Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Les McCann - 1971 - Invitation To Openness

Les McCann 
Invitation To Openness

01. The Lovers
02. Beaux J. Poo Boo
03. Poo Pye McGoochie (And His Friends)

Bass – Jimmy Rowser
Drums [African Drums], Percussion – William "Buck" Clarke
Drums, Percussion – Al Mouzon, Bernard Purdie, Donald Dean
Electric Bass – Bill Salter
Electric Guitar – Cornell Dupree
Electric Piano – Jodie Christian
Guitar, Electric Guitar – David Spinozza
Harp – Corky Hale
Percussion – Ralph McDonald
Piano, Electric Piano, Synthesizer [Moog Synthesizer] – Les McCann
Tenor Saxophone, Oboe, Flute [Flute, Pneumatic Flute], Percussion [Plum Blossom], Temple Bells – Yusef Lateef

Les McCann reached the peak of his career at the 1969 Montreux Jazz Festival, recording "Compared to What" and "Cold Duck Time" for Atlantic (Swiss Movement) with Eddie Harris and Benny Bailey. Although he has done some worthwhile work since then, much of it has been anticlimactic.
McCann first gained some fame in 1956 when he won a talent contest in the Navy as a singer that resulted in an appearance on television on The Ed Sullivan Show. After being discharged, he formed a trio in Los Angeles. McCann turned down an invitation to join the Cannonball Adderley Quintet so he could work on his own music. He signed a contract with Pacific Jazz and in 1960 gained some fame with his albums Les McCann Plays the Truth and The Shout. His soulful, funk style on piano was influential and McCann's singing was largely secondary until the mid-'60s. He recorded many albums for Pacific Jazz during 1960-1964, mostly with his trio but also featuring Ben Webster, Richard "Groove" Holmes, Blue Mitchell, Stanley Turrentine, Joe Pass, the Jazz Crusaders, and the Gerald Wilson Orchestra.

McCann switched to Limelight during 1965-1967 and then signed with Atlantic in 1968. After the success of Swiss Movement, McCann emphasized his singing at the expense of his playing and he began to utilize electric keyboards, notably on 1972's Layers. His recordings became less interesting to traditional jazz fans from that point on, and after his Atlantic contract ran out in 1976, McCann appeared on records much less often. However, he stayed popular and a 1994 reunion tour with Eddie Harris was quite successful. A mid-'90s stroke put him out of action for a time and weakened his keyboard playing (his band began carrying an additional keyboardist) but Les McCann returned to a more active schedule during 1996 and was still a powerful singer. His comeback was solidified by 2002's Pump It Up, a guest-heavy celebration of funk and jazz released on ESC Records.

“The Lovers” is both central to the free-form spirit of 1972’s Invitation to Openness, and to understanding Les McCann’s little-heard ability to blend deep soul and outside concepts. Completely improvised, the track works as an extended, 26-minute argument for something McCann didn’t do nearly enough: Use his typically overlooked second career at the electric piano to race toward jazz’s frontiers.

Les McCann had risen to fame, of course, in an acoustic jazz trio setting, playing R&B-drenched music as it had been played forever. His early apex happened with the 1969 smash Swiss Movement (featuring Eddie Harris, and the ageless “Compared to What”), followed with the sequel Second Movement. By the turn of the ’70s, however, Les McCann had become enamored with the day’s emerging mainstream soul sounds, principally that of the electric piano.

McCann then assembled a 13-member group to improvise for producer Joel Dorn around a few loose themes, very much in the style of Miles Davis’ contemporaneous recordings, and with a similarly talented all-star cast. The lineup of five percussionists on Invitation to Openness included Ralph McDonald and Bernard Purdie. Guitarist Cornell Dupree could be found tangling with multi-talented David Spinozza — just as the latter was rising to fame for his work with Paul McCartney on Ram. Yusef Lateef, Alphonse Mouzon and regular McCann contributors Jimmy Rowser and Donald Dean were also on hand.

There was nothing more to it, really. No charts, no complex instructions beyond a wink or a nod. They gathered inside Atlantic’s studios at 60th and Broadway, and began to build a masterpiece around Les McCann’s main voice. With no rules, everything was on the table. “The Lovers” even includes shimmering harp work by Corky Hale, adding another exotic element to this indescribably unique triumph.

