Idris Muhammad | Loran’s Dance

24 03 2010

This one is from my own personal collection. I threw this video together so that it was accessible for all to hear at a moments notice. It’s a phenomenal song from a really great album by famed New Orleans funk and soul jazz drummer, Idris Muhammad. The first few bars of the song were sampled by The Beastie Boys for an interlude on Paul’s Boutique. In fact, many of Idris’ beats have been sampled over the years because they’re so damn funky. “Loran’s Dance” is from the album Power of Soul which is a prized CTI session that includes an all-star lineup typical of this era (1974). The full band breakdown is Grover Washington Jr (sax), Randy Brecker (tp), Bob James (ep), Joe Beck (gtr), Gary King (bass), Ralph McDonald (prc), and of course Idris (drums). One listen and you will hear why it’s so compelling. The overall synergy and dynamics between the group is amazing. The thing to keep in mind is that there is a lot of improvisation in this session so although they are playing around the arrangement, they are really letting their sensibilities guide them in a collective effort.

As a little aside, I wanted to introduce CTI Records as I will be featuring work from this incredible label of yesteryear in future posts. CTI stands for Creed Taylor Inc. Creed Taylor was a producer for various major labels and their subsidiaries until he created CTI. Before CTI, he was most notable for not only creating Impulse! but also signing John Coltrane to essentially be their flagship artist. He was also responsible for starting the Bossa Nova craze in the US as he is the one who gathered Antonio Carlo Jobim and Stan Getz for “The Girl From Ipanema” sessions while at Verve. CTI is his real legacy though. His work there captured the ideals of the time in a way that jazz is intended to do. What really made it a success was that he always had access to the top players of the day. He would contract guys like Freddie Hubbard, Herbie Hancock, Jack Dejohnette, Ron Carter, Stanley Turrentine, George Benson, Paul Desmond, Chet Baker, Nina Simone and so many more. He also used legendary recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder to record his sessions. Van Gelder was considered a genius for his innovative recording techniques and had long been used by Lyons & Wolfe at Blue Note because of the incredible sound of his studio. One thing you will notice about all of his work with CTI is that it has a very specific and distinctive aesthetic that for some reason cannot be duplicated. Like Blue Note, Taylor always used some VERY cool imagery on his album covers which only enhanced the appeal. So it was this powerful combination of resources and Taylor’s own point of view that shaped the history of jazz within this era. Unfortunately, some say it was also Taylor who is primarily responsible for the eventual emergence of what we would now call smooth jazz and Muzak. Taylor was an absolute master at balancing artistry and commercialism and that would later be bastardized by jazz artists who tried to copy his model throughout the 80’s & 90’s. During his tenure, he often introduced pop tunes of the day into the predetermined repertoire for a given album. Basically, he would take really great, well-known songs and let his master musicians have their way with them in the studio. Because of this, the music was extremely accessible for all music fans and remain so to this day. I’m a huge fan and will likely be featuring CTI material again.  Until then, there are some links below to learn more about Creed Taylor and his impact in jazz and the recording industry as a whole.

Creed Taylor on Wiki

Creed Taylor on All About Jazz

Rare interview with Creed

Full CTI (+ Kudu/A&M) Discography

Idris Muhammad on All About Jazz

Power Of Soul session details





NEW – On The Turntable

22 02 2010

The ‘On The Turntable’ page has been updated. If you still want to access the old stuff from last month you can via an archive I set up in the sidebar to the right. It is located below the other archive links. You have to check out the page to see it all but here is a little taste of what is new…

It’s a little bit of Curtis/Live!, a great live Curtis Mayfield album from 1971 recorded at The Bitter End, here in The Village of downtown NYC. These 3 songs are a few of my favorites from the album:

We’ve Only Just Begun

People Get Ready

We The People Who Are Darker Than Blue

I especially like the Carpenters’ cover of “We’ve Only Just Begun”. Written by the songwriting team of Roger Nichols (music) and Paul Williams (lyrics), the song originally debuted in a commercial for Crocker National Bank in California in 1970, with Williams providing the vocals. It has since been played by many different artists with the Carpenters’ version being the most popular. I found this instrumental version by jazz guitarist Grant Green, which I really like too. It’s from his 1971 album Visions from Blue Note and features one of my favorite drummers from this period, Idris Muhammad.

Some might argue this type of “pop song turned instrumental jazz” style is in fact the precursor to the Muzak we mock today but I really like the way the rhythm section drags and pushes on this one, it gives it a great soul jazz feel that is indicative of what was going on in the genre at this time.

*Buy Curtis/Live online

**Buy Grant Green’s Visions online





Beware The Two Headed Freap

18 02 2010

I’ve been looking for a Ronnie Foster album from 1972 off Blue Note entitled The Two Headed Freap. I’ve tried to track it down on vinyl for a while now but just can’t seem to find a copy in my local record shops. It’s a great “acid-jazz” album that features this cult(ish) classic “Mystic Brew”. The tune may sound familiar as it has been sampled numerous times by a hand full of hip hop artists. The most notable in my mind is A Tribe Called Quest’s “Electric Relaxation”, from their 1994 album Midnight Marauders. It’s a great example of how a sample can be used to create a piece that stands on it’s own. In this case, it may even be regarded as better… well, certainly more successful. That aside, there’s definitely something slightly more compelling about the Tribe song than the original. But that’s mostly attributed to the fact that this early acid jazz was really watered down at the time plus Tribe tends to make a lot out of a little as seen in most of their work. Also notable is the fact that the beat is a three bar loop which is very uncommon in Hip Hop. Most popular music utilizes even meters and/or time signatures but the cool thing about 3 (odd) is that once you double it, it becomes 6 (even) so you can be playful with the feel, taking it in either an odd or even direction. Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints” is a phenomenal example of this in the jazz world.

Below is Ronnie’s “Mystic Brew” and A Tribe Called Quests’ “Electric Relaxation”. To give it another dimension, I have also included contemporary jazz pianist, Vijay Iyer’s version of “Mystic Brew” from his 2009 album Historicity. I like to place them all side by side to see/hear the transformations and adaptations that have occurred over the years.

Other uses of this sample include:

Madlib’s “Mystic Bounce” off Shades of Blue

Pete Rock’s ’99 Mix Tape version off Diggin’ On Blue

Freeway’s “Alright” off Philadelphia Freewayinstrumental version too

Marco Polo’s “Relax” off Port Authority

Joy Jones’ “Over” off GodChild Directed

Rell’s “Real Love” (Single produced by Kanye West)
Other Links:

More about Ronnie Foster’s career

More on Sampling as an industry practice

Academic brief on Sampling

Ref: Wayne Shorter’s Footprints from Adam’s Apple (Blue Note ca 1966)





Herbie’s “I Have A Dream”

18 01 2010

For MLK Day, I have to post the first track from Herbie Hancock’s final Blue Note album, The Prisoner. As you can probably tell by the title, it’s a  tribute to the late Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Recorded in 1969, this album evokes the feeling of the times, tension and all. Reflecting on the end of the civil rights movement, it considers how far we had come and at the same time how far we had yet to go.  “I Have A Dream” is a particularly savory piece. It’s a compositional masterpiece, plus, the group of sidemen assembled for the session create a really elegant, interesting and accessible aesthetic while embracing the Hancock sound.  That, coupled with the individual contributions of the soloists, makes it a real “Easter Egg” in Herbie’s repertoire. In addition to “I Have A Dream”, I included the title track as well. These two songs make up Side 1 of the LP. Sorry they don’t play continuously, I’m working on it…

Track 1:

Track 2:

Herbie Hancock - The Prisoner

*For more info on this recording session, click here.








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