Young-Holt Unlimited | Soulful Strut

14 09 2010

Young-Holt Unlimited. It’s probably one of the worst band names EVER. Fortunately for these guys, they can really play. Chicago based, they were a late 60’s Soul/Jazz Instrumental group. Drummer Isaac “Red” Holt and bassist Eldee Young, formerly members of Ramsey Lewis’ jazz trio broke off to do their own thing in 1966. The first incarnation of their group was called The Young-Holt Trio. It’s not exactly original but it’s got a nicer ring to it than Unlimited. In 1968 they replaced pianist Don Walker with Ken Chaney, at which point they changed the name… I’m still confused about this name. Names aside, they are a solid band. “Soulful Strut” was their biggest hit, reaching #3, but they had other minor hits along the way. Many of their albums include soul jazz covers of some classics that were relatively well received back in their heyday. First check out “Soulful Strut” and then I have a few of their covers I’m fond of.

Oddly enough, “Soulful Strut” is actually the backing instrumental to another less popular song, “Am I the Same Girl”. Recorded by Barbara Ackerly, the wife of the songs writer Eugene Record, it was recorded in early 1968 but was shelved by the label. Shortly thereafter, the producer Carl Davis removed her voice from the track, replaced it with a piano solo by Floyd Morris, and released the resulting track in November 1968 as “Soulful Strut”. Although credited to Young-Holt Unlimited, neither Young nor Holt are believed to have played on the recorded track.  The instrumental is simply credited to the Brunswick Studio Band. which could include Red and Eldee, but it’s not likely. It sounds like some pretty fishy stuff, but it is confirmed that these they went on to perform the song for many years after it’s release.

Two songs I have featured on GG before are Bobby Hebb’s “Sunny” and The Stylistics “People Make The World Go Around”. Both at GREAT tunes that get a lot of attention in the Soul/R&B community. Cover versions are abound so these two versions don’t exactly rank at the top of all that are available but I like these. The cool thing about these guys is that they have a very distinct sound in their playing. Although it’s very much of it’s time, it is very stylized, which plays to their Jazz roots.


More info on Young-Holt Unlimited

More info on “Soulful Strut”

More info on Ramsey Lewis

Previous GG Post: “Sunny”

Previous GG Post: “People Make…”

Grazing In The Grass

30 08 2010

“Grazing In The Grass” is a very cool (and yet little known) tune from 1968. Originally recorded by South African trumpet Master Hugh Masekela, it is an all instrumental soul groove that sounds more jazz inspired R&B than afro-pop. It’s full of great horn lines and A LOT of cowbell. Masekela is a pop legend both at home and here in the States. “Grazing In The Grass” was probably his most popular tune, selling over 4 million copies to date. Later in his career, he also had a hit with a song dedicated to Nelson Mandela’s release from prison called “Bring Him Home”. Even in his early days, Masekela was a go-to “world music” collaborator for everyone from Paul Simon to The Byrds, as well as numerous jazz ensembles. That aside, this is easily my favorite of all his work.

There are many covers of this song but only one that stands out to me. And, it comes with a cool back story. It’s from Eivets Rednow’s 1968 release Alfie, which was an all instrumental album inspired by the works of Burt Bacharach and Hal David (most notably their hit score “Alfie”,  hence the title). What is not commonly known is that this is actually an early Stevie Wonder album. If you look again at the artist, you will see that it is Wonder’s name spelled backwards. It was released without much promotion on a Motown subsidiary called Gordy Records because Berry Gordy and the rest of the Motown machine were still establishing Stevie as a soul/pop shouter on their more popular label. As not to confuse their audience, it was practically released in secret. Funny enough, there is almost no hint as to who the real artist is except for a tiny little note on the top corner of the album spine saying, “How do you spell Stevie Wonder backwards”. The album is mediocre at best, in the scope of Wonder’s catalog but it’s a very cool one to own for die-hard collectors. Stevie plays harmonica, piano, clavinet and is accompanied by Motown greats Benny Benjamin on drums and James Jamerson on bass. For me, that’s the best part… it’s this little known, under-the-radar snapshot of these guys just playing and having fun in the studio.


More info on Hugh Masekela

More info on Eivets Rednow

More info on Stevie Wonder

Bass Extremes

12 08 2010

I was recently reminded of this video (which I own and used as inspiration for some time) from two masters of the bottom end. This trio, Bass Extremes, is the brain child of world renowned bass players Steve Bailey and Victor Wooten. Before starting this side project, they built their careers as 1st call sideman to some of the biggest acts in the biz, as well as doing session work on numerous albums and actively teaching at various institutions around the country. One look at these fellas and you’ll see they are truly musician’s musicians. Not to say that their music is completely inaccessible to the common music fan, it most certainly is, but they are guys who have been playing their instruments with an insane fervor to learn and develop their technique since they picked them up. Both have played since they were just kids. In Vic’s case, he was about 4 years old when he started playing live with his older brothers. The Wooten Brothers even toured with Curtis Mayfield and were almost the next big thing in R&B until the Jackson 5 stole their thunder. Steve used to spend hours practicing in a literal woodshed (not just a term from the old jazz days) at his parents home in South Carolina. He once told me he would try to practice 12 hours a day… which always seemed impossible to me. Nevertheless, he said he would wake up in the wee hours of the morning to practice, go to school, think about playing while in school and then come home and immediately get back to practicing, going until the sun went down. Somehow he got some surfing in there too but I never asked about that.