“The Lovers” initially took up all of Side 1 on Invitation to Openness, which has been newly reissued by Omnivore with the addition of a live take on Les McCann’s signature “Compared to What.” He rounded out the original release with two other cuts, “Breaux J. Poo Boo” (an electrified update of a track from McCann’s earlier Limelight) and “Poo Pye McGoochie” (featuring these funky, funky asides from Lateef, who sets his flute down for a turn on tenor). But Invitation to Openness had already made its mark.

“The Lovers” is the sound of someone loosing himself from the bonds of expectation, and certainly from the oft-staid strictures of soul jazz — which too often settles for groove instead of searching for meaning. Les McCann managed, for a fizzy half hour or so, to combine these two disparate impulses. It was music that moved both your hips and heart.

Invitation to Openness is proof of the massive influence that Miles Davis' album In a Silent Way had on the development of electric Jazz.

In a similar vein as Donald Byrd's Electric Byrd, and as Julian Priester's Love, Love, Invitation to Openness feeds on the modal basis laid down by the tight grooves of the band, the clock-like ticking of the drums, and the psychedelic effects of the electric instruments, upon which individual members of the band stretch out soloing. On Poo Pye McGoochie (and his friends), Alphonse Mouzon finds a slot for a drum solo. Throughout, a lot of the fascination is caused by the double cast - two guitarists, two bass players, two drummers, plus percussion.

The Lovers fills all of the record's Side One. A meditative, intro with a slightly psychedelic effect enhanced by Corky Hale's harp leads to a modal riff, which is sustained throughout the 26 minute long piece. Before you know it, the riff turns funky, and Yusef Lateef introduces an anthem-like Arabian influenced theme on the oboe - by which time you might already be dancing to this One-Thousand-and-One-Nights trip. Fabulous!

Beaux J. Poo Boo starts with a churchy riff. Later on in the tune, the band turns the beat into something similar to Cocinando on Ray Barretto's Que viva la música. The drummers keep that pulse-like beat throughout - think of Tony Williams' trend setting drums on In a Silent Way.

The lineup includes, among others, David Spinozza,Yusef Lateef, Cornell Dupree, Alphonse Mouzon, Bernard Purdie, Ralph MacDonald, Buck Clarke, William Clarke, Jimmy Rowser, and Bill Salter. Les himself proves to be one of the leading e-pianists of the Electric Jazz period here, and among those, he's the one who's most rooted in the Blues.

Invitation to Openness is one of the great and important albums from the Electric Jazz fusion period and as far as I'm concerned, Les McCann's coup de maître.

Julian Priester - 1974 - Love, Love

Julian Priester 
Love, Love

01. Prologue / Love, Love
02. Images
03. Eternal Worlds / Epilogue

- Julian Priester / trombones, baritone horn, post horn, whistle flute, cowbell, small percussion, ARP 2600 synthesizer, Proto-type ARP string synthesizer
- Pat Gleeson / ARP 2600 synthesizer, ARP Odyssey synthesizer, Moog III, Oberheim digital sequencer
- Hadley Caliman / flute, saxophones, bass clarinet
- Bayete Umbra Zindinko / fender rhodes, piano, clavinet D-6
- Nyimbo Henry Franklin / fender bass, acoustic bass on all but "Love, Love"
- Ndugu Leon Chancler / drums on all but "Love, Love"
- Mguanda David Johnson / flute, soprano saxophone on all but "Love, Love"
- Kamau Eric Gravatt / drums, congas on "Love, Love"
- Ron McClure / fender bass on "Love, Love"
- Bill Connors / electric guitar on "Love, Love"

Composer: Julian Priester (Pepo Mtoto)
Recorded June 28 and September 12, 1973 at Different Fur Music, San Francisco.

Born in Chicago on June 29 1935, Julian Priester spent his teenage years performing in Chicago's vibrant RnB scene with artists such as Muddy Waters, Dinah Washington and Bo Diddley. In the mid-50s he joined Sun Ra's groundbreaking avant-garde big band. In 1958 Julian split for New York where he joined Max Roach while Roach was involved in recordings such as Freedom Now Suite, an album that combines jazz improvisation with concert hall composition.

