People Make the World Go Around

2 04 2010

CTI LogoThis is a great tune from legendary vibraphonist Milt Jackson’s CTI album Sunflower. The 70’s Philly Soul/R&B group, The Stylistics, originally wrote this song but this one is so good you might as well forget the original ever existed. The title of the album is an abbreviated take on what might be considered the title track, Freddie Hubbard’s “Little Sunflower”. Freddie plays trumpet and flugelhorn on this album as this was in the prime period of CTI when he was a regular on most of the sessions. Joining Milt and Freddie is a phenomenal line up of Herbie Hancock on piano & Fender Rhodes, Ron Carter on bass, Billy Cobham on drums. Although there are some string & horn arrangements by Don Sebesky and acoustic guitar from Jay Berliner, this song is one of the more straight forward tunes on the record that is stripped down to just the quintet. It’s for the better because they have all the room they need to stretch out and have fun with it. The entire album is absolute perfection. In my opinion, it’s not just Jackson’s best CTI album, it’s probably the greatest of his incredible career… Not to mention the album cover is super cool. The whole album is a perfect representation of the CTI aesthetic.

There are a few covers of “People Make The World Go Round”, including one by the Jackson 5 but the only one that is even close to Milt’s is this cool version by lesser known Jamaican reggae singer Hortense Ellis. Hortense is the younger sister of the more popular Alton Ellis, so it’s no surprise it’s so good.

The Stylistics original “People Make The World Go Round”

The Jackson 5’s version


More info on Sunflower from AllAboutJazz

More info on Milt Jackson from AllAboutJazz

More info on The Stylistics

More info about Hortense Ellis

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

The Rite Of Spring

22 03 2010

Yesterday was officially the first day of Spring. I figure what better way to kick of the season than “The Rite Of Spring”. It’s a classic Igor Stravinsky composition that has an insane history. Stravinsky spent almost a full year (1912-1913) composing the piece which was very much ahead of it’s time, even making last minute revisions up until the night of its debut. That debut, the premiere of this epic work, is one of the wildest stories I’ve heard in music history. This is going to sound crazy but it’s known as one of the most famous musical riots ever. Yes… RIOTS! This is classical music we’re talking about too so just try to imagine the events of the evening erupting in a full on riot… crazy. It was premiered on May 29, 1913 at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris. This was a time when classical music was more conventional and involved more demure themes. Not to mention that the compositions that were most popular were traditional ballets stooped in romanticism. Then, here comes Stravinsky with a piece that not only is intensely rhythmic but also features tonal dissonance like no other piece had done before. This day and age we are accustomed to such things in our music. In fact, dissonance is often used to create tension in music where it then shifts to consonance in order to resolve in a very sweet and natural sounding  manner. It’s a tool that is now used with great artistic license but in 1913 it was basically unheard of. This raucous premiere has been scrutinized heavily over the years by historians, musicologists and even neural scientists. This is where it really gets interesting. Scientists have found links in human brain activity to sound. I know, no surprise there but, more specifically, they have determined that when you hear a dissonant grouping of notes that uneasy feeling is not just emotional it’s actually a physiological reaction in your brain. As a result of the study researchers have concluded that when certain neurons responsible for perception patterns in sounds fail to find one, they may cause an excessive production of dopamine, which may result in a mental state close to schizophrenia and thereby contribute to rioting tendencies. To paint a picture of what happened that night, you have to imagine an audience of ballet goers all anticipating the status quo. Then the opening melody starts on bassoon and they begin to boo. The lead notes over the harmony starts to make them uneasy. As the choreographed performance ensues they grow more agitated. Soon there are loud arguments in the audience between supporters and opponents of the work. That is soon followed by shouts and fistfights in the aisles. The unrest in the audience eventually erupts into a riot. The Paris police had arrived by intermission, but they restored only limited order. Chaos reigned for the remainder of the performance and the rest is history. Another interesting component of this story is how the human ear evolves. Stravinsky made another attempt with the same music, in the same venue almost a year later and it was received with much acclaim. You see, by that time the work had been heard enough times that people could make the connections necessary to process the sonic information. In listening to it now, it’s actually quite nice. The opening bassoon even sounds more sexy than coarse.

