of the highlights of this inventive, captivating and underrated album was a stunning spiritual jazz cover of Lonnie Liston Smith’s Astral Travelling.  

When Archie Shepp released Attica Blues in 1972 it featured Blues For Brother George Jackson. It was an album of avant-garde jazz that became one of his most successful large group albums. Some critics saw Attica Blues as a protest album. However, it was more than that. It’s political and religious experience and also an appeal to higher human consciousness to help the world and its citizens. Some forty-nine years after the release of the album it’s still as powerful and relevant as it was in 1982.

John Handy released Hard Work on ABC Records in 1976 and the album reached twenty-nine on the US Billboard Jazz charts and forty-three on the US Billboard 200. The title-track closes Impulse Records: Music, Message and The Moment and finds the jazz saxophonist and his band combining jazz, fusion and R&B on a truly memorable and hook-laden track.

Nowadays, Impulse! is regarded as one of the most important labels in the history of jazz. That’s no surprise as many of the giants of jazz spent time signed to Impulse! where they seem to have been afforded creative freedom. There was nobody trying to tell artists what direction their music should head in. The only problem was that many of the albums the label released weren’t a commercial success. However, many of the albums that Impulse! released were innovative, inventive and influential. Especially during the period Bob Thiele was at the helm of Impulse!

Nowadays, Bob Thiele’s name is synonymous with Impulse! He was at at the helm between 1961 and 1969. That was when Impulse! released some of its most important and influential music. The departure of Bob Thiele in 1969 left a huge void.

When Bob Thiele left Impulse! his replacement was thirty-five year old Ed Michel. It wasn’t going to be easy to replace a man who produced a string of classic albums. It was no surprise when critics and cultural commentators wondered whether Impulse! would be the same label? 

Still, Impulse! continued to release important, innovative, inventive and influential. However, not as regularly as it once had. Some of the albums were hit or miss affairs and no longer was the label consistently releasing classic albums. They were now in short supply.

Still, many of the artists signed to Impulse! after Bob Thiele’s departure were pioneers. They continued to released ambitious and groundbreaking music Some of that music features on Impulse Records: Music, Message and The Moment. 

For newcomers to one of jazz’s legendary labels Impulse Records: Music, Message and The Moment is the perfect introduction. However, there’s many more tracks that that could’ve featured on the compilation. So much so, that it would be easy to compile a four disc set and still have enough for a second volume. 

After Impulse Records: Music, Message and The Moment, it’s worth checking out Jazzman Records’ Spiritual Jazz 12: Impulse! compilation and the Impulse! 1961-1974 twenty-five disc box set which was released in 2017. They’re a reminder of one of the legendary jazz  reminder Impulse! which was home to many of the giants and pioneers of jazz.

Impulse Records: Music, Message and The Moment.

 

FIRE OVER BABYLON: DREAD, PEACE AND CONSCIOUS SOUNDS AT STUDIO ONE.

Fire Over Babylon: Dread, Peace and Conscious Sounds At Studio One.

Label: Soul Jazz Records.

Format: CD,

Ever since the early seventies, Rastafarian-inspired Roots music  was important part of Studio One’s output. It was recorded by many of the artists and groups who nowadays, are recognised and regarded as musical pioneers who were responsible for establishing the sound of the Jamaica. This began in the seventies when there was an explosion in popularity of Rastafarian-inspired Roots reggae music. 

The spokesman for this new musical movement was Bob Marley, who during the seventies, enjoyed the most successful period of his career. Sadly, his career was cut tragically short when he died of the ‘1st’ of May 1981, aged just thirty-six. However, after his death, the popularity of Rastafarian-inspired Roots reggae music continued to grow.

One of the founding father’s of the genre was producer Clement Dodd, who had founded the Studio One label in 1954. The first recordings took place in 1963 at Brentford Road in Kingston. By then, the producer had recruited The Skatalites as the Studio One house band.

Clement Dodd was also keen to explore the music associated with  the Rastafarian religion. That was why he join members of The Skatalites when they took trips to reasoning and jam sessions that were help by Count Ossie and his Rasta drummers in the Blue Mountain Hills. During lengthy jam sessions members of The Skatalites improvised over drum rhythms and chants. These jam sessions finished late in the evening or even in the early hours of the night and influenced the visiting musicians and producer.

Sometimes, Clement Dodd invited Count Ossie to his Sir Coxsone’s Downbeat Dance Party which took place on the lawns of Kingston and were hugely popular. Some nights, Count Ossie was invited to play live and became a familiar face.

By then, Clement Dodd was embracing the wider Rastafarian culture and was living his running his business in such a way that it was in keeping with Rastafarianism. Its central theme was self-determination which the producer embraced. He also was happy to work alongside the dreads to a greater extent than other producers. This is thought to be part of the reason for the longevity that Studio One enjoyed.

That longevity wouldn’t have been possible if Studio One wasn’t a successful label. By the mid-sixties it was a hit-making machine. Clement Dodd’s competitors watched enviously as the producer expanded his business which was based at 13 Brentford Road, in Kingston. Little did he know that this success would last into the seventies and beyond.

