Clarence Wheeler & the Enforcers
1. Sonny Phillips – Make It Plain (Prestige)
2. Lonnie Smith – See Saw (Blue Note)
3. Leon Spencer – Message From the Meters (Prestige)
4. Charles Earland – Here Comes Charlie (Prestige)
5. Houston Person feat. Sonny Phillips – Cissy Strut (Prestige)
6. Shirley Scott – You (Atlantic)
7. Brother Jack McDuff – The Natural Thing (Cadet)*
8. Jimmy McGriff – A Thing to Come By Pts 1&2 (Solid State)
9. Clarence Wheeler & the Enforcers feat. Sonny Burke – The Mighty Burner (Atlantic)
Greetings, Happy Chanukah, all joy of the approaching Christmas, happy Monday and all of that rot.
Here’s hoping that everyone has a had a ice weekend, free of all the insane traffic and commercial lunacy that come with the holiday season, in much the same way a swollen tick “comes with” the family dog.
So, I completed the first week of my new “assignment”, and I have to say that while it is not the kind of soul killing, mind numbing grind that some poor folk have to submit to, neither was it the kind of atmosphere to which I have become accustomed, i.e. one in which the brain is allowed to breathe (and grow) freely, thereby keeping the soul reasonably well pleased to the point where ones disposition is not in constant conflict with the requirements of the job (how’s that for an award winning run on sentence, herein made parenthetically that much longer, hmmmmm???). In short, I don’t hate it, but it cannot be said that I love it, nor do expect to come to love it. In fact, I suspect that the shred of self respect that still burns within me will force me at some point to look for a position (elsewhere, of course) where my talents are better used, and rewarded.
I have no idea how long such a placement may take (I have after all been at the same company for 22 years), but if I get any unhappier with the current state of affairs it’s not going to be any fun to be around me.
Fortunately, when I arrive home from work (now at 8:30 PM, as opposed to my previous arrival time of long standing, that being 4:30), my passage through the front door allows me entry into a world where how much I hate my job is irrelevant, and I have the love and support of my family. A few minutes in the company of my wife and sons is enough to remind me of what’s really important.
That said, it’s been a while since the doors have been open at Funky16Corners Radio, so I thought it only fair that I get one of the installments I have waiting up onto the interweb for your enjoyment.
If you’re a fan of Hammond, or rare groove in general, then I have a treat in store for you (if you’re not – a fan that is – then hold on tight because the new year will bring with it new mixes of all kinds).
Today’s installment of Funky16Corners Radio concerns itself exclusively with album tracks, all in excess of five minutes in length, a few approaching the ten-minute mark. The end result is a mix (over an hour long) in which there aren’t that many tracks, but the ones we have for you are long and satisfying (like a Kurosawa film), funky and fine.
While it is not secret to regular visitors to this space that I worship often at the altar of the almighty Hammond 45, as a jazz fan (and former bong rattler) I have come to hep you to the intrinsic value of the longer track, heretofore known as longplayers. We have assembled here a selection of some of the finest Hammond heroes getting down and sinking their teeth (fingers?) into slightly more adventurous outings, in which they – and their many fine bandmates – get to stretch out a little. Nobody’s going so far as to tread in the mysterious land of self-indulgent skronk (or screech), but they all manage to find a groove and settle in for a little while. I think you’ll find their efforts as satisfying as I do.
Things get going with a number from the super cool Sonny Phillips. Phillips spent most of the 60’s sitting in on recordings by Gene Ammons, Rusty Bryant, Eddie Harris and Boogaloo Joe Jones (among others) before making his first solo sides in 1969. The track that opens this set ‘Make it Plain’ hails from his 1969 Prestige date ‘Black Magic’. The groove is relaxed, but heavy, and Phillips gets a chance to solo at length, ably assisted by none other than Melvin Sparks on guitar. It’s important to note, not only the consistently high quality of Prestige sessions of the late 60’s and early 70’s (especially in regard to Hammond related dates), but also the crossover in personnel that helped make that a reality. Four of the cuts in this mix come from four different Prestige dates (with four different leaders), all from 1970 and 1971, and there are players in common from LP to LP, many of who reside securely atop the rare groove Olympus.
The sole Blue Note cut in the mix comes to us courtesy of the mighty Dr. Lonnie Smith. His cover of Don Covays’ “See Saw’ comes from his 1969 ‘Turning Point’ lp, and features an all star group that includes no less than Lee Morgan, Benny Maupin and a pre Idris Muhammad-ized Leo Morris on drums. If after listening to this one, your head isn’t nodding and your feet aren’t tapping, you need to check for a pulse. Smith was responsible for some of the finest Blue Note organ sessions of the period, and this is one of the finest examples thereof.