In 1960 Priester made his first recordings as a band leader and then joined the Blue Note label as an in-demand session trombonist. While with Blue Note he recorded with Freddie Hubbard, McCoy Tyner, Sam Rivers, John Coltrane and others. In the early 70s Julian joined Herbie Hancock's legendary Sextet which combined spacey avant jazz with electronics and psychedic studio production. Splitting from Hancock in 73, Priester continued this style of progressive jazz fusion with two recordings of his own on the ECM label.

In the 80s and 90s Priester worked with Sun Ra's band again, as well as Dave Holland, Charlie Haden and others. In the late 90s he began to record under his own name again, and continues to do so to this day.

If you like Herbie Hancock's album Sextant, then you will most likely enjoy this as well. Julian Priester was a member of Hancock's Mwandishi line-up as well as having his own history in Jazz. Like the Mwandishi albums the music here is spacey, electric jazz. This type of music is sometimes referred to as "kosmigroove." Love, Love is slightly more traditional jazz than the Mwandishi albums. Priester's main instrument is trombone but here he also plays percussion and synthesizers. The only other Mwandishi member to appear here is Dr. Patrick Gleeson, who not only supplies the Moog and ARP synths he used on Crossings and Sextant, but a Oberheim digital sequencer which must have been straight off the assembly line.
I listened to the vinyl version of this album which has three tracks; the CD version has the last two songs as one track. To me, it seems like the middle song "Images" should be seperate from the last song. The title track features then Return To Forever guitarist Bill Connors, which is a great addition since there was no guitar on the Mwandishi albums. "Prologue / Love, Love" is similar to "Hornets" on Sextant. It starts with some orchestral jazz. The majority of this track is built around the funky odd-metered bassline. The drumming is great, repetative in a Can fashion. Basically a bunch of solos on modified wind instruments over a groove...but what an awesome groove it is.

Spacey effects on synths and whatnot come and go. Almost halfway you start hearing Mellotron strings which disappear and reappear throughout the remainder of the piece. Percussion becomes more noticeable over halfway. Towards the end the bass starts leaving more pauses and some fuzz gets applied to it. The music slowly dies out and ends. Compared to the last track, "Images" is more trad jazzy. Starts off with some free-form avant- jazz. Later more orchestral jazz. Then gets more spacey. Slowly the piece gets more dissonant. After 6 minutes the bass lays down a groove for the wind players to do avant solos over. The drums, meanwhile, are a little more varied. Lots of cacophony at the end.

"Eternal Words / Epilogue" ends the album on a very jazzy note. Certainly the least avant or rock sounding track. This begins with something wah-wahed and very jazzy piano and hi-hat. The beginning almost reminds me of pre-MDK Magma. Ends with more orchestral jazz. The first song is the best and the closest to the "kosmigroove" style. Unfortunately, Julian never made any more albums like this. I assume he is only on this site because of this album. But it's a great album. No Sextant, but close.

Donald Byrd - 1970 - Electric Byrd

Donald Byrd 
Electric Byrd

01. Estavanico
02. Essence
03. Xibaba
04. The Dude

Donald Byrd - trumpet
Jerry Dodgion - alto sax, soprano sax, and flute
Frank Foster - tenor saxophone and alto clarinet
Lew Tabackin - tenor saxophone and flute
Pepper Adams - baritone saxophone and clarinet
Bill Campbell - trombone
Hermeto Pascoal - flute (on "Xibaba" only)
Wally Richardson - guitar
Duke Pearson - electric piano
Ron Carter - bass
Mickey Roker - drums
Airto Moreira - percussion

Donald Byrd was considered one of the finest hard bop trumpeters of the post-Clifford Brown era. He recorded prolifically as both a leader and sideman from the mid-'50s into the mid-'60s, most often for Blue Note, where he established a reputation as a solid stylist with a clean tone, clear articulation, and a knack for melodicism. Toward the end of the '60s, Byrd became fascinated with Miles Davis' move into fusion, and started recording his own forays into the field. In the early '70s, with the help of brothers Larry and Fonce Mizell, Byrd perfected a bright, breezy, commercially potent take on fusion that was distinct from Davis, incorporating tighter arrangements and more of a smooth soul influence. Opinions on this phase of Byrd's career diverge wildly -- jazz purists utterly despised it, branding Byrd a sellout and the records a betrayal of talent, but enraptured jazz-funk fans regard it as some of the most innovative, enduring work of its kind. In fact, proportionately speaking, Byrd was held in even higher esteem by that audience than by straight-ahead jazz fans who enjoyed his hard bop output.