As the sixties gave way to the seventies, Rastafarian-inspired Roots music would become an important part of Studio One’s output. This was when the eighteen tracks from Fire Over Babylon: Dread, Peace and Conscious Sounds At Studio One, which was recently released by Soul Jazz Records and features a  mixture of classics and rarities. There’s contributions from familiar faces like Freddie McGregor, The Wailing Souls, The Gladiators, Horace Andy, Devon Russell, Cedric Brooks, Count Ossie and Judah Eskender Tafari. They’re joined by rarities from The Prospectors, The Viceroys and Pablove Black.

In 1975, Freddie McGregor converted to Rastafarianism and four years later in 1979 Bobby Bobylon album on Studio One. The highlight is I Am A Revolutionist which was written by Freddie McGregor and Clement Dodd and nowadays is regarded as an Rastafarian-inspired anthem. 

Wailing Souls released Without You as a single on Clement Dodd’s Coxsone Records in 1972. Nowadays, it’s a highly sought-after rarity. That’s no surprise as it features a heartfelt, soul-baring vocal that’s full of emotion. 

The Gladiators released Sonia as a single on Studio One in 1972.  It’s an early example of the Rastafarian-inspired Roots music that the label pioneered during the seventies. 

As the seventies drew to a close, Judah Eskender Tafari released Always Trying on Studio One in 1979. This carefully crafted Clement Dodd production is melodic and soulful with a feelgood sound. He adds wistful horns, and then midway through the track the arrangement reveals a slightly dubby sound. The result is without doubt one of the highlights of the compilation. 

In 1969, The Viceroys released Light Night as a single on Coxsone Records in Jamaica and Studio One in the UK. Hidden away on the B-Side was Ya Ho. This hidden gem was a tantalising taste of the new roots music that the label would pioneer during the seventies. 

By 1975, Coxsone Dodd and many others signed to Studio One had embraced the Rastafarianism faith. This was evident on many of the singles the label was releasing. This includes The Prospectors’ Glory For I which was released on Bongo One imprint in 1975 and features an impassioned vocal. Sadly, the single wasn’t a success and this oft-overlooked roots track is a welcome addition to the compilation.

In 1979, Pablove released his Mr Music Originally album on Studio One. It featured the genre-melting Black Inner Peace where funk, soul, soul-jazz and dub melt into one on another hidden gem that’s one of the highlights of Fire Over Babylon: Dread, Peace and Conscious Sounds At Studio One.

The Gladiators released Peace as a single on Studio One in 1978. It’s another melodic, soulful and full of social comment. This is what one expects from Rastafarian-inspired Roots reggae from the seventies.

Closing Fire Over Babylon: Dread, Peace and Conscious Sounds At Studio One is The Viceroys’ So Many Problems. It’s a thought-provoking track from 1977 with lyrics full of social comment that are delivered by vocals full sadness and emotion. This is a powerful way to close the compilation.

For anyone interested in early seventies Rastafarian-inspired Roots music Fire Over Babylon: Dread, Peace and Conscious Sounds At Studio One may be of interest to them. It features many artists and groups who nowadays, are regarded as musical pioneers who were responsible for establishing the sound of the Jamaica. This began in the seventies which was when there was an explosion in popularity of Rastafarian-inspired Roots reggae music. 

One of the labels at the forefront of this musical revolution was Studio One, which was founded by Coxsone Dodd who produced the eighteen tracks on  Fire Over Babylon: Dread, Peace and Conscious Sounds At Studio One. It features a mixture of classics and rarities and is the perfect primer to the Rastafarian-inspired Roots reggae pioneered by legendary producer Coxsone Dodd.

Fire Over Babylon: Dread, Peace and Conscious Sounds At Studio One.

CULT CLASSIC: DONALD BYRD-BYRD IN FLIGHT.

Cult Classic: Donald Byrd-Byrd In Flight.

When Donald Byrd signed to Blue Note Records in 1958, he was twenty-five and had already recorded five solo albums and had collaborated on albums with Art Farmer, Phil Woods and Gigi Gryce. 

The Detroit-born trumpeter was also in demand as a sideman and had already worked with some of the giants of jazz. This included Art Blakey, Hank Mobley, Horace Silver, Jackie McLean, jimmy Smith, John Coltrane and Kenny Burrell. Already Donald Byrd was regarded as one of jazz’s rising stars.

That was why Alfred Lion signed him to Blue Note Records. By then, Donald Byrd had already played on a number of sessions by artists signed to Blue Note Records and the label co-owner was able to witness the prodigiously talented trumpeter at close quarters. It didn’t take long before he decided to add him to the label’s impressive roster of artists.

Off To The Races.

On December ‘21st’ 1958, Donald Byrd journeyed to van Gelder Studio to record his Blue Note Records’ debut, Off To The Races. He led a sextet on an album of hard bop that was well received by critics when it was released in March 1959. 

Byrd In Hand.

Just two months later, on the ‘31st’ of May 1959 Donald Byrd returned to Van Gelder Studio and his latest sextet recorded Byrd In Hand. Five of the six compositions were new including three penned by the twenty-six year old bandleader and trumpeter. 

He was joined in the front line by tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse and Pepper Adams on baritone saxophone on what was a hard blowing album of hard bop. The talented sextet’s playing was alway creative and with their solos spirited and inventive and a fine example of hard bop. 

