Funky16Corners Radio v.69 – Jazz Trance
Wes Montgomery – Up and At It (A&M)
Woody Herman – Light My Fire (Cadet)
Jay Jackson and the Heads of Our Time – Listen Here (Mr G)
Dorothy Ashby – Little Sunflower (Cadet)
Montreal – Summertime (Stormy Forest)
Junior Mance – Thank You Falletinme Be Mice Elf Agin (Atlantic)
Peddlers – Impressions Pt1 (Philips)
Brother Jack McDuff – Mystic John (Blue Note)
Sonny Stitt – Heads or Tails (Enterprise)
Gabor Szabo – Fred and Betty (Blue Thumb)
Lonnie Smith – People Sure Act Funny (Blue Note)
Ramsey Lewis – Collage (CBS)
Doc Severinson – In the Court of the Crimson King (Command)
I hope the middle of the week finds you well, and in the mood to open your ears to some downtempo grooves on a jazzy – and funky – tip.
I was going to drop this mix on Monday, but the 12” extended remix of post-op recovery got in the way, and was in a continuous loop (rocking doubles as it were). I don’t know how many among you have endured the wonders of anaesthesia and surgery (I just went through it for the sixth time in my life), but aside from the blissful ignorance of the operative pain (while the operation is happening, hopefully) the emergence from the experience takes a little while. That, and it always seems to take me a few days (often the better part of a week) to come out of the haze fully.
Good thing then that this is such a smooth, nighttime, get your head together as slowly as you like kind of mix. Aside from the banging soul party thing (prepare yourself for a killer coming soon) this might be my favorite kind of mix to put together, and yes, listen to.
Funky16Corners Radio v.69 is a counterpoint of sorts to v.68, with it’s downtempo yang grooving next to the uptempo yin of its predecessor. This is not to say that they should be listened to in sequence or anything like that, but rather a notification of sorts that they sprung from the same place in my fevered brain (and record collection).
Things get off to a moody start indeed with the electric piano, and sinuous groove of New Jersey’s own Kool and the Gang with ‘North, East, South, West’, sampled by none other than Quasimoto.
Next up is a track from an LP that I found when I was down in DC. I dig pretty much everything Wes Montgomery ever did. I love his guitar, but especially so in the many classy settings in which he played it during the 60s and early 70s. ‘Up and At It’ from his 1968 LP “Down Here On the Ground’ is a mellow killer, with a great arrangement by Eumir Deodato.
Woody Herman has appeared in many a Funky16Corners Radio mix, due in large part to the excellence of the two LPs he recorded for Cadet in the late 60s. Herman was an authentic jazz master who did what he could to keep his band together during the lean times of the 60s. Though many a jazzy tried to stay contemporary, Herman excelled, with the help of Richard Evans. His choice of material was excellent (check out his take on Sly Stone’s ‘Sex Machine’), and the execution thereof as well. His take on the Doors’ ‘Light My Fire’ features excellent sax, trumpet and trombone solos.
I had never heard of Jay Jackson and the Heads of Our Time before I grabbed a copy of their 45 while I was down in Richmond, VA. Once I got it home I was glad I did, since both sides of the disc sport excellent cover versions. It turns out that the band on this 45 is the same group that recorded a couple of in demand funk/soul LPs under the name the Majestics. The hailed from Canada, and oddly enough, the group’s namesake, Jackson, was also its vocalist and does not appear on this most excellent version of the Eddie Harris soul jazz chestnut ‘Listen Here’.
The name Dorothy Ashby should be a familiar one to those who travel the back alleys of the universe searching for grooves. The jazz harpist, whose Cadet albums are lost classics and worth every cent of their high prices (thanks in large part to the arrangements and production by the mighty Richard Evans), made some truly beautiful music in her day. One of my fave tracks by her is a cover of Freddie Hubbard’s ‘Little Sunflower’. Covered countless times by artists like Milt Jackson, Kenny Burrell and Hank Crawford, it has a breezy feel and a beautiful melody.