Donaldson Toussaint L'Ouverture Byrd II was born in Detroit, Michigan, on December 9, 1932. His father, a Methodist minister, was an amateur musician, and Byrd was already an accomplished trumpeter by the time he finished high school, having performed with Lionel Hampton. Byrd served a stint in the Air Force, during which time he played in a military band, and subsequently completed his bachelor's degree in music at Wayne State University in 1954. He moved to New York in 1955 to get his master's at the Manhattan School of Music, and soon began performing with pianist George Wallington's group. In December of that year, he was invited to join Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, filling a chair once held by his idol, Clifford Brown, and Kenny Dorham. Byrd also began his recording career during this period, leading several sessions (mostly for Savoy) and working often as a sideman, particularly at the Prestige label. He left the Jazz Messengers in 1956 and joined up with Max Roach; he went on to play with the likes of John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, and Red Garland, and also co-founded the Jazz Lab Quintet with altoist Gigi Gryce in 1957.

In 1958, Byrd signed an exclusive recording contract with Blue Note, and also formed a band with baritonist Pepper Adams, who would remain Byrd's regular partner until 1961. Byrd's Blue Note debut was 1958's Off to the Races, and he and Adams collaborated on a series of excellent hard bop dates over the next three years, including Byrd in Hand (1959), At the Half Note Cafe, Vols. 1-2 (1960), The Cat Walk (1961), and Royal Flush (also 1961), among others. Another 1961 recording, Free Form, found Byrd giving a young Herbie Hancock some of his earliest exposure. Following this burst of activity, Byrd took a sabbatical to continue his studies in Europe, where he spent some time under the tutelage of the legendary French music educator Nadia Boulanger. He returned to the U.S. in 1963 and recorded A New Perspective, a now-classic set that broke new ground by incorporating gospel choirs into its arrangements; its signature piece, "Cristo Redentor," became quite popular.

In the mid-'60s, Byrd focused more of his energies on teaching, and worked diligently to make jazz and its history a legitimate part of the college curriculum. He taught at Rutgers, Hampton, New York University, and Howard in the late '60s, and the last one remained a steady association for much of the '70s. In the meantime, Byrd continued to record occasionally, cutting a final spate of hard bop albums over 1966-1967 that included Mustang! and Blackjack. Byrd also began to study African music, inspired partly by the emerging black-consciousness movement, and became interested in Miles Davis' efforts to woo a younger audience (including Byrd's own students) by experimenting with electronics and funk rhythms. Released in 1969, Fancy Free found Byrd using electric piano for the first time, with a spacy sound that recalled Davis' In a Silent Way. Issued in 1970, Electric Byrd had more of a Bitches Brew flavor, and the jams on 1971's Ethiopian Knights were longer, funkier, and more aggressive.

Byrd truly came into his own as a fusion artist when he hooked up with brothers Larry and Fonce Mizell, who began to handle production, writing, and some musical support duties. Their first collaboration was 1972's Black Byrd, an upbeat, funky blend of jazz and R&B. Jazz critics detested the album and called Byrd all sorts of names, but the record was a smash hit; it became the biggest seller in Blue Note history, and just missed hitting number one on the R&B albums chart. In the wake of its success, Byrd formed a supporting group, the Blackbyrds, who were culled from the cream of his music students at Howard University and recorded through the rest of the '70s. Byrd went on to release a string of successful LPs in partnership with the Mizell Brothers, including the imaginary blaxploitation soundtrack Street Lady (1974), Stepping into Tomorrow (1975), the much-lauded Places and Spaces (1976), and Caricatures (1977). All made the Top Ten on the R&B album charts, and the Places and Spaces single "Change (Makes You Wanna Hustle)" even got substantial play in discotheques. Jazz-funk fans revere this period in general, but usually reserve their highest praise for Street Lady and, especially, Places and Spaces. As a side note to his musical career, Byrd finished law school in 1976, and went on to teach at North Carolina Central University.