When Byrd In Hand was released later in 1959 to plaudits and praise. The album was regarded as one of the finest of Donald Byrd’s four year recording career. He had come a long way since making his debut with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messenger 1954 whilst studying for a master’s degree at Manhattan School of Music. 

At The Half Note Cafe.

On November the ‘11th’ 1960, Donald Byrd headed to the Half Note in Manhattan, where he was about to record a live album. He was joined by drummer Lex Humphries, bassist Laymon Jackson, pianist Duke Pearson and baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams. This was a new band, but very few people would realise this.

That night, the quintet were at the peak of their  powers and firing on all cylinders during a spellbinding thirteen track set. Not only was the quintet swinging hard, but they benefited from a lyricism and impeccable sense of timing that few groups possessed. Led by twenty-seven year old Donald Byrd the quintet’s playing was practiced and slick. It was lucky that the tapes were running that night and the performance was captured for posterity.

When Blue Note Records released at The Half Note Cafe in 1960, it was as two single LPs. The albums were released to critical acclaim and hailed as Donald Byrd’s finest release for Blue Note Records. His next album Byrd In Flight had a lot to live up to.

Byrd In Flight.

For Byrd In Flight, which was Donald Byrd’s fourth album for Blue Note Records he penned Ghana and Lex. Duke Pearson who nowadays is regarded as one of the architects of the Blue Note Records’ hard bop sound wrote Gate City, Bo and My Girl Shirl. The only cover on the album was Rogers and Hart’s Little Girl Blue. It was one of six albums 

Just like previous albums Donald Byrd recorded for Blue Note Records, Byrd In Flight was recorded at Van Gelder Studio. The engineer was Rudy Van Gelder and Alfred Lion took charge of the production. However, this wasn’t a one day session and the six tracks were recorded on three days between January and July 1960.

The sextet featured a rhythm section of drummer Lex Humphries, bassists Doug Watkins and Reggie Workman plus pianist Duke Pearson. They were joined by a front line of trumpeter Donald Byrd, alto saxophonist Jackie McLean and tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley. This multitalented and versatile band spent four days recording Byrd In Flight.

Gate City was recorded on January the ’17th’ 1960. Then Ghana and Lex were recorded on the ‘25th’ January 1960. Little Girl Blue, Bo and My Girl Shirl were recorded six months later on July the ‘10th’ 1960. 

With the recording of Byrd In Flight completed, the album was scheduled for release by Blue Note Records in December 196o. When critics heard Donald Byrd’s latest album of hard bop they remarked that he was maturing as a trumpeter and bandleader while his music continued to evolve. 

The journey that is Byrd In Flight opens with the celebratory sounding Ghana which conjures up images on a new nation determined to remain master of its own destiny. Donald Byrd’s flowing trumpet solo has an airy sound and is complimented by pianist Duke Pearson and Hank Mobley on tenor saxophone. His playing combines a degree of optimism with the celebratory sound that’s a feature of this opening track that was penned by bandleader Donald Byrd.

The standard Little Boy Blue is a fine example of ballideering from the twenty-eight year old trumpeter. His playing is thoughtful, considered but is also expansive, confident and strident. Meanwhile, Duke Pearson’s captures the romantic sound of this oft-covered ballad which was written by Rogers and Hammerstein.

The bluesy sounding Gate City finds Duke Pearson combining with Donald Byrd whose opening solo is unfussy but effective as he  effortlessly chooses the right notes. Then Hank Mobley takes a less is more approach to his solo while later it sounds as if pianist Duke Pearson really has the blues as he lives the music he’s playing.

Lex is a driving example of hard bop where there’s Donald Byrd plays with speed, power, passion and accuracy as he unleashes darting runs. In doing so, he displays an enviable agility. Meanwhile, Hank Mobley unleashes a breathtaking solo that careers along at breathtaking speed, while Duke Pearson playing is considered, sometimes economical yet uplifting as he joins forces with the rest of the rhythm section to ensure the track swings.

Bo is another bluesy sounding track where Jackie McLean’s playing is emotive and he compliments Donald Byrd. When his solo comes round he almost makes his trumpet talk while Duke Pearson’s playing graceful, ruminative and rootsy on this bluesy track.

Closing Byrd In Flight is the driving hard bop of My Girl Shine. It’s as Donald Byrd is determined to close the album on a high. He and Jackie McLean play with speed, power, ferocity although there’s always an expressiveness and emotiveness. Not to be outdone Duke Pearson joins the fun and more than plays his part in the sound and success of what’s one of the highlights of the album.

Just two years after signing to Blue Note Records Donald Byrd released Byrd In Flight in December 1960. By then, the trumpeter and bandleader had just turned twenty-eight and had been a professional musician since 1954. 

Byrd In Flight was his fourth album for Blue Note Records and the ninth since his career began in 1955. It’s also the finest of the seven studio albums that Donald Byrd had released. That’s no surprise as he had matured as a musician and his music had developed over the past six years. On Byrd In Flight he switched between hard bop, Afro-Cuban, blues and balladry with the help of a tight, talented and versatile all-star band. They played their part in the sound and success of Byrd In Flight which  is without doubt one trumpeter and bandleader Donald Byrd’s greatest hard bop albums.

