“Listen – Gimme Some MP3″
What’s up, y’all?
As the great Declan Patrick McManus once said, ‘Welcome to the working week.’
If you weren’t paying attention – or have for some reason abandoned the entire calendar system and removed yourself from society (in which case you’re probably not on the internet, thus not reading this) – Monday is here, and your friends here at the Funky16Corners blog have returned to weather these rough seas with you.
I come to you today, fresh off of an excellent weekend, in which much quality time was spent with the family, during which many cubic feet of crisp autumnal air passed through my lungs, leaves were observed in their many colors and a single, delicious chili dog was ingested.
As a result, I’m in a mellow mood this morning. Though I’m positive – this being Monday after all – that something is lurking just around the corner waiting to spoil my day, I’m going to go ahead and run with the vibe, and post a tune guaranteed to put you on the right path.
I’m not saying that it’s going to make you throw on your caftan, spark up some incense and work up one of those goofy “all is right with the world” grins (though depending on your constitution, that may very well happen), but I will promise you that the track I bring you today will add a soupcon of “chill” to your daily palate.
I must begin by saying that I loves me some vibes, as in vibraphone. I know that my affection for the groovy sounds of the vibes is not universally held, but the bottom line is, if you’re not digging the mellifluous, soul massaging groove produced by a world class vibraphonist, then you are the poorer for it, and it’s better that you don’t know what you’re missing (because if you did know, you would likely be plunged into an abyss of musical despair, or some such…).
It helps that I am a major consumer of jazz, from its earliest incarnations right up to the present day (though you’d be hard pressed to find many albums in my vaults recorded after the mid-70’s). One of the nicer corners of my collection is – no surprise here – where jazz and soul intersect in the sounds of (get ready…here it comes…you didn’t see this coming did you?) soul jazz.
The term soul jazz is one of the more flexible constructs ever placed around a musical genre/subgenre. The basic idea is that this was music created by jazz musicians catering to an R&B market in an attempt to gain a commercial footing (and the ensuing remuneration) that was generally unavailable to those that were producing the more adventurous sounds of jazz. This is not to say that soul jazz artists were incapable of producing a sound more easily definable as “jazz”, from hard bop to free styles, because many of them did. Some, like organist Larry Young started out recording very conventional organ trio sessions for Prestige (for all intents and purposes the home of soul jazz in the 60’s), eventually working his way up to one of the great inside/outside masterpieces of the 60’s, ‘Unity’. Another major player in the Blue Note stable, vibes player Bobby Hutcherson (one of my personal favorites) had a discography where he spent much of the 60’s recording freer sounds under his own name and as a sideman on many classic sessions, before moving into a more groove-oriented direction in the 70’s.
As I said before, the Prestige label was a major producer of soul jazz, releasing hundreds of groovy 45s for the jukebox trade that were not coincidentally coveted by the Mod crowd in the UK who in turn made them into dancefloor staples. By the end of the 60’s, as soul got funkier, so did soul jazz.
One of the artists that was part of the soul jazz revolution (recording the larger part of his discography for Prestige) was vibraphonist Freddie McCoy. McCoy was a classic case of a musician who though he recorded a number of LPs under his own name, also worked frequently as a sideman on other artists dates. He began his career working with organist Johnny Hammond Smith, before recording his first date as a leader in 1963. Between 1963 and 1970 he would record six more albums for the label, before moving to Cobblestone Records.
Cobblestone was a subsidiary of Buddha records that existed between 1968 and 1972. In its earliest phase, it was mainly a singles label (releasing funky sides like ‘The Elephant’ by the Philly Four and ‘Stanky Get Funky’ by Billy Davis). By 1971 the focus had moved almost exclusively to jazz LPs, with artists like McCoy, Neal Creque, Joe Thomas, and Pat Martino.
McCoy’s sole release for Cobblestone (and as far as I can tell, the last album he ever recorded, period) was ‘Gimme Some’. In addition to one of the cooler album covers of the era* (see below), the LP featured a number of quality sidemen, including McCoy’s Cobblestone label-mate Chuck Rainey, keyboardist Paul Griffin and guitarist Eric Gale.
The overall feel of the LP is soul jazz in soft-focus, affected (as was much contemporary soul and funk) by psychedelia, and a mellower groove. The LP includes covers of ‘Light My Fire’, ‘Oh Happy Day’ and ‘Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In’, all of which are given a very relaxed (but not “easy”) treatment. The finest cut on the album is today’s selection, the title track ‘Gimme Some’.
McCoy opens the track with by striking a chord on the vibes that seems to expand from the speakers in waves, before the band emerges working a slow, but funky groove. The electric piano is used in the background as a droning counterpoint to the vibes, much in the way a tamboura plays against a sitar in Indian music. The musicians are soon joined by a chorus of sorts, repeating the title of the song in the background.
Now I don’t want to suggest that anyone involved in this session was high, but if ever a record sounded like the musical incarnation of a marijuana haze, this my friends is it. ‘Gimme Some’ is an exquisite example of a track with the perfect “headphones” vibe, which – since you (and I and everyone else) will be feeding this into the MP3 delivery system of your choice – you will get to experience firsthand.
Note: ‘Gimme Some’ was sampled by Pete Rock & CL Smooth on the track “For Pete’s Sake”
*I can’t fit album covers on my scanner, but I found this on the interweb…