Following Caricatures, Byrd parted ways with Blue Note and the Mizell Brothers and moved to Elektra. He recorded several albums over 1978-1983, but even the most commercially successful, 1978's Thank You...for F.U.M.L. (Funking Up My Life), didn't match the infectiousness of his Blue Note jazz-funk outings. In 1982, Byrd received his Ph.D. from Columbia Teachers College. He spent a few years in the mid-'80s away from recording, due in part to ill health, but continued to teach, moving on to North Texas State and Delaware State. In the late '80s and early '90s, Byrd returned to the hard bop of his early days on several sessions for the Landmark label. He participated in rapper Guru's Jazzmatazz project in 1993, and with the advent of the jazz-rap movement and England's acid jazz revival, his '70s albums became hugely popular sources for samples. In the meantime, Byrd continued his activities as a jazz educator. He died in February 2013 at the age of 80.

Donald Byrd's transitional sessions from 1969-1971 are actually some of the trumpeter's most intriguing work, balancing accessible, funky, Davis-style fusion with legitimate jazz improvisation. Electric Byrd, from 1970, is the best of the bunch, as Byrd absorbs the innovations of Bitches Brew and comes up with one of his most consistent fusion sets of any flavor. Byrd leads his largest fusion group yet (ten to 11 pieces), featuring many of his cohorts of the time (including Jerry Dodgion, Lew Tabackin, and Frank Foster on various woodwinds). Most important are electric pianist Duke Pearson, who once again dominates the arrangements, and percussionist Airto Moreira, who in places lends a strong Brazilian feel that predates Return to Forever. Moreira also contributes one of the four compositions, "Xibaba," which starts out as an airy Brazilian tune but morphs into a free-form effects extravaganza; the rest are Byrd originals that prove equally imaginative and diverse. The Brazilian-tinged opener "Estavanico" has a gentle, drifting quality that's often disrupted by jarring dissonances. There's also the shifting -- and sometimes even disappearing -- slow groove of "Essence," and the hard-edged, bop-based funk of "The Dude." Much of the album has a spacy, floating feel indebted to the psychedelic fusion of Bitches Brew; it's full of open-ended solo improvisations, loads of amplification effects, and striking sonic textures. The arrangements are continually surprising, and the band never works the same groove too long, switching or completely dropping the underlying rhythms. So even if it wears its influences on its sleeve, Electric Byrd is indisputably challenging, high-quality fusion. It's also the end of the line for jazz purists as far as Donald Byrd is concerned, which is perhaps part of the reason the album has yet to receive its proper due.

Miles Davis - 1969 - In A Silent Way

Miles Davis 
In A Silent Way

01. Shhh / Peaceful
02. In a Silent Way / It's About That Time

Miles Davis – trumpet
Wayne Shorter – soprano saxophone
John McLaughlin – electric guitar
Chick Corea – electric piano
Herbie Hancock – electric piano
Joe Zawinul – organ
Dave Holland – double bass
Tony Williams – drums

"Miles' audience isn't where it used to be but neither is his music" was used to market the new releases of Miles Davis' indefatigably changing music in the late 60's that caused seismic shifts in the world of jazz and completely had redirected it into new and fresh territories. In a career that stretched five decades Miles Davis did more than just become a star—this enigmatic 20th century icon fused an astonishing array of different musical styles, refused to be musically anchored in one place, broke down racial barriers, while demonstrating that the work of classical composers such as Debussy and Messianen, could be easily absorbed into the great black art of improvisation. It may sound simple, but nevertheless it's still true: He was many different things to many different people.

In the mid-60s, Miles career had peaked with his famed second quintet. At the time many had expected him to continue his days by doing the same thing—to play jazz music and to invent new styles along the way. This quintet brought Davis' characteristic mixture of modal and hard bop techniques to a peak of perfection until the group disbanded in 1968, by which his attention had begun to turn towards radical new paths.

Around that time, the 60's saw radical and exciting changes in the music climate in all genres and styles: rock and soul had won over huge audiences and cultural cachet. In classical music minimalism began to emerge as the new avant-garde with its hypnotic drones and repetition, that shifted away the attention from composer Schoenberg and Serialism. And in jazz, the New Thing, led by Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane and Cecil Taylor, also went further: they subverted, altered and changed the strict rules of jazz.

By 1968, Davis was into his 40s and the youth culture had been listening to popular music of the day from Motown soul and funk, to James Brown, Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone, and not so much acoustic contemporary jazz, regardless how good it was. As someone who has never opted for walking the beaten track he did something that the jazz elitists never forgave him: he connected with the youths and delved into the primitive world of rock music and started to incorporate electronic instruments, rock and funk rhythms into his music. He even used to hang out with Hendrix with whom he even planned a collaboration that never materialized because of guitarist's premature death.