Cult Classic: Donald Byrd-Byrd In Flight.

CULT CLASSIC: SHINTARO QUINTET-EVOLUTION.

Cult Classic: Shintaro Quintet-Evolution.

Ever since  the mid-fifties, many American jazz musicians journeyed to Japan where they toured and recorded albums. They were respected and treated as series  musicians, and when they recorded an album the budget was much more generous and the working conditions far better than they were used to. 

It was no surprise that between the late-sixties and early seventies, Art Blakey, Bob James, Gary Peacock, Herbie Hancock and Oliver Nelson either spent lengthy periods living in Japan or decided to live there permanently. 

During this period, other American jazz musicians journey to Europe and Scandinavia which became their home-from-home. It was the start of a new chapter in their career as jazz was evolving.

Meanwhile, many  Japanese jazz musicians decided to head to the home of jazz. This was where the music that they played and were passionate about was born, evolved and became popular. It was akin to a pilgrimage for musicians like young Japanese jazz musicians like Shintaro Nakamura who arrived in America in the mid-sixties. By 1984, the bassist had founded the Shintaro Quintet who recorded Evolution for Streetnoise Records. By then, he had worked with the great and good of jazz.

Shintaro Nakamura was born in Kobe,  in 1956, and discovered jazz music in high school. This came about when one of his classmates brought in a jazz album. For Shintaro Nakamura this was a gamechanger. 

Jazz became the soundtrack to daily life for Shintaro Nakamura. For the next three years he played the same records each day. Ella and Louis, Relaxin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet and Cookin’ With The Miles Davis Quintet were the records that started a lifelong love affair with jazz, and especially the bass. 

In the early days, Shintaro Nakamura was captivated by Paul Chambers’ bass lines and Red Mitchell’s melodic playing. These two bassists would later influence him as he embarked upon a career as a professional jazz musician.

Having discovered in high school, Shintaro Nakamura was soon hanging out in the jazz kissa, a network of jazz coffeehouses and bars. This was akin to a musical education as he was able to hear an eclectic selection of jazz which was often played on high end stereo systems. Sometimes, he was lucky enough to hear local jazz musicians and occasionally, visiting jazzers from overseas. 

After high school, Shintaro Nakamura headed to Kinki University, where he joined the Jazz Studies Group and also learned to play the bass. By 1982, he was too busy with music and dropped out of University. 

By then, Shintaro Nakamura had realised there was a limit to the music that he could hear in Japan. He realised that to further his musical education he was going to have to travel to the home of jazz, America.

Shintaro Nakamura decided to study jazz in New York, and while he was there, he decided to write some new compositions. Having played in some jazz sessions he decided that he wanted to record the new tracks.

To do this, he needed to put together a band. By then, Shintaro Nakamura had already played alongside some well known names. This included Larry Carlton, Marcus Miller, Steve Gadd and Woody Shaw a couple of times. However, to record his debut album he handpicked a band.

The first recruit was pianist Jeff Jenkins who sounded as if he had been influenced by McCoy Tyner’s percussive blues. He was joined by American-born saxophonist Robert Kenmotsu who previously had been a member of Jack McDuff’s band. He was joined in the front line by thirty-four year old trumpeter Shunzo Ohno. Drummer Fukushi Tainaka was joined in the rhythm section by bandleader and bassist Shintaro Nakamura who engineered and produced Evolution at Hi-Five Studio, New York, on the ‘10th’ and ‘13th’ January 1984.

Before the recording sessions, the Shintaro Quintet spent just a day practising. That was all they needed. They were ready to record Evolution at Hi-Five Studio. Evolution took  just two days for the Shintaro Quintet to record. 

Evolution was an album that had been influenced by the jazz music of the late-fifties and early sixties. This was the music that Shintaro Nakamura heard growing up and had influenced him. He recorded Evolution live and there was no overdubs. Instead, the Shintaro Quintet played together and recorded straight to tape. It was an album of modal jazz that sometimes heads in the direction of hard bop, post bop and avant-garde. 

Once the recording of Evolution was complete, Shintaro Nakamura returned home to Japan where he met his friend  Hedeki Kawamura who had just founded Streetnoise Records. He was looking for albums that had been recorded in New York to release on his nascent label. Shintaro Nakamura agreed to let his friend release Evolution and the Shintaro Quintet’s debut album became Streetnoise Records’ second release.

Streetnoise Records had 1,000 copies of Evolution pressed. It featured a distinctive diagonal OBI strip across the top left hand corner of the sleeve. The album was sold in local record shops and at concerts. 

When jazz fans heard Evolution they discovered and were impressed by an album of original music that was played by the Shintaro Quintet. They were tight, talented and versatile and showcased their considerable talents during the five tracks written by bandleader and bassist Shintaro Nakamura. This included Blind Man which closed the album and was a tribute to Woody Shaw who he had played with just before recording Evolution. Sadly, he was almost blind by then and Shintaro Nakamura wrote the track as a tribute to the jazz great. It brought to a close Evolution,  the Shintaro Quintet’s J Jazz cult classic which thirty-seven years after its original release is belatedly starting to find a wide audience.