Montreal were (big surprise) a Canadian group that recorded one album in 1969 for Richie Havens’ Stormy Forest label. Coveted by crate diggers for its folk-psych goodness, the album also has a jazzy side. The finest example of this is their version of George Gershwin’s ‘Summertime’. If the flute sounds familiar, it’s because it was played by none other than Jeremy Steig (Buzzy Linhart and Havens himself also guest on the album).
I’d heard of pianist Junior Mance before, but never actually heard any of his music before I scored the 45 with his version of ‘Thank You (Felettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)’. Not only does it start with a sweet little breakbeat (courtesy of Billy Cobham) but there’s some wild, fuzzed out guitar, and of course Junior’s piano rolling through the whole affair.
We follow Mr. Mance with another taste of the mighty Peddlers, with yet another segment of the tune ‘Impressions’ from their ‘Suite London’ LP. Nice drums, and especially groovy electric piano on this one. Short but sweet.
You know I ride for Brother Jack McDuff, exalted master of the Hammond groove, but even he has b-sides that I hadn’t investigated thoroughly. Case in point, ‘Mystic John’, which resides on the reverse of one of the greatest of all breakbeats ‘Hunk of Funk’. Here we get to hear Brother Jack work it out on both piano and organ, with a taste of harp in the beginning, adding to the spiritual vibe of the tune. Things pick up a little, but the overall vibe is contemplative.
Sonny Stitt is one of the really interesting cases of a serious jazz head who was forced to go the pop route to keep his head above water. He started out playing blazing alto sax in a Charlie Parker stylee, but then came the 1960s, when very few jazzers were making real coin. Stitt tried to rework his sound in a variety of settings, including recording sax solos over existing tracks for a couple of Wingate 45s (‘Agent 00 Soul’ and ‘Marrs Groove’), and recording a wide range of pop material. Until I found his cover of Booker T and the MGs ‘Heads or Tails’ I had no idea that he had recorded for Stax’s Enterprise subsidiary. It sounds like Sonny’s working it out on the Varitone sax (he used it a lot in the late 60s), and while the recording’s not earth shattering, it’s a great song and he does it justice.
Anyone hip to the jazz grooves of the 60s already has an armload of Gabor Szabo albums on labels like Impulse and Skye. However, Szabo did at least one, very nice LP for the Blue Thumb imprint. I’ve already featured the break from his cover of Charles Lloyd’s ‘Sombrero Sam’, but dig (if you will) the mellow sounds of the tune ‘Fred and Betty’.
Back in the day, when Lonnie Smith was not yet bearing the honorarium of doctor, and without his signature turban, he was still a formidable wrangler of the mighty Hammond organ. He recorded some very tasty stuff, including a version of a tune featured here a short while ago, Titus Turner’s ‘People Sure Act Funny’. It is of course an instrumental, and quite the little head nodder.
‘Collage’ is the closing track from Ramsey Lewis’ fantastic ‘Upendo ni Pamoja’ LP, one from which we’ve drawn before. While not as incendiary as ‘Slipping Into Darkness’, ‘Collage’ rolls along at a nice, relaxed groove, and seriously, I could listen to Ramsey work that Rhodes all day long.
This edition of the Funky16Corners Radio podcast closes out with something a little bit over the top, bot of course every bit essential. I speak of Doc Severinson’s epic treatment of the King Crimson’s ‘In the Court of the Crimson King’. Doc manages to remove the song from it’s super heavy, glue sniffing prog bombast, and refit it with a snappy new set of threads, making it a lot less “arena full of stoned grad students”, and a lot more “slightly cheesy version of the Concierto di Aranjuez”. When I say slightly cheesy, I only do so because there’s a certain loss of, how do they say “authenticity” when the leader of the Tonight Show band decides to try on this kind of material. That said, it’s very groovy in an LA 1970 studio jazz kind of way, which isn’t surprising when you take a look at the serious players on the session. I’ve been picking up Doc’s late 60’s/early 70’s stuff when I find it, and I have to say that most of the records have something cool to offer.
Remember, if you haven’t yet checked out the Funky16Corners feature at Dust and Grooves, please do so. Also, the Funky16Corners Radio Show at Viva Internet Radio will return once again this Thursday evening at 9PM.
I hope you dig the mix, and I’ll be back on Monday with something cool.