Funky16Corners Radio v.56 – Solar Heat
Edu Lobo – Upa Neguinho (Philips)
Bob James – Take Me To the Mardi Gras (CTI)
Cal Tjader – Solar Heat (Buddah)
Peddlers – On a Clear Day (Epic)
Gabor Szabo – Divided City (Buddah)
Ramsey Lewis Trio – People Make the World Go Round (Columbia)
Jean Pace – Afro Blue (RCA)
John Klemmer – Rose Petals (Cadet)
George Benson & Joe Farrell – Flute Thing (CTI)
Maceo – Soul Power 74 (People)
Lionel Hampton – Psychedelic Sally (Glad Hamp)
Woody Herman Band – I Got the News (Century)
I hope all is well on your end and you’re all geared up for what promises (at least here in the States) to be an excellent Labor Day Weekend.
This year Labor Day takes on extra significance to myself and my coworkers, as well as everyone else who’s job is threatened by the current economic downturn (“nation of whiners” my ass).
I work in the newspaper publishing industry (on the production side) and if you’ve been following the news – or the stock market – you’ll already be aware that newpapers as an institution appear to be on the verge of collapse, or at least a drastic reconstitution. Though this can be attributed in large part to a sea change in the way people gather and process news (via the interwebs of course, no the irony is not lost on me), we can also thank those that run the industry for approaching this challenge with a characteristic lack of direction. Where a slow, steady, focused program is in order, they have chosen instead – at the behest of the stockholders, and once again allow me to take a moment to say “fuck a stockholder” – to hack away like a machete-wielding madman in an attempt to erase what looks like an almost insurmountable tide of red tape.
At my location, we’ve lost well over 200 people, including both layoffs and buyouts. There are almost certainly more “staff reductions” in the future. I now think I know what the mighty tyrannosaurus rex felt like as he sank slowly into the tar.
I only belabor this point because Labor Day was established as a commemoration of working Americans, a species that have sadly become disposable.
That said, Labor Day has also traditionally served as a marker for the end of summer. I figured with things being what they are, I could use a lift, and I’m sure many of you out there can as well.
I wanted to put together a mix that started out bright, got thoughtful and went back out on another bright – dare I say optimistic – note. It’s the kind of mix that you can pop on the MP3 delivery system of your choice, sit back with a cold drink and watch the sky as the sun sets and gives way to dusk. It’s all about the cyclical nature of things, day to night (and on again to day), summer on the way to fall, old careers that may soon give way to new directions, or even just one breath leading to the next.
Though there is a preponderance of jazz and jazz-related material, there is also a healthy dose of the funk – including a couple of very tasty drum breaks – meditative numbers, a couple of looks at the modern side of classic jazz masters and hopefully – as always – a few surprises.
Things get rolling with what is by far my favorite Kool and the Gang track, ‘Dujii’. Written by keyboardist Rick Westfield ‘Dujii’ is a great feature for the horn section, but hang in until the horns drop out and Westfield gets his chance to solo. Very groovy indeed.
Next up is what I believe to be Edu Lobo’s original recording of his bossa standard ‘Upa Neguinho’. Covered numerous times, including versions by Caetano Veloso and Elis Regina, the tune is a short, sweet taste of the sounds of Brazil, with a propulsive acoustic guitar line and those groovy backing vocals and handclaps. If you get the chance pick up the sublime ‘Sergio Mendes Presents Edu Lobo’ LP.
Bob James’ cover of Paul Simon’s ‘Take Me to the Mardi Gras’ is most famous of course as the record that contains the Andrew Smith break that has been sampled literally dozens of times (along with the Idris Muhammad break from James’ ‘Nautilus’, one of the building blocks of hip hop). I know there are those out there that are willing to bad rap James as an easy listening cat, but his CTI albums have a great, mellow feel that always manage to take unusual turns. James takes the sweet, elegiac vibe of the Simon original and lays it on a slightly darker underpinning. It’s a great record.