Ten years after the watershed Kind of Blue, (Columbia, 1959), that changed the way people looked at jazz, Miles booked a Columbia label's studio but this time with a new concept. That concept was based on his old partner arranger Gil Evan's approach to textures, harmony and layering and he sketched pieces for multiple keyboards and funk rhythm patterns. His usual acoustic combo was augmented by electric pianists Herbie Hancock, Joe Zawinul and Chick Corea. A young guitarist named John McLaughlin, who had recently left London, was brought in by chance, and another Englishman, who was part of Miles' working band, was brought for the sessions, bassist Dave Holland. Over three days they recorded music that lingered between improvisation, composition, funk and rock grooves, and studio sorcery that producer Teo Macero had edited down to two album sides entitled In a Silent Way.

This is the point when Miles left conventional forms of jazz behind altogether, and moved into completely new ground. There are no rules to this music and the ethereal, after-hours mood is similar to that of Kind of Blue. What began as a simmering low-key pot of rhythmically driven sound became an intriguingly beautiful sound painting. "Shh/Peaceful" is a moody and restrained track, slowly opening with whispers of melodies, its textures shifting and blurring. The players pick up on each other, gently carrying the melodies or leaving them to quietly dissolve.

The title track summons all the emotional contemplation from Miles before he dives into the rock maelstrom of the album's closing fifteen minutes. The incredible trumpet sound that carves its way through an avalanche of shimmering keyboards and gentle guitar fills portrays a musician that wasn't afraid to unite black musical styles with the contemporary sounds of the day in his quest for melodic tranquility. And the sound of this this vinyl only reissue is pristine and beautiful, which adds to its allure, and the reissue mastering by engineer Allan Tucker, adds warmth and depth that the CD lacks. A real care has been taken about the sonics of the original record without simply forcing up the loudness and as a result squashing the dynamic range in order to suit the iPod generation.

This music was and still is as much an enigma as its maker. But In a Silent Way can tell people more about Miles Davis than Miles Davis could have. There is no doubt that Miles, as many times in his career, felt enervated, energized and refreshed by the youthful vigor and excitement around him, and the band was obviously eager to earn the maestro's favor.

With it, the concept of jazz fusion had been invented and Miles never glanced back. The record not only triggered the careers of many artists that participated in the making of this music but it also inspired countless of other artists and it nourished music that subsequently led to many crossovers and fusions of musics that are happening to this very day and will be happening for eons to come. In retrospective, it feels less of a seismic shift, and more of a new branch on a tree.

In A Silent Way Miles Davis Columbia
BY LESTER BANGS November 15, 1969

This is the kind of album that gives you faith in the future of music. It is not rock and roll, but it's nothing stereotyped as jazz either. All at once, it owes almost as much to the techniques developed by rock improvisors in the last four years as to Davis' jazz background. It is part of a transcendental new music which flushes categories away and, while using musical devices from all styles and cultures, is defined mainly by its deep emotion and unaffected originality.

Miles has always gone his own way, a musician of strength and dignity who has never made the compromise (so poisonous to jazz now) with "pop" fads. It is a testimony to his authenticity that he has never worried about setting styles either, but continued his deeply felt experiment for two decades now. Albums like Miles Ahead, Kind of Blue and Sketches of Spain simply do not get old, and contain some of the most moving experiences that any music has to offer. In his new album, the best he has made in some time, he turns to "space music" and a reverent, timeless realm of pure song, the kind of music which comes along ever so often and stops us momentarily, making us think that this perhaps is the core around which all of our wayward musical highways have revolved, the primal yet futuristic and totally uncontrived sound which gives the deepest, most lasting sustenance to our souls, the living contemporary definition of great art.

