Ti Jean Speaks…
Funky16Corners Radio v.37- Illuminated
1. Ulysses Crockett – Major Funky (Transverse)
2. Jimmy Owens Quartet Plus – Chicago Light Green (Polydor)
3. Gary Burton Quartet – Sweet Rain (RCA)
4. Grant Green – Cease the Bombing (Blue Note)
5. Sonny Phillips – Bean Pie (Prestige)
6. Jack Wilson Quartet – Ramblin’ (Vault)
7. Leon Spencer – The Slide (Prestige)
8. Al Hirt – Harlem Hendoo (RCA)
9. Lonnie Smith (Slow High)
10. Mose Allison – I’m Not Talkin’ (Atlantic)
11. Les McCann – Compared to What (Limelight)Also featuring Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsberg, William S Burroughs, Herbert Huncke and the mighty Lord Buckley…
I never thought I’d see the day come, but today (11/5) marks the third anniversary of the Funky16Corners blog.
Originally conceived as an extension of the Funky16Corners web zine, it came (fairly soon) to be a replacement for it. Though I always enjoyed the longer form zine format of the web site, following the birth of my first son, I no longer had the luxury of the extended work periods necessary to put an entire issue together.
When I decided to switch to the blog format – though in the very beginning things were a little different format wise – I fell into a very comfortable groove. I was able to do the preparation necessary in small, concentrated bursts of activity, and writing the smaller features on a one-record basis (most of the time anyway) proved to be a perfect fit.
For the first time I was able to post entire songs (the zine only ever featured short RealAudio snippets), and after about eighteen months I began creating and posting the Funky16Corners Radio podcasts, which themselves have evolved considerable since their inception in May of 2006.
When I began doing the Funky16Corners blog, I had no idea that it would still be going strong after three years. Though it requires a fair amount of work and commitment (struggles which have been recounted in this space time and time again…) the rewards have far outweighed any investment of time.
Through the blog I’ve met (and “e-met”) tons of cool people, all of whom share my passion for music (soulful and otherwise). The support from the readers of this blog gone far beyond any expectations I may have had, starting with the ongoing conversation we have about the music posted here, and the amazing amount of material support that many of you have given during the yearly fundraiser, which has kept the blog up and running, and allowed me to assemble the podcast archive, which gets closer to completion every day.
Since moving to WordPress – about a year and a half after starting out at Blogger – there have been more than 600,000 hits on the blog (we’ll have to have some kind of party when we cross the million mark), which compared to some of the bigger blogs is small potatoes, but three years ago a number like that would have been inconceivable.
The bottom line is that I couldn’t do this without your input. I mean, I suppose I could, but it wouldn’t be any fun.
Special thanks go out to all the folks in the blogroll, and especially to the people I’ve met and spun records with. Big ups to my man DJ Prestige and all the Asbury Park 45 Sessions crew (and Sascha at Lucky Cat). The nights we’ve spent together spinning vinyl at the Asbury Lanes have been inspirational, spiritually and musically. Every single 45 Sessions has been a learning experience, and there hasn’t been a single one where I haven’t finished the night with a grip of new sides on my want list, and a deep feeling of satisfaction.
How long can this go on? Forever probably.
I’m in no danger of running out of records, and I’m finding new stuff all the time. I love to hunt for new stories about records, and to finally sit down and write it all up. Maybe someday, round about 2025, one of my sons will take over and I can retire into a life of full time digging (though I suspect by then we will literally have to dig for records in landfills and elsewhere).
Until then, keep on stopping by and checking out the sounds.
And now, to the special 3rd Anniversary Mix.
I’ve been planning on a new jazz mix for a while now, and when I started to pull out records this week, the upbeat sounds I was originally thinking of morphed into a mellower, pensive, yet still somewhat funky vibe.
Earlier in the week, a buddy of mine sent me a box of books, including – fortuitously – a selection of Beat and Beat-related titles that I had yet to read (and there aren’t too many of those). As you can imagine, Inspirado snuck up behind me and smacked me in the back of the head.
I began to troll the interwebs looking for spoken-word elements by BeatGen figures. I tracked down a bunch of cool ones (including a couple of interesting and unexpected bits) and worked them into the mix. I think the end result is kind of cool, and as always, though I’m posting up a zip file of individual tracks, I’d ask that you take the time to check out the mix.
Things get started with a rare 45 that I scored not that long ago. Vibes player Ulysses Crockett was a Bay Area fixture through the 1960’s, playing with a number of his own groups, and recording two hard to find 45s for the Transverse label. ‘Major Funky’, while not “funky” in the James Brown sense, is certainly funky in the pre-JB soul jazz sense. There’s a great groove here and I love the tune.
The first of a couple of very nice electric piano features in the mix is ‘Chicago Light Green’ by the Jimmy Owens Quartet Plus. Led by trumpeter Owens, this 1970 session features pianist Kenny Barron. The date moves back and forth between straight ahead stuff, fusion and cuts like ‘Chicago Light Green’ which hover somewhere between the two.