This event was featured in a fantastic episode of the WNYC (NPR) show Radiolab a few years back. The info I provided here is just a snippet of the full story. Fortunately, Radiolab does an amazing job of explaining not only the neurology behind it but also at capturing the feeling of what was going on at the time and how such chaos could sprout from a simple piece of music. It’s about an hour long but it’s extremely well produced and very easy to listen to. Stream it from WNYC’s website here… it’s worth it.

Here an abbreviated version of “The Rite Of Spring” by Hubert Laws.

The Rite Of Spring on Classical Notes

The Rite of Spring Riot on Wiki

WNYC’s Radiolab: Musical Language

Boogaloo Joe Jones

18 03 2010

My man, Boogaloo Joe Jones, was one of the first soul jazz artist I ever heard. It was Joe who turned me on to the whole thing during my days of almost exclusively classic rock, reggae and the jam scene. Not that I didn’t dig R&B and Jazz back then but I never really had a “jones” (pardon the pun) for the stuff. I got a compilation disc of Joe and that was it… forever converted.

His real name was Ivan Joseph Jones but his debut as an artist was with the name Joe Jones. At that time, there were at least 5 other guys in popular music using the name Joe Jones. So, upon his second release he started billing himself as Boogaloo Joe Jones. It was to distinguish himself from the others and it made sense given a song on that album was titled “Boogaloo Joe”. It can get a bit confusing because later in his career he started using Ivan “Boogaloo Joe” Jones, so there is material with all 3 names on it. Joe was a pioneering guitarist during the Boogaloo movement of the late 60’s. Back then they didn’t know what to call it. It was blues mixed with soul music, some early rock n’ roll and it definitely bordered on jazz given the strong blues influence and the fact that it was all instrumental with some improvisation sprinkled in to the arrangements. So what did they choose? …Psychedelic Soul Jazz. Not a great genre name in hindsight but it was descriptive nonetheless and suited their needs at the time. It eventually would be dubbed Boogaloo with the help of the man himself, Boogaloo Joe. Joe had plenty of originals but some of his best tunes are his reinterpretations of classic popular music. In many ways he help create that model in soul jazz.  Below is “I Feel The Earth Move’ from the What It Is album. This tune is originally a Carol King song. You may recognize the sound of the sax player as Grover Washington Jr… a Philly legend who is famous for both his own work like “Mister Magic” as well as collaborations with guys like Bill Withers on “Just The Two Of Us”.

Here is one of Boogaloo Joe’s originals that’s pretty laid back. It’s the title track from the same album… “What It Is”.

Here is a great cover of Bill Wither’s “Ain’t No Sunshine”. Cool version of a great song.

Another original but this one is hot. It just has a really great push to it all the way through.  This one is “No Way!” from 1971.

Here is a song from Joe’s famous sideman/session player,  organist Butch Cornell. It’s called “Sunshine Alley”. It was also recorded on another one of Butch’s famous gigs for saxophonist Stanley Turrentine’s CTI hit Sugar.

More on Ivan “Boogaloo Joe” Jones on Wiki

*Interestingly, I think Rafael Saadik looks A LOT like Boogaloo… check it out. It’s a good look, even in 2010!

Luck Of The Irish

17 03 2010

For St. Patty’s Day it seemed appropriate to feature John Lennon’s “Luck of the Irish”. It’s from his 1972 post-Beatles release Some Time In New York City. John and Yoko got little known Elephant Memory to back them on this highly political album. This song and “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” (Not U2’s) were 2 songs from the same album that were about the tension in Ireland at the time. The latter, referencing the Bloody Sunday Massacre. On the same album is another song I really like, called “Cold Turkey”. The incredible trumpet player, Freddie Hubbard, does an amazing cover on his Hard-Bop meets Soul Jazz album Red Clay on the CTI label. That’s for another day. Today, we keep it focused on John. Erin go Bragh!

Alright… I couldn’t help it. Here’s of Lennon & Ono doing “Cold Turkey”. There was a really great live version with John in full Jesus beard but it’s been pulled off the web due to Copyright issues (Hrumpf!).

Rare footage from 1972 of Paul & Wings rehearsing their his own song about the conflict with Ireland, “Give Ireland Back to the Irish”.

Rare, slightly damaged footage of John & Yoko hanging out, smoking pot and rehearsing “Luck of the Irish” in their home in NYC.

Freddie Hubbard’s version of “Cold Turkey” from perhaps one of the best albums of all time, Red Clay.

More on Lennon’s Some Time in New York City album.

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