Cult Classic: Shintaro Quintet-Evolution.

DOUG CARN-INFANT EYES

Doug Carn-Infant Eyes.

Label: Real Gone Music.

Format: CD.

Although Gene Russell and Dick Schory founded Black Jazz Records in 1969, two years passed before the nascent label released its first album. This was Gene Russell’s sophomore album New Direction which was released in 1971. It was the first of twenty albums by a label that was very different from other new indie jazz labels that were being founded across the America.

Gene Russell and Dick Schory wanted their new label: “to promote the talents of young African American jazz musicians and singers.” That was only part of the story.

Black Jazz Records’ cofounders were determined that their nascent label would released an alternative to what they saw as the old school jazz that was popular at the time. This included albums that featured political and spiritually influenced music. However, spiritual jazz was just part of the Black Jazz Records’ story.

Between 1971 and 1975 the label released twenty albums that included everything from spiritual jazz and soul-jazz to free jazz and funk. Eclectic described the music that the label released.

That described the albums that Black Jazz Records released during 1971. Its second released was Walter Bishop Jr’s cult classic Coral Keys. 

Later in 1971, Doug Carn released Infant Eyes which was the first of three albums he released for Black Jazz Records. It features vocals from his wife Jean Carn who features on each album and played an important part in the sound and success of 1971s Infant Eyes, 1972s Spirit Of The New Land, 1973s Revelation and 1974s Adam’s Apple. That was still to come. 

Doug Carn who was just twenty-three when he signed to Black Jazz Records. He was born on July the ’14th’ 1948, in St. Augustine, Florida, and growing up music was all around him and was part of the culture around him at home. His mother was a musician, while his uncle was a bebop DJ who could scat the Dexter Gordon solos. It was no surprise that growing up, Doug Carn started listening to jazz and later, decided to learn an instrument.

Initially, Doug Carn took piano lessons and proved to be a quick learner and was soon able to play Bach Two-Part Inventions. That was when it was discovered that he wasn’t reading music and playing by ear. This resulted in Doug Carn being given an alto saxophone which he also mastered was able to play well. Already he was well on his way to becoming a multi-instrumentalist and it was no surprise when Doug Carn decided to study music at university.

He enrolled at Jacksonville University in 1965, and for the next two years studied oboe and composition. When Doug Carn graduated in 1967 he headed to Georgia State University where he completed his musical education in 1969. Later that year he made his recording debut as bandleader.

The twenty-one year old multi-instrumentalist was still living in Georgia and had founded the Doug Carn Trio. However, the new combo needed gigs and the young bandleader decided to visit a friend who ran a booking agency. When he entered the office he was greeted by the receptionist and secretary who was also a singer. This was Jean Carn who later become his wife. Before that, she started singing with the Doug Carn Trio who were about to make their recording debut.

Through the owner of the booking agency, Doug Carn was introduced to Herman Lubinsky the founder and owner of Savoy Records. This introduction turned out to be a gamechanger for the bandleader.

It turned out that the label had a session booked in Atlanta which was going to be produced by Fred Mendelsohn, the President of Savoy. He explained that there was every chance that there might be some spare time after he had recorded the gospel album, and if there was, they would use the time to record the Doug Carn Trio. That turned out to be the case.

That day in 1969, the Doug Carn Trio recorded what became their eponymous debut album. It was released later in 1969 on Savoy Records but wasn’t a commercial success. However, for Doug Carn recording the album was an invaluable experience as he prepared to move to LA as the sixties gave way to the seventies.

When he arrived in LA, Doug Carn started spending time with the members of Earth, Wind and Fire and this resulted in him playing on their first two albums. He played Hammond organ on Earth, Wind and Fire which was released on February 1971 and was certified gold. Doug Carn also played on The Need Of Love which was released in November 1971. By then, his solo career was well underway.

Earlier in 1971, Doug Carn had signed to Black Jazz Records. Not long after this, he began work on his debut album Infant Eyes which has just been reissued on CD by Real Gone Music.  

For his debut album, Doug Carn wrote Moon Child, recorded John Coltrane’s Welcome and McCoy Tyner’s Passion Dance. The twenty-three year old bandleader added lyrics to Bobby Hutcherson’s Little B’s Poem, Wayne Shorter’s Infant Eyes, John Coltrane’s Acknowledgement and Horace Silver’s Peace. Doug Carn put together a band and spent the best part of a year practising and then when he signed to Black Jazz Records recorded the album.

The rhythm section featured drummer Michael Carvin, bassist Henry Franklin and bandleader Doug Carn who switched between electric piano, organ and piano. Meanwhile his wife Jean added her unmistakable vocals. George Harper played tenor saxophone and flute and was joined in he front line by trombonist Al Hall Jr and Bob Frazier who played trumpet and flugelhorn. This talented and versatile band  worked their way through the seven tracks which became Infant Eyes. The session was engineered and produced by label owner Gene Russell and the album was scheduled for later in 1971.

When Infant Eyes was released in 1971, Doug Carn still regarded the album as a demo. It wasn’t the polished album that he had envisaged. Despite that, it was well received by critics and hailed as a groundbreaking album. 

