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.

References:

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…”

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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.

References:

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





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

References:

More info on Sunflower from AllAboutJazz

More info on Milt Jackson from AllAboutJazz

More info on The Stylistics

More info about Hortense Ellis





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.





The Amazing Nina Simone

8 03 2010

After seeing this first old video of Nina doing “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”, I wanted to listen to more but my LPs are all packed up. Left wanting more, I turned to YouTube to see how much else was out there… it turns out there is a lot of cool stuff.

Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood

“Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” was also played by The Animals. The Animals did this next one too, “House Of The Rising Sun”. This video is from The Bitter End (Greenwich Village, NYC) circa 1968. It’s actually 2 songs, the second being “Go To Hell”. A lot of Nina’s songs had larger arrangements behind them on the albums, which makes these live versions really cool. It’s great to hear the tunes stripped down a bit. They sound more authentic and sincere. Sincerity was always Nina’s strength so to say that humility is enhanced here is really testimony to how amazing she was live. She was serious when she sung and you can hear it in every lyric.

“House Of The Rising Sun” + “Go To Hell”

Through all the searching I found a really old and rare video of “I Loves You, Porgy”. Originally, from 1935 George Gershwin opera Porgy & Bess, it was one of Nina’s more popular tunes. I have to be honest, it’s a little boring but interesting to see nevertheless. It’s her playing solo in  1960 to what appears to be an all white audience. I only point that out because Nina was a well know activist for the Civil Rights Movement. There’s a story about how during her first public recital her mother was asked to move to the back of the room in order to give her front row seat to a white individual. Supposedly, it was that moment that ignited the fire that you hear in all her original material, as opposed to songs like this old standard show tune.

“I Loves You Porgy”

That fire I spoke of can be heard on such songs like “Sinnerman” and “I Ain’t Got No… I Got Life”. The former one you may recognize from various film soundtracks, most notably The Thomas Crown Affair. The later is a great song that is considered by many to be one of her best.

Sinnerman

The video posted below is from the early 60’s and is a lot slower than the way she plays it later in her career. Everything about this video is of it’s time… the sound of the music, the look of the band, the quality of the footage itself. The other element that is a reflection of the era is the mostly white audience. The link just below the old video will show you how she played the same song later that decade, just a little over a year after Martin Luther King was shot. It’s from Harlem Fest 1969. It’s a whole different feel (in so many ways). To help put it into perspective, The Harlem Cultural Festival was also called the “Black Woodstock”.

I Ain’t Got No… I Got Life

Nina Simone @ The Harlem Cultural Festival 1969


Nina Simone or should I say Eunice Wayman, as was her given name, had a incredible life. For more, reference the links below:

Nina Simone Official Site

Nina Simone on All About Jazz

Nina Simone on Wiki

NPR piece on Nina’s Biography

Buy The Amazing Nina Simone





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








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