Gary Burton’s ‘Sweet Rain’ has long been a favorite of mine. I first heard the tune years ago as covered by Stan Getz (an early employer of Burton’s). Hailing from the 1967 LP ‘Duster’, the tune is positively dreamlike and at times almost seems formless, yet always manages to come back around. Burton’s quartet at the time, which featured Steve Swallow, Larry Coryell and bop veteran Roy Haynes made some of the most interesting albums of the mid-60’s, edging ever so slightly into fusion without ever losing the group’s unique flavor.
Next up is ‘Cease the Bombing’ from Grant Green’s 1969 LP ‘Carryin’ On’. Written by keyboardist Neal Creque (who plays on the date) the song has a wonderful melody and the solos by Green, and vibist William Bivens (I think that’s him grunting along with the solo) are outstanding. The tune was later covered by Charles Earland and Pucho & the Latin Soul Brothers.
Sonny Phillips is best known for his work on the Hammond, but his three LPs for Prestige, recorded in 1969 and 1970 also feature him working it out on the electric piano. One of the better cuts in that vein is ‘Bean Pie’ which appeared on his 1970 ‘Black Magic’ album, which also features Prestige session burner Melvin Sparks on guitar.
Jack Wilson recorded a number of excellent LPs in the 60’s for Atlantic, Blue Note and Vault, as well as working as an arranger/accompanist for a number of big name singers. I picked up his 1966 Vault LP ‘Ramblin’ many years ago, either at a garage sale or flea market (I only mention it because of the dire condition of the cover) and it quickly became a favorite. It was one of the very first pieces of vinyl I ever digitized (I don’t know that it has ever gotten a CD reissue), and the tune I feature here today has gotten many, many plays over the years. ‘Ramblin’’ is a cover of the opening track from Ornette Coleman’s 1959 ‘Change of the Century’ LP, and like Bobby Hutcherson’s cover of Coleman’s ‘Una Muy Bonita’ (also from 1966) Wilson gives the song an distinctly un-Coleman-like reading. The tune features the vibes of the young Roy Ayer’s, who had gigged with Wilson as early as 1963 with saxophonist Curtis Amy and trumpeter Dupree Bolton. If you ever get the chance to track them down, Wilson also recorded some sessions on the organ, for Atlantic and Vault.
Like Sonny Phillips, organist Leon Spencer was a major part of the late-60’s/early 70’s Prestige soul jazz scene. ‘The Slide’ appeared on his 1970 ‘Sneak Preview’ LP, which also featured covers of ‘Message From the Meters’ and the Presidents ‘5-10-15-20’, and contributions from Melvin Sparks, Idris Muhammad and Grover Washington Jr.
A while back I featured Al Hirt’s recording of the Mar Keys’ Honey Pot’, from his 1967 ‘Soul In the Horn’ LP. The better known track from that album (if any song from it can rightly be described as “better known”) is the smoky ‘Harlem Hendoo’. This is due to its having been sampled by no less than De La Soul on ‘Ego Trippin Pt2’. I love the slow, vaguely Arabic vibe of the tune, especially the harpsichord flourishes by Paul Griffin.
Lonnie Smith (better known these days as the be-turbaned Doctor Lonnie Smith) recorded as a sideman for George Benson and Lou Donaldson before doing his own dates for Blue Note in the late 60’s. ‘Slow High’ appeared on the 1969 ‘Turning Point’ album, which also featured both Melvin Sparks and Idris Muhammad (billed here as Leo Morris), as well as the heavy, heavy front line of Lee Morgan and Bennie Maupin.
It was at this point in the mix that I decide to take things out a little more on the upbeat, and I pulled out a side by one of the coolest heads ever to tickle the ivories, the great Mose Allison. Allison – mostly known as a jazzbo – is really something much more complicated, dwelling in a grey area equal parts blues man, singer songwriter, beatnik, proto-soulman, and every bit cool. If ‘I’m Not Talkin’ sounds familiar, it’s because it was later supercharged by none other than the Yardbirds. While I’m a big fan, Mose’s original is by far the definitive reading. Though the Mississippi to Eel Pie Island connection might seem tenuous, Allison was something of a touchstone for London R&B/Mod musicians in the early 60’s, covered by the Yardbirds, Brian Auger, John Mayall and the Who, and providing a crucial ingredient in the stew that would turn Clive Powell into Georgie Fame.
The mix closes out with a track that I didn’t even know I had until recently. I picked up the LP ‘Les McCann Plays the Hits’ years ago, breezed through a couple of interesting pop covers and never noted that the 1966 album included what I now believe to be the original recording of Gene McDaniels’ ‘Compared to What’, which McCann and Eddie Harris would ride to worldwide fame three years later at Montreaux. The 1966 take is, if anything a touch more restrained than the hit version from ‘Swiss Movement’, but the same soulful vibe is here, along with McDaniels’ powerful lyrics. If you’ve never heard Roberta Flack’s version of the tune, you ought to head out and grab it.
So, there you have it. Three years behind us, and hopefully many more ahead. I hope you dig the mix. If you’re a long time Funky16Corners reader, thanks for being here. If you’re just coming on board, there’s a lot more to come.
I’m not sure what I’ll be posting later this week, as the fam and I are heading out of town for a short vacation.
Either way, I’ll see you soon.