We segue into another outstanding cut by a big Funky16Corners fave, Mr. Cal Tjader. I’ve always been a huge vibes fan, and Tjader is the master of this groovy axe. His 1960s and 70s recordings are the very definition of unfuckwithable, from the mighty ‘Soul Sauce’, to the subtly groovy cover of ‘Along Comes Mary’ Tjader’s sound was the very definition of cool. His Skye recording are among his coolest, and of those ‘Solar Heat’is my fave. I love the way the opening break – not too heavy – moves on into a muscular bass line, and then smoothly on into the sound of the vibes.
The next tune is one that has to be heard multiple times to be believed. I’ve waxed rhapsodic lately of my current craze for the sounds of the Peddlers. How their cover of ‘On A Clear Day’ hasn’t been chopped, lopped and sampled to the nth degree is a mystery. Coming from their 1968 LP ‘Three In a Cell’ (which also includes their blistering cover of Bob Dorough’s ‘Coming Home Baby’ soon to be featured here) ‘On a Clear Day’ is a perfect example of the bands unusual mixture of jazz, pop and a vaguely cabaret twist. I dig it the most.
Another frequent flyer on Funky16Corners Radio is guitarist Gabor Szabo. Like Cal Tjader, he spent much of the 60s recording some very groovy jazz, moving on later in that decade to co-found and record for the Skye label with Gary McFarland*. ‘Divided City’ was one of the few original tunes on his 1968 ‘Bacchanal’ LP.
Ramsey Lewis 1972 ‘Upendo ni Pamoja’ LP, which gave us his cover of War’s ‘Slipping Into Darkness’ (featured in Funky16Corners Radio v.47) also included the mellow take on the Thom Bell and Linda Creed’s ‘People Make the World Go Round’. The vibe here is quite, and not far removed from the Stylistics original.
Oscar Brown Jr. was one of the great jazz vocalists of the 50s, 60s and beyond. In the mid 60’s he wrote (with Luiz Enrique) a stage play entitled ‘Joy’ (which also featured Brazilian singer Sivuca). He didn’t get around to recording the music from the show until 1970, when vocalist (and Brown’s ladyfriend) Jean Pace recorded Brown’s lyrics to Mongo Santamaria’s ‘Afro Blue’. It’s a very subtle, sexy version of the tune.
Though John Klemmer is better known for a slightly easier variety of jazz rock, his 1960s recordings for the Cadet label have a harder, more experimental edge. ‘Rose Petals’ from 1970’s ‘Eruptions’ is an example of a kind of spacey, just inside the outside vibe that marked his recordings from this era.
Things pick up a touch with ‘Flute Thing’ from George Benson and Joe Farrell’s 1976 collaboration, entitled (not surprisingly) ‘Benson & Farrell’. Arranged by Dave Matthews (no, not THAT Dave Matthews, unless by THAT Dave Matthews you mean the guy who played with the Grodeck Whipperjenny and arranged for James Brown, which if you are, is in fact THAT Dave Matthews), ‘Flute Thing’ is a prime example of the mid-70s CTI sound, in that it’s light, but not too light, yet still creeping dangerously close to too light. I still dig it.
‘COME BLOW YOUR HORN!”
This edition of Funky16Corners Radio closes out with two 1970s examples of old-school jazzbos working a bit of inspired resuscitation. First up is Lionel Hampton. If you’ve been a regular reader of the Funky16Corners blog, or just a well seasoned crate digger you’ll already know that Hamp got good and funky in the 60s and 70s, recording some outstanding material for Brunswick and his own Glad Hamp label. His cover of Horace Silver’s ‘Psychedelic Sally’ appeared on his 1980 ‘Chameleon’ LP, which also included the title cut, a very nice cover of the Herbie Hancock tune.
The final cut sees Woody Herman (whose 60s Cadet LPs stand as a testament to his ability to stay current) covering Steely Dan. His version of ‘I Got the News’ appeared on the excellent 1978 LP ‘Chick, Donald, Walter and Woodrow’, which features a number of Steely Dan tunes (including ‘Kid Charlemagne’, featured in this space a while back). Herman gives the smooth groove of the original a brassy, big band edge. I wish someone would reissue this album on CD because it’s really very cool.
That all said, I hope you dig the mix, enjoy your weekend, and I’ll see you all in the middle of next week.
PS OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA! OBAMA!
*Both the Tjader and Szabo cuts are from early 70s Buddah comps of their Skye material