Leon Spencer recorded four Lps under his own name for Prestige in the early 70’s, though he also has substantial credits as a sideman. Spencer grew up and spent most of he pre-Prestige time working as a solo and backing touring artists in Houston, Texas. He signed with Prestige in 1969, and recorded ‘Sneak Preview’ the LP that produced his cover of ‘Message From the Meters’ in 1970. Joined by a pre-mush Grover Washington Jr. on sax, Spencer lays down a very tasty groove (aided also my Mr. Muhammad). It’s kind of cool to hear a lesser-covered Meters cut in an extended setting. I suspect that the Crescent City boys would approve.
Though this mix is filled to the brim with great organists, few approach the mastery of my personal favorite Charles Earland. This son of Philadelphia, Hammond master and commander recorded a grip of excellent indie label 45s before signing on with Prestige in the late 60’s where he worked extensively as both a leader and a sideman. His style is immediately identifiable, with a muscular swing that while very jazzy, stays anchored in the groove. When I was putting this mix together, I had a hard time picking a track from his monumental 1970 session ‘Black Talk’. I was going to go with either of the swinging covers that compose side two of the LP (‘Aquarius’ or ‘More Today Than Yesterday’), but decided instead to go with the meat and potatoes groove of ‘Here Comes Charlie’. Earland kills it here, and I love Melvin Sparks guitar work (Sparks appears on no less than four of the nine tracks here). If you haven’t got a copy of this LP, it’s not too hard to find in its original form, and it has also been put out as a budget reissue. It is absolutely essential.
If the influence of the Meters wasn’t already apparent, check out the version of ‘Cissy Strut’, offered here by sax man Houston Person, ably assisted by none other than Sonny Phillips on the Hammond. Person peps up the tempo a shade, stripping the tune of some of its New Orleans grit, but the band here is funky (dig the wah wah guitar by Billy Butler), and Mr. Phillips gets to wail right around the 6-minute mark. The track comes from Person’s 1970 LP ‘Truth’, which as far as I know has not been reissued in whole.
Miss Shirley Scott had a long and serious career on the keyboard, recording a string of ‘traditional’ organ jazz sessions through the 60’s (alone and with her husband Stanley Turrentine) and some very groovy dates later on. One such session was 1969’s ‘Shirley Scott and the Soul Saxes’ which saw the organist playing with King Curtis, Hank Crawford and David ‘Fathead’ Newman. The sax on her cover of Marvin Gaye’s ‘You’ is played by Newman. The LP is filled with funky numbers not the least of which is her outstanding cover of the Isley Brothers ‘It’s Your Thing’ which was also released as a 45. ‘You’ features some smoking organ work by Miss Scott, piano by Richard Tee and drums by the mighty Bernard Purdie. For a slightly more far out vibe, track down her excellent 1971 Cadet session, ‘Mystical Lady’.
One of the great journeyman organists of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, Brother Jack McDuff recorded for a wide variety of labels, in a number of settings, and never once left the groove behind. The title track from his 1968 Cadet LP ‘The Natural Thing’ is a mover, with the finer members of the Cadet house band (including arrangements by none other than Richard Evans) backing him up, and Brother Jack wailing on the Hammond. The entire LP is excellent and should be sought out by connoisseurs of organ grooves.
Speaking of major, major organ talents, without whom the Hammond would not have progressed, there are few the equal of the great Jimmy McGriff. McGriff, whose ‘I Got a Woman’ on Sue is one of the cornerstones of Hammond 45-dom, recorded a mountain of classic Hammond work from the 50’s right on up into the 21st Century. ‘A Thing to Come By Pts 1&2’ is the title track(s) from his 1968 Solid State LP. While his Solid State years can be uneven (some of the LPs from this period, particularly the big band dates are booooring), ‘A Thing to Come By’ features some very solid grooves. The two halves of this song actually open and close the LP, and feature McGriff on both Hammond and piano. It’s important to take a moment to note that McGriff (along with Jimmy Smith, Shirley Scott and Charles Earland) hailed from the Philadelphia, PA area, a veritable hothouse for Hammond organists in the 50’s and 60’s.
We close out the mix with a hot, hot track from Clarence Wheeler and the Enforcers, featuring Sonny Burke on the organ. The tune is a cover of one of the major tracks on Charles Earlands ‘Black Talk’ LP, his tribute to Philly radio legend Sonny Hopson, ‘The Mighty Burner’.The band is firing on all cylinders here, doing justice to Earlands original
(and then some). If you can, track down the LP this track comes from,’The Love I’ve Been Looking For’ which also features the killer ‘Broasted or Fried’.
So, dig this, and I’ll be back later in the week with a couple of Christmas goodies.
*NOTE: This track is incorrectly tagged and is in fact the Brother Jack Mcduff tune (which I didn’t discover until after I uploaded the zip file)