The Great Freddie McCoy
Listen/Download -Freddie McCoy – Funk Drops
Listen/Download -Freddie McCoy – My Babe
Listen/Download -Freddie McCoy – Pet Sounds
I come to you today with a couple of tunes, posted in the memory of one of the great soul jazz vibists, Mr. Freddie McCoy. This post was originally planned for Wednesday, but I had to stop and take a minute to remember the great Willie Mitchell, so here we are today.
They also come to you courtesy of one of the stranger stories to find me since the inception of this blog.
Back in October of 2006 I posted one of my the most hypnotic numbers in McCoy’s catalog, the title track from his 1969 LP ‘Gimme Some’. Over the course of the next few years, the post drew some interesting comments, the most interesting being one from McCoy himself (then living in Morocco under the name Dit Ahmed Sofi) in May of this year.
Later that year he contacted me offline, telling me that he had some new music recorded (on guitar, no less) and asking of I knew someone who might be interested in putting it out.
About a month after that, someone posting with McCoy’s WordPress log-in left a message that he had passed away on September 27th.
Naturally, this alarmed the family members (his children, nieces and nephews) and ex-band member Chuck Purro, who had posted in, and were following the thread.
Very soon after the posting of the death notice, I received an e-mail (from McCoy’s account) informing me that he had in fact passed on and that I would receive further information as soon as possible.
It wasn’t until just before Christmas that his children posted a message on the blog that they had gotten in touch with his family in Morocco, and had confirmed his passing.
This is sad news, but especially so when you consider that McCoy was – at least in my opinion – the finest, purely “soul jazz” vibraphonist I’ve ever heard.
There were of course many vibists that traveled through the soul jazz genre, including masters like Cal Tjader, Bobby Hutcherson, Gary McFarland, Gary Burton, Johnny Lytle and past masters like Milt Jackson and Lionel Hampton, but none of them – despite many brilliant recordings – really found their home in that particular sound.
Freddie McCoy did.
Starting out as a sideman with Johnny Hammond Smith, Freddie McCoy recorded his first date as a leader n 1963, and his last in 1971 (almost all for Prestige*).
Working with a supporting cast that included Joanne Brackeen and Bernard Purdie, McCoy, like almost every jazzer not working exclusively on the “out” side, spent much of the 60s mixing his own original compositions with covers of contemporary pop and soul material. A survey of his albums (all out of print and some harder to find than others) reveals that while the results were occasionally pedestrian, they were also at times positively transcendant.
The (very) few details I have picked up about his post-recording years, suggest he spent some time living a quasi-hippy lifestyle in Hawaii (with some members of his band), spent time on an ashram in India, living his last days in North Africa.
1960s soul jazz was by and large the province of organists (a major focus here at the ‘Corners) and guitarists, with vibraphonists often working on the periphery as supporting players. Freddie McCoy took a skill rooted in hard bop, mixed it with rhythm and blues, soul, funk and even psychedelia and produced a truly unique sound that to this day has yet to receive its due.
Oddly enough, after first hearing that Freddie might have passed away, I started working on a mix (which will drop here in a week or two) of soul jazz vibes, that was to include a couple of prime tracks by him. It still will, but confirmation of his death made be dip back into the crates to record a few more cuts to post by themselves, and to pull one more – which had appeared here as part of a previous mix, and is a particular fave – out of the archives.
The three tracks I bring you today by no means represent all facets of McCoy’s sound, but they should give you the impetus to go out and dig for more, and maybe (just maybe) some enterprising soul at a record company might be inspired to put together a comp of his finest work so that a new generation can groove to his sounds.
The first two tracks come from his 1966 ‘Funk Drops’ session for Prestige. The title cut features a repeating baritone sax figure (by Laurdine Patrick) against Joanne Brackeen’s organ and McCoy’s vibes. While not out and out funk, the sound here is well on its way in that direction, and is the kind of hard hitting stuff that Mods and their ilk have been sliding across dance floors to for decades.
The second track from that album is a reworking of Willie Dixon’s blues/r&b standard ‘My Babe’ which produces an even harder, even Modder dancers groove, with aggressive, choppy guitar by Napolean Allen kicking up the tempo.
The third and final track is something I included in Funky16Corners Radio v.32, Freddie McCoys sublime and absolutely brilliant cover of the Beach Boys’ ‘Pet Sounds’, recorded for his 1968 LP ‘Soul Yogi’. He takes the original, bumps up the tempo a few notches and really moves with Brian Wilson’s wonderful melody. The section of the recording towards the middle, where he starts to swing the tempo is a few, magical seconds of musical perfection that I absolutely live for. I always find myself giving this one repeat spins, and I think you will too.
That all said, take a moment to soak up the great music that Freddie McCoy gave us before he slipped the surly bonds of earth.
I hope you dig these sounds,and I’ll see you all on Friday.
*His last LP ‘Gimme Some’ was released on the Buddah subsidiary Cobblestone, but in his first reply to my original post he stated that he never actually recorded for that label. Whether or not those sessions were done for Prestige and then farmed out to the other label, I can’t say for sure. If anyone knows please drop me a line.
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