The songs are long jams with a minimum of preplanned structure. That they are so cohesive and sustained is a testament to the experience and sensitivity of the musicians involved. Miles' lines are like shots of distilled passion, the kind of evocative, liberating riffs that decades of strivers build their styles on. Aside from Charles Mingus, there is no other musician alive today who communicates such a yearning, controlled intensity, the transformation of life's inchoate passions and tensions into aural adventures that find a permanent place in your consciousness and influence your basic definitions of music. And his sidemen also rise to the occasion, most of them playing better than I have ever heard them before. Certainly Herbie Hancock (piano), Wayne Shorter (tenor sax), and Joe Zawinul (organ) have never seemed so transported. The miracle of jazz is that a great leader can bring merely competent musicians to incredible heights of inspiration —; Mingus has always been famous for this, and Miles has increasingly proven himself a master of this incredibly delicate art.

The first side is taken up by a long jam called "Shhh/Peaceful." Tony Williams' cymbal-and-brush work and the subtle arabesques of Zawinul's organ set a space trip, a mood of suspended time and infinite interior vistas. But when Miles enters, the humanity and tenderness of his trumpet's soft cries are enough to bring you tears. I've heard that when he was making this album, Miles had been listening to Jimi Hendrix and Sly and the Family Stone, but the feeling here is closer to something like "2000 Light Years From Home" by the Stones. It is space music, but with an overwhelmingly human component that makes it much more moving and enduring than most of its rock counterparts.

Side two opens and closes with the best song on the album, a timeless trumpet prayer called "In a Silent Way." There has always been something eternal and pure in Miles' music, and this piece captures that quality as well as anything he's ever recorded. If, as I believe, Miles is an artist for the ages, then this piece will be among those that stand through those vast tracks of time to remind future generations of the oneness of human experience.

Between the two takes of "Silent Way" lies "It's About That Time," a terse, restrained space jam somewhat reminiscent of the one on the first side but a bit sharper, allowing more of Miles' fierce blues ethos to burn through. This is the one that might be connected to Miles' interest in Hendrix and Sly.

They say that jazz has become menopausal, and there is much truth in the statement. Rock too seems to have suffered under a numbing plethora of standardized Sounds. But I believe there is a new music in the air, a total art which knows no boundaries or categories, a new school run by geniuses indifferent to fashion. And I also believe that the ineluctable power and honesty of their music shall prevail. Miles Davis is one of those geniuses.

Listening to Miles Davis' originally released version of In a Silent Way in light of the complete sessions released by Sony in 2001 (Columbia Legacy 65362) reveals just how strategic and dramatic a studio construction it was. If one listens to Joe Zawinul's original version of "In a Silent Way," it comes across as almost a folk song with a very pronounced melody. The version Miles Davis and Teo Macero assembled from the recording session in July of 1968 is anything but. There is no melody, not even a melodic frame. There are only vamps and solos, grooves layered on top of other grooves spiraling toward space but ending in silence. But even these don't begin until almost ten minutes into the piece. It's Miles and McLaughlin, sparely breathing and wending their way through a series of seemingly disconnected phrases until the groove monster kicks in. The solos are extended, digging deep into the heart of the ethereal groove, which was dark, smoky, and ashen. McLaughlin and Hancock are particularly brilliant, but Corea's solo on the Fender Rhodes is one of his most articulate and spiraling on the instrument ever. The A-side of the album, "Shhh/Peaceful," is even more so. With Tony Williams shimmering away on the cymbals in double time, Miles comes out slippery and slowly, playing over the top of the vamp, playing ostinato and moving off into more mysterious territory a moment at a time. With Zawinul's organ in the background offering the occasional swell of darkness and dimension, Miles could continue indefinitely. But McLaughlin is hovering, easing in, moving up against the organ and the trills by Hancock and Corea; Wayne Shorter hesitantly winds in and out of the mix on his soprano, filling space until it's his turn to solo. But John McLaughlin, playing solos and fills throughout (the piece is like one long dreamy solo for the guitarist), is what gives it its open quality, like a piece of music with no borders as he turns in and through the commingling keyboards as Holland paces everything along. When the first round of solos ends, Zawinul and McLaughlin and Williams usher it back in with painterly decoration and illumination from Corea and Hancock. Miles picks up on another riff created by Corea and slips in to bring back the ostinato "theme" of the work. He plays glissando right near the very end, which is the only place where the band swells and the tune moves above a whisper before Zawinul's organ fades it into silence. This disc holds up, and perhaps is even stronger because of the issue of the complete sessions. It is, along with Jack Johnson and Bitches Brew, a signature Miles Davis session from the electric era.

