Funky16Corners Radio v.32 – Summer Dog Daze
Bobby Bryant – I Want To Testify (World Pacific)
Jimmy Smith – Uh Ruh (MGM)
Bobby Hutcherson feat Harold Land- Ummh (Blue Note)
Ekseption – This Here (Philips)
Cal Tjader – Along Comes Mary (Verve)
Gabor Szabo – Sombrero Sam (Blue Thumb)
Freddy McCoy – Pet Sounds (Prestige)
Grant Green – Ease Back (Blue Note)
Woody Herman – It’s Your Thing (Cadet)
Brian Auger Trinity – Listen Here (RCA)
I hope everyone had a nice, relaxing weekend, free of worry and full of opportunities to replenish the soul enough so that a return to work on Monday won’t drag you one step closer to insanity.
In furtherance of that vibe – if you will – I bring you Funky16Corners Radio v.32 – Summer Dog Daze. This mix is in many ways a sequel to v.24.5 The Beat Goes On, in which we stepped back for a brief survey of the jazzier side of things. Summer Dog Daze is a return to that part of the musical landscape, but this time – in an attempt to counter the stillness of the hot August air – things are little bit funkier, a lot groovier and as always engineered to nourish the ears, the head and the heart.
With a few exceptions every selection in this mix is a cover. Some of them could fairly be considered to be soul jazz standards, and a couple are surprising selections from far outside that orbit (which I think you’ll dig).
We get things started with another track from trumpeter Bobby Bryant’s ‘Earth Dance’ LP (his take on ‘Happiness is a Warm Gun’ was featured in ‘Rubber Souled Pt2’), this time a very brassy, large ensemble cover of the Parliaments’ ‘I Want To Testify’. Bryant and band verily tear the tune from the sinuous tempo of the original, kicking up the tempo considerably. It manages to be a more soulful version of the kind of sound that so many larger jazz bands were working at the time (more on that later).
Though he was the first real genius of the jazz organ, Jimmy Smith’s efforts at working in a funkier milieu weren’t always as satisfying. Though there were obvious exceptions to the rule (‘Root Down’ for instance), after his Blue Note years Smith’s tenure at Verve was often marked by overproduced sessions aimed directly at the middle of the road. This isn’t to say that he wasn’t still producing exciting work – ‘The Cat’ has few equals – but that his talent was often wasted. The sad thing is that this can be said of almost all jazz musicians that were attempting to reach a wider audience in the 60’s.
So…last month I spotted an unfamiliar Smith LP on a set sale list, decided to take a chance on it and was richly rewarded. ‘I’m Gon’ Git Myself Together’ – recorded in 1970 with arrangements by Johnny Pate – sports a number of funky cuts, including a laid back cover of ‘Spill the Wine’, and the selection we include here, ‘Uh Ruh’. The tune gets started with a nice, heavy break before Smith comes storming in, wailing on the Hammond. It’s a groove.
If you’re a fan of classic 1960’s Blue Note sessions, then the name Bobby Hutcherson should be very familiar. In addition to his own string of brilliant albums, Hutcherson was – like Grant Green – made very frequent appearances as a sideman for the labels biggest stars. In the mid-60’s Hutcherson began collaborating with the brilliant tenor man Harold Land, who worked the front line of the Max Roach/Clifford Brown (RIP Max…) quintet as well as recording with the legendary (and rarely recorded) trumpeter Dupree Bolton. The Hutcherson/Land group recorded for a number of labels including Cadet, Mainstream and of course Blue Note. ‘Ummh’ comes from the 1971 LP “San Francisco” and finds the two masters working a funky vibe with members of the Jazz Crusaders.
I had never heard of Ekseption before pulling their 1969 debut from a crate at an Asbury Lanes swap meet. Their self-titled LP is filled mostly with prog-ish takes on classical themes like ‘Rhapsody In Blue’ but it also contains a couple of interesting covers, including Jethro Tull’s ‘Dharma for One’ and the cut included here, Bobby Timmons’ ‘This Here’. Ekseption do take a momentary detour into the baroque, but by and large things stay soulful, with a very nice sax solo.
I couldn’t very well assemble a mix like this without a cut from one of my all-time faves, Mr. Cal Tjader. His 1967 cover of the Association’s ‘Along Comes Mary’ (not coincidentally pulled from the LP ‘Along Comes Cal’) features some groovy organ as well as Latin percussion from no less a duo than Ray Barretto and Armando Peraza. Tasty indeed.
A veteran of our recent Stones covers mix, guitarist Gabor Szabo made some of the most interesting jazz/world fusions of the 60’s. Though his best known work was for the Impulse label, Szabo went on to record (and co-own I believe) for Skye, and Blue Thumb. This version of Charles Lloyd’s ‘Sombrero Sam’ is from the 1970 LP ‘Magical Connection’. The tune opens with a very (VERY) tasty break from Jim Keltner, but thanks to a bizarre bit of production, you’ll have to crank the volume a bit to hear it. Szabo solos are supported by some great vibes (by Lynn Blessing) and electric piano (by Richard Thompson).
Vibraphonist Freddy McCoy is another longtime Funky16Corners fave (and ‘Rubber Souled’ veteran). McCoy had a great style, and was sadly underrecorded during his heyday in the 1960’s. I recently grabbed a copy of his Prestige LP ‘Soul Yogi’, which includes some very interesting (and occasionally dated) setting including sitar and a couple of what appear to be attempts at a Soulful Strings sound. The highlight of the LP, and one of the most interesting jazz covers of a rock tune I’ve ever encountered is McCoy’s version of the Beach Boys ‘Pet Sounds’ (oh that it were a cover of the entire LP). I’ve only owned this record for about a week, but I can safely say that I’ve listened to this particular cut between 20 and 30 times. It’s such an interesting intersection of pop and jazz and McCoy really takes the song in a new direction.
As I mentioned earlier, guitarist Grant Green was one of the mainstays of the Blue Note label in the 60’s as both leader and sideman. Though many of his contemporaries made a stab at a funky sound, few did it as well as Green. His 1969 LP ‘Carryin’ On’ features a number of covers (as well as a beautiful version of Neal Creque’s ‘Cease the Bombing’ that I’ll be sure to feature in this space soon), the best of which is his take on the Meters ‘Ease Back’. There’s a more relaxed vibe than on the original, but it’s sure to get your head nodding.
Lot’s of old school jazzbos were making bids to remain contemporary (Buddy Rich, Louis Bellson etc) but few did it as well as Woody Herman. Herman, leader of one of the truly legendary big bands (the Thundering Herd) hooked up with Cadet in the late 60’s for a couple of very interesting albums, produced and arranged by the brilliant Richard Evans. The album ‘Heavy Exposure’ features members of Herman’s band as well as familiar Cadet sessioners like Phil Upchurch and Donny Hathaway (who’s ‘Flying Easy’ gets a workout on this album as well), on a number of interesting covers (like Sly’s ‘Sex Machine’) and this reworking of the Isley Brothers ‘It’s Your Thing’.
We close things out with an extended workout on a tune that is one of the true ‘standards’ of soul jazz, Eddie Harris’s ’Listen Here’, ably delivered by Brian Auger and the Trinity (the only artists here who also appeared in ‘The Beat Goes On’). Showcasing Auger on both piano and organ (very nice solo in the second half), the recording also features the percussion divided amongst four separate players (overdubs, natch) and the group manages to get down for almost 10 minutes without wandering too far afield.
That all said, I hope you dig listening to this edition of Funky16Corners Radio as much as I did putting it together.
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