On its release in 1971, Infant Eyes became Black Jazz Records’ most successful album. It was a similar case with the other two albums Doug Carn released for the label. He was the label’s biggest selling artist. That was no surprise given the quality of the three albums he released. The first was Infant Eyes.

Opening Infant Eyes is Doug Carn’s interpretation of John Coltrane’s Welcome. It lasts just 1:15 and features what are best described as big and beautiful washes of sound where the flute and cymbals combine with Jean Carn’s vocal during this homage to a jazz legend.

Doug Carn added lyrics to Bobby Hutcherson’s Little B’s Poem and they’re delivered by his wife Jean who scats. Initially the arrangement is intense and almost frenetic before the band lock into a groove. By then, the scat disappears as unleashes an impassioned vocal. Later, a stunning saxophone solo from George Harper plays a leading role and the organ weaves in and out of the arrangement as cymbals hiss and ring out during this captivating reinvention of wha’s a familiar track for many jazz fans.

On Moon Child Doug Carn switches to piano, and his playing is moody and melancholy. Meanwhile, the horns add an atmospheric backdrop during this eight minute epic which is an emotional roller coaster.

Having added lyrics to Wayne Shorter’s Infant Eyes,Doug Carn’s adds a dramatic introduction before the keyboards become understated. They’re effective and combines with subtle cymbals and Jean’s vocals which soars high above the arrangement as the Carn’s play a starring role on the track that closes side one.

Side two opens with a cover of McCoy Tyner’s Passion Dance. It made its debut on The Real McCoy Tyner which was released by Blue Note Records in April 1967. It’s as if Doug Carn is paying homage to the great Blue Note Records’ releases of the mid to late sixties on this vigorous instrumental workout. Horns are to the fore as the organ sweeps and swirls and join with the cymbals in playing a crucial role in the sound and success of the track.

Acknowledgement featured on John Coltrane’s 1965 classic album A Love Supreme. However, six years later Doug Carn added lyrics and his wife Jean takes charge of the vocal. Backed by this multitalented and versatile band they remake Trane’s spiritual jazz classic.

Horace Silver originally recorded Peace for his 1959 album Blowin’ The Blues Away, and then in 1970 it featured on his That Healin’ Feelin’ album where Andy Bey takes charge of the vocal. Doug Carn added new lyrics full of social comment which are delivered by Jean. She plays a leading role in the success of  breathtaking, powerful and poignant take on a familiar track from the late, great jazz pianist.

When Infant Eyes was released in 1971, it was Doug Carn’s debut solo album. Despite that, it was the most successful album that Black Jazz Records released that year. So was the followup Spirit Of The New Land when it was released in 1972, 1973s Revelation and 1974s Adam’s Apple. Although the four albums didn’t sell tens of thousands of copies they were successful for a small independent label like Black Jazz Records was. It was also a label that had a vision.

Black Jazz Records that wanted “to promote the talents of young African American jazz musicians and singers.”  Doug Carn was only twenty-four when he released Spirit Of The New Land and his was Jean Carn was twenty-five. They had created an album that was an alternative to what Gene Russell and Dick Schory referred to as old school jazz. 

Infant Eyes was very different to old school jazz and was new type of jazz album. It featured everything from avant-garde and even elements of free jazz, funk, fusion, soul, soul-jazz and spiritual jazz. These genres were combined by Doug Carn and Jean Carn who unleashed her five octave vocal on Infant Eyes which introduced the pair to the record buying public across America.  This was just the first chapter in the Doug and Jean Carn story.

Infant Eyes was the first of four critically acclaimed albums that Doug Carn released between 1971 and 1974. These albums are now regarded as cult classics, and amongst the best that Black Jazz Records released during the five years it was in business. 

Doug Carn-Infant Eyes.

YOU GAVE ME A REASON TO LIVE-SOUTHERN AND DEEP SOUL FROM LOUISIANA. 

You Gave Me Reason To Live-Southern And Deep Soul From Louisiana.

Label: Kent Soul.

Format: CD.

During the sixties and seventies, South-West Louisiana was famous for its vibrant and music industry which was soon expanding and thriving. Initially, the region was famous for the Cajun sound and Zydeco, but soon, artists and producers started recording other genres of music.

The region’s music industry was situated between New Orleans and Houston which meant it was exposed to an eclectic selection of music. Soon, artists began recording everything from country and pop to blues, funk and soul. 

Amongst the soul sides recorded in South-West Louisiana were many fine examples of Deep and Southern Soul. Sadly, many of these recordings were overlooked and this includes the twenty-two on You Gave Me Reason To Live-Southern And Deep Soul From Louisiana which was recently released by Kent Soul. 

The earliest tracks on You Gave Me Reason To Live-Southern And Deep Soul From Louisiana were recorded during the early sixties and include the proto-soul of Sticks Herman. By the early seventies, the Memphis Soul sound could be heard in tracks by Johnny Truitt and Moody Scott. They were recorded by some of the top local producers and label owners including Eddie Shuler, Carol Rachou and J.D. Miller. They doubled as talent scouts and signed local artists and those that were just passing through, then took them into the studio and recorded singles for their labels.

