NEW! On The Turntable

23 04 2010

I have been very delinquent with my updates to the On The Turntable page. So much so that I completely missed March. So, in order to keep a clean house and have everything in order I have updated for both April and March. April is up on the current page, featuring Herbie Hancock’s incredible album Fat Albert Rotunda. While March is in the archive on the side bar. Unfortunately, March never got a fair shot but you can still enjoy it. It features one of my favorite short lived bands Blind Faith and their self titled album. Take a look at both, I’m sure you’ll enjoy them. For those desk jockey’s out there, these make for some great listening while hard at work in your cubicle. You can locate these links on the top navigation bar and the side bar archive… or you can just click the album covers below to listen to these albums in their entirety. Enjoy!

Blind Faith                                              Fat Albert Rotunda

As a little extra fanfare, there are few videos to get you in the mood. The first is Blind Faith live at Hyde Park in 1969. They do an awesome version of The Rolling Stones’ “Under My Thumb”. Now, perhaps it’s just because I am a huge fan of young Steve Winwood but I think this rivals the original… Sorry Mic.

The next is the opening theme to Bill Cosby’s Fat Albert cartoon. For those not familiar with the Herbie’s Fat Albert Rotunda, it was inspired by the work he did for this show.  To be clear Herbie did not write this theme but he did some work for the show as he was friendly with Cosby. That said, the album is FAR superior to anything ever featured on the show but this will likely get you in the mood and perhaps even trigger some nostalgia.

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

Herbie in Japanese TV Ad – Straight!

29 03 2010

I recently found this funny old Japanese TV ad of Herbie Hancock endorsing Suntory Whiskey (a Japanese brand). Being a big fan of both Herbie and Whiskey makes this one a no-brainer. Tack on my fondness for the far east, specifically Japan and it goes without saying… I love it! I think the tag line “Straight!” is supposed to be a play on words referring not only to the booze but also to the concept of a straight feel versus a swing feel in music. I could be wrong though as that’s just a rash assumption based on my oh-so clever marketing prowess.

This ad is actually not that unusual as the Japanese LOVE jazz. They did decades ago and, unlike most of the rest of the world, they still do today. Almost exactly a year ago I visited “Nippon” for a few weeks and it was awesome to see how much they still appreciate what is now considered to be a dying art. The song is the original post-bop version of “Watermelon Man” (as opposed to Herbies funk fusion reinterpretation from the 70’s). In the ad it says it features drummer Tony Williams and bassist Ron Carter… all true but we only hear them in this clip, no visuals. As a little aside, it should be said that Tony and Ron make up one of the greatest drum/bass combos in all of jazz history. In my mind they’re THE best. Even better than Roach/Mingus or LeFaro/Motian or any other “giants” you might toss in there. Back in the 60’s, Ron and Tony were both called upon by Miles Davis as just kids to join Herbie and saxophonist Wayne Shorter to be in Miles’ New Quintet. The same group that has made some legendary music throughout that period. They all went on to be hugely influential in the history of jazz and music as a whole, and not just for their work with Miles. I’d love to go on and on and on but, I’ll save it for future posts.

There are also a few alternate versions from this same series. Here are 2 that feature Ron Carter. Ron is just so cool… check him out: Ron #1 & Ron #2

You may recognize the name Suntory Whiskey from the Sofia Coppola film (featuring Bill Murray) Lost In Translation. Here is the clip of Murray doing the ad in the movie… It always cracks me up. If you want to YouTube Suntory you can find a TON of hilarious commercials of famous American actors, musicians and popstars. That is what makes the Bill Murray piece so funny in the movie. Feel free to do so, and see what you find.

Fairlight CMI

18 01 2010

Since I’m on the topic of Herbie Hancock, check out this video of Herbie and Quincy Jones playing around with a really old synthesizer, the Fairlight CMI. I first saw Herbie messing around with this thing on Sesame Street… waaaay back when. All I could remember was that it was really weird for children’s programming. I just found that same video on the web and upon watching again I pretty much came to the same conclusion (20+ years later). The CMI first came out in 1979 for like $25,000 and it basically became the sound of the 80’s. Peter Gabriel and Stevie Wonder bought the first 2 that rolled off the production line… which makes sense. You’ve definitely heard it before in many, many 80’s classics.

Note the light pen/stylus thingy. For some strange reason, it kind of reminds me of that weird pen, Mortimer Ichabod,  from Bill Cosby’s Picture Pages (Nickelodeon circa 1990-ish) . I don’t know, it must be the overt digitalness and/or the fact that it’s seems totally ridiculous because it’s supposed to be so ahead of it’s time and yet seems so dated. Little did they know the stylus would become completely obsolete in the new millennium. Look at us… just using our fingers to interact with these crazy gadgets.

There are numerous videos of this thing for reference, like Keith Emerson of ELP on The Today Show – 1983. This is actually a REALLY good one. It’s crazy to see their mentality about digital music in the early 80’s. You need to hear some of the questions this reporter poses. It borders on fear mongering. In 2010 it really sounds absurd.

There are also many more just like or very similar to that one but, I certainly  don’t want to post them all here so follow the links below back to YouTube if you are curious. I’m even linking Mortimer the Pen too. How could I not?

Other Video Links:

Mortimer Ichabod (Picture Pages Pen)

Fairlight Factory Tour -1984

Peter Gabriel shows you how he made some of his worst music on the CMI

Really odd UK news show, This Week, features the CMI. Old + odd… usually a recipe for a pretty decent video.

Additional Background References:

Wiki – Fairlight CMI

GH Services

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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