They were inspired by the giants that came before them. Guys like James Jamerson, Chuck Rainey, Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn, Jerry Jemmott, Jaco Pastorius, Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller and many others. They have made it a mission to carry on that tradition of discovery and exploration to a younger generation of players. All of these men are part of a small group of players that have dedicated their lives to pushing the boundaries of what could be done on the bass and, consequently, have redefined the instrument and the expectations of it’s role in music. These 2 videos will show you what I mean. They are taken from an instruction video where they play a song live and then follow that with a little Master Class session explaining the techniques they use and how they developed those techniques.

Keep in mind this is just a trio: 2 basses and drums. The reason it is not overly muddy is that the bass voices are quite distinct. Vic plays a fretted four string that is often tuned up to be an octave higher, known as a tenor bass. Vic is famous for his unique thumb and pluck style which has taken “slap bass” and reinvented it. Steve plays a fretless six string which allows him to play more chords and sweeter tones. He is a master at using harmonics, more specifically artificial harmonics which allows him to play many octaves higher than the instrument was intended. It all makes for a very clear and well organized sound… sonically speaking. Oh yea, the drummer is famed session man Greg Bisonette. *I should add this video was shot during the early 90’s and REALLY looks dated. The moustache, hair and clothes are all a little tough to take seriously but the music is just the opposite. Enjoy.

This song is inspired by Stanley Clarke. It’s called “Stan The Man”.

This next one is inspired by another one of their musical influences, this time piano player Chick Corea. It’s called “A Chick From Corea”. One thing you have to know about these guys is they don’t take themselves too seriously. Consequently, they have silly senses of humor, often cracking dumb jokes and they love bad puns, hence the title of this song.

If you are curious, there is a lot of other footage of these guys out there, both playing together, solo and with other ensembles. Much of it is pretty remarkable, especially Vic’s solo stuff. Check it out, it’s incredible to watch.


Steve’s Official Site

Vic’s Official Site

More info on Bass Extremes

More info on Steve Bailey

More info on Victor Wooten

More info on Jaco Pastorius

More info on Stanley Clarke

More info on James Jamerson

More info Chuck Rainey

More info on Jerry Jemmott

More info Marcus Miller

More info Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn

Happy Birthday from Wynton & Co.

27 07 2010

One of my friends has a birthday today and while looking for the right B-Day wishes, I stumbled upon this great video of Wynton Marsalis playing the traditional “Happy Birthday To You” tune. This is cool for two reasons: 1. It’s Wynton, who is traditionally a jazz “purist” doing it in a New Orleans R&B/Jazz style (somewhat atypical for him). 2. It’s a N’Awlins style “Birthday” from the masters… c’mon, it doesn’t get any better. To boot, it looks like these boys are having a good ol’ time celebrating the birthday of one of their own. Check it out for yourself:

Now, if you are curious how the hell they do that (it’s about 90% improvisation), check out this video of Wynton and Victor talking about the interplay in this Master Class VIDEO.


Wynton’s Official Site

More info on Wynton Marsalis

More info on “Happy Birthday”

More info on New Orleans R&B

More info on New Orleans Jazz

Feelin’ Good

27 04 2010

This tune is simply a classic. Written by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse for the 1964 musical The Roar of the Greasepaint—the Smell of the Crowd it has been covered and/or sampled by countless artist. The most notable version though has got to be Nina Simone’s from her 1965 album I Put Spell On You. Below is a student produced music video for that epic song.

There are so many others that I cannot include them all here but there is a list of just a few below. Each artist’s name is actually a link to their unique version. Have a listen and see how each puts their own personal touch on this timeless hit. There are quite a few cool versions here. My favorites are probably Coltrane, Traffic and Jean DuShon, with My Brightest Diamond and Joe Bonamassa coming in close second… but the others are excellent as well. Too close for me to make the call. Go ahead and judge for yourself:

John Coltrane

Gilbert Price


Sammy Davis Jr

Bobby Darin

Freda Payne

Joe Sample & Randy Crawford

Jean DuShon

Joe Bonamassa

George Micheal

My Brightest Diamond


*For a complete list of artists and some more info about “Feelin’ Good” click HERE.

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