This included Eddie Shuler’s Shuler’s ANLA label which provides many of the tracks on You Gave Me Reason To Live-Southern And Deep Soul From Louisiana. This included Terrie and Joy La Roy, Soul Shouting Tommy and Big Daddy Green who released stunning singles which failed to find an audience. Sadly, the artists’ recording career had stalled or was over before it started and was a case of what might have been?

Meanwhile, Camille “Lil” Bob enjoyed a career that spanned several decades Bobby Charles enjoyed a pop hit Later Alligator before releasing Big Boys Cry a heartwrenching and emotive slice of mid-sixties soul in 1965 and his eponymous debut album in 1972 which is now regarded as a cult classic. 

Among the other artists, Clifton White and Chester Randle both became successful local band leaders, while Rockin’ Sidney began his career as bluesman before reinventing himself as the leading light of  Zydeco. These are just some of the artists that feature on You Gave Me Reason To Live-Southern And Deep Soul From Louisiana.

Opening the compilation is Baby Oh Baby (How Far You Are From Me) by Charles Greene, which was released by ANLA in 1969. It features a needy vocal powerhouse that’s full of emotion and sincerity. It’s the perfect way to open You Gave Me Reason To Live-Southern And Deep Soul From Louisiana and sets the bar high.

Without Love What Would Life Be was the B-Side to Terrie and Joy La Roy with The Bill Parker Show Band’s 1971 single Why I Shed So Many Tears. This hidden soulful gem was produced by Johnny Shuler for the ANLA label. The vocal is heartfelt and emotive as they ponder life alone and without love.

Camille “Lil” Bob released Stop as a single on the La Louisianne label in 1969. Tucked away on the B-side was Soul Woman a vastly underrated and timeless slice of Southern Soul.

In 1975, Moody released You Gotta’ Be Motivated as a single on the Soul Unlimited label. Hidden away on the B-Side was One Man’s Happiness which is a soul-baring Southern Soul ballad. It’s another underrated song that was good enough to be have been released as a single. No wonder as it features a heartfelt and ruminative vocal that’s bristling with emotion as Moody remembers the first time he met the woman he fell in love with and still loves

When Phil Phillips released Sea Of Love in 1959 it reached number two in the US Billboard 100. Eleven years later in 1970, Eddie Shuler produced Freddie Love’s cover version which was released by his ANLA label. It’s a soul-baring ballad that’s akin to a confessional where Southern Soul and gospel become one.

Eddie Shuler also produced Lee Bernard’s single Our Love Will Always Be for which was released on the Goldband label in 1969. It’s another ballad where drums provide the heartbeat and horns add to the emotion of the vocal on this heartachingly beautiful paean.

Big Daddy Green’s vocal is full of sadness and regret on You Gave Me Reason To Live which was released by the ANLA label in 1970. Sadly, the single failed commercially and was his swansong for the label.

Soul Shouting Tommy released I’m The Man as a single on the ANLA label in 1969. Hidden away on the B-Side was To Be Loved By You which is another hidden gem of a Southern Soul ballad. It features a vocal that’s heartfelt and emotive as he gives thanks to the love he’s found.

The ballad Big Boys Cry was released by Bobby Charles on the La Louisianne label in 1965. This is seven years before he released his eponymous debut album which nowadays is considered a cult classic and one of the great lost albums. However, Big Boys Cry shows another side to Bobby Charles who is a talented songwriter and versatile vocalist.

Dynamic Adam released Forgive Me as a single on the ANLA label in 1969. On the B-Side is She’s Gone where he’s accompanied by backing vocalists as he delivers a hurt-filled vocal full of sadness and regret on this powerful and poignant track.

King Carl closes You Gave Me Reason To Live-Southern And Deep Soul From Louisiana with the bluesy piano-led Blues For Men. It was released in 1965 on the La Louisianne label and tantalising taste of one of the pioneers of swamp pop.

For anyone with even a passing interest in either Southern or Deep Soul, Kent Soul’s new compilation You Gave Me Reason To Live-Southern And Deep Soul From Louisiana will be of interest to them. This lovingly curated compilation features twenty-two tracks which ooze quality. There’s singles and B-Sides from a variety of Louisiana-based labels. 

Many of the singles are vastly underrated and should’ve been heard by a wider audience. Then there’s B-Sides that were good enough to be singles. Add to this countless hidden gems and the result is a compilation that’s a musical treasure trove that crate diggers, DJs and dancers will all enjoy and should add to their collection. 

You Gave Me Reason To Live-Southern And Deep Soul From Louisiana.

STOP THE WAR.

Stop The War.

Label: Kent Soul.

Format: CD.

When the Vietnam War began on the ‘1st’ November 1955, Americans never realised that this bloody and brutal war would last nineteen years, five months, four  weeks and one day. By the time the War ended on the ’30th’ April 1975 America was a nation divided.

Those in favour of military intervention saw themselves as patriots, while those in the peace corps were often labeled “pinkos,” “commies” and “traitors” by their critics. Often, families were divided with generations disagreeing on America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, especially during late-sixties when the peace movement was thriving.

The peace movement’s numbers grew as the casualties in Vietnam increased, and young American soldiers died fighting for their country in what was a brutal war, that deep down, many officers within the US military knew that they couldn’t win. So did many back home who joined the peace corps on a daily basis. They regularly clashed with those who were  pro war and the two sides provided inspiration for authors, poets, songwriters and musicians during the fifties, sixties and seventies.

Many songs were written about the Vietnam War and this includes the twenty-three tracks on Stop The War, which is the third and final instalment in Kent Soul’s lovingly curated trilogy that documents America’s role in the Vietnam War. It features tracks by Michael Lizzmore, Dionne Warwick, William Bell, The Shirelles, The Emotions, The Pace Setters, Chairmen Of The Board, The Impressions, Stu Gardner, The Sensational Saints, The Staple Singers and R.B. Greaves.

Opening Stop The War is Promise That You’ll Wait by Michael Lizzmore which was released as a single by Capitol in 1972. This Skip Jackson composition was arranged by Horace Ott and produced by Phillip and Marian Colbert. It features an impassioned vocal that’s akin to a confessional full of hurt as he sings of the things he’s seen, how they’ve changed him and the woman he left behind who has found someone else. The result is a powerful, poignant and deeply soulful song that sets the bar high for the rest of the compilation.

Bacharach and David wrote and produced I Say A Little Prayer for Dionne Warwick. It was released by Scepter in 1967 and reached number four in the US Billboard 100. This resulted in a gold disc for this beautiful love song and future pop soul classic which struck a nerve with a generation of women whose boyfriends and husbands were fighting in the Vietnam War.

By 1962 William Bell was an up-and-coming soul singer when he received his call up papers and spent the next three years in the US Army. However, it took several years for him to reestablish his career and in 1970 covered Calvin Carter’s Lonely Soldier which he produced with BT Jones. It was released as a single on Stax and features a rueful vocal full of emotion where William Bell relies on his personal experience as he brings the poignant lyrics to life. 

In 1962, The Shirelles enjoyed a hit single when Soldier Boy reached number one on the US Billboard 100 and three on the US R&B charts. Three years later in 1965, the released what was essentially the followup to the single,(Mama) My Soldier Boy Is Coming Home The Shirelles. Sadly, the single failed to chart despite a heartfelt but joyous vocal that’s delivered against a string-drenched arrangement.

Isaac Hayes and David Porter penned and produced Going On Strike which featured on The Emotions 1969 debut for Volt, So I Can Love You. Soul and funk are combined by the Stax house band as the trio sing of their commitment to fidelity and monogamy until their partners return home. The result is one of the strongest tracks on the album and a reminder of an oft-overlooked group.

The Pace Setters released My Ship Is Coming In (Tomorrow) as a single on the Chicago-based Mica Records in 1968. It’s an upbeat and joyous soulful hidden gem from the Windy where the group celebrate their homecoming after their tour of duty.

In 1971, Chairmen Of The Board’s released their third 1971 album for Invictus, Bittersweet. It featured the Greg Perry and General Johnson composition Men Are Getting Scarce which the pair also produced. Funk, soul and drama are combined during this powerful anti-war song that encouraged American women to use their collective voice to ask the American government to bring the troops home.

By 1972, The Impressions were about to release their third album on the Curtom label, Times Have Changed. It stalled at a lowly 192 on the US Billboard 200 chars. The group were no longer as popular as they had once been. However, one of the highlights of this oft-overlooked offering is the Curtis Mayfield song Stop The War which lent its name to this compilation. It’s a six minutes of thought provoking, poignant and powerful music. 

When Stu Gardner released his sophomore album And The Sanctified Sound on Volt, in 1974, it featured his composition Leave Him Alone. He was providing a voice for all the American parents who watched on helplessly as their sons received their call up papers and were shipped off to fight in what many realised was a war they couldn’t win. Sadly, the album wasn’t a commercial success as Stax was struggling financially and hadn’t the resources to promote this underrated album.

The Sensational Saints were a gospel group who released The War Is Over (My Brother) on Cleveland’s BOS label in 1973. It features an impassioned soliloquy that’s delivered against James Bullard and Michael Chavers’ carefully crafted production as soul meets gospel.

The Staple Singers covered Bob Dylan’s John Brown for their Pray On album which was released by Epic in 1967. Pervis Staples takes charge of the lead vocal and recalls the horrors he’s witnessed during his tour of duty during this harrowing and chilling tale of man’s inhumanity to man.

Closing Stop The War is R.B. Greaves’ Home To Stay which was released as a single on Atlantic in 1969. His vocal is full of relief at being home safely after three years away from his friends and family as he delivers a soul-baring vocal.

Stop The War eschews the familiar and finds the compilers digging deeper for hidden gems that have passed previous crate diggers and curators by. Having said that, there’s still songs by familiar faces and tracks that many soul music fans will know and love.

The twenty-three songs deal with all aspects of the twenty year conflict ranging from the soldiers being shipped out to Vietnam to those returning home from the bloody and brutal war that was impossible for America to win. During these songs there’s a sense of anger, frustration and sadness that’s tangible. They’re part of Stop The War, which is the third and final instalment in Kent Soul’s lovingly curated trilogy that documents America’s role in the Vietnam War which was an important period in American history which divided a nation.

Stop The War.