Miles Davis
The Complete In A Silent Way Sessions

101. Mademoiselle Mabry
102. Frelon Brun
103. Two Faced
104. Dual Mr. Anthony Tillmon Williams Process
105. Splash: Interlude 1/Interlude 2/Interlude 3
106. Splashdown: Interlude 1 (no horns)/Interlude 2 (no horns)

201. Ascent
202. Directions, I
203. Directions, II
204. Shhh/Peaceful
205. In a Silent Way
206. In a Silent Way
207. It's About That Time

301. The Ghetto Walk
302. Early Minor
303. Shhh/Peaceful/Shhh
304. In a Silent Way/It's About That Time/In a Silent Way

Miles Davis – trumpet
Wayne Shorter – tenor saxophone (Disc 1: All), soprano saxophone
John McLaughlin – electric guitar (Disc 2: Tracks 4-7; Disc 3: All)
Chick Corea – electric piano
Herbie Hancock – electric piano
Joe Zawinul – organ (Disc 2; Disc 3)
Dave Holland – double bass
Tony Williams – drums
Jack DeJohnette – drums (Disc 2: Tracks 1-3)
Joe Chambers – drums (Disc 3: Tracks 1 and 2)

Recorded September 24, 1968-February 20, 1969

Of all the recording sessions completed by Miles Davis with his various bands, the sessions surrounding In a Silent Way Sessions in 1968 and 1969 are easily the most mysterious and enigmatic. For starters, they signified the completion of his transformation from acoustic to electric sound, and secondly, they marked the complete dissolution of the "second" quintet of Davis, Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams, Wayne Shorter, and Ron Carter that had begun on Filles de Kilimanjaro. The addition of Chick Corea as a second keyboard player and the replacement of Ron Carter with Dave Holland had changed the sound of the band's dynamic, textural, and rhythmic palettes. The final break with Davis' own previous musical sound happened when he added guitarist John McLaughlin and keyboardist/composer Joe Zawinul (for a temporary three-keyboard sound).
The music on the In a Silent Way Sessions comes packaged three ways, all of it chronologically ordered: there is the material used to finish Filles de Kilimanjaro ("Mademoiselle Maby" and "Freon Brun"); material that has been, up until now, unissued in any form; session outtakes that appeared, in edited form, on Circle in the Round, Water Babies, and Directions; unissued and rejected takes; and finally, the music recorded for In a Silent Way itself as it was rehearsed, played, and finally, heavily edited into the released album, which also appears here.
This was an ambitious undertaking, even if it only covered six months in the recording life of Davis (September 1968 through February 1969), whose musical inspirations and directions were crisscrossing as they were changing direction. With the exception of one tune, Davis or Zawinul composed everything here. Zawinul, though a jazz veteran, was discovering new ways to write -- particularly since the advent of the electric piano -- and proved to be a profound influence on his employer. The other heavy influence on Davis during this volatile, fertile period was Tony Williams, who was soaking up the pop music of the day, from the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's album (via a girlfriend's suggestion) to the in-his-prime James Brown, to Jimi Hendrix.
On disc one the set begins with the missing tracks from the quintet box set: "Mademoiselle Mabry" and "Frelon Brun." Hearing them in this context, as the first complete expressions of Davis' new sound, is revelatory. For the first time the three-chord vamp in "Mademoiselle Mabry" comes across as the fitting tribute to Hendrix it should have been, echoing the turnaround tags in "The Wind Cries Mary." These tracks mark the entrance of Dave Holland into the band and the first marked absence of Hancock. The contrast in styles, from Hancock's chunky, groove-laden chords and single-note runs and Corea's deep, cerebral spaciousness, is remarkable; it's a wonder they were issued on the same record at all. The simple, slow jam riff the former tune evokes was, in some way, the cornerstone on which the material for these sessions would be built, while the latter provided the space and pace for its establishment.
The elegantly spaced-out "Two Faced" and "Dual Mr. Anthony Tillmon Williams Process" were recorded as a sextet with Hancock. Both tunes are a showcase for the interplay between both keyboardists and Holland, whose near-mystical lyricism was exactly what Davis was looking for in a bass player -- one who could change the role of the instrument in an ensemble setting. The loose-jam feeling on these tunes could be heard by some as meandering, but it would be shortsighted to assume this for the entire picture. The various extrapolations on blues-feel and meter -- moving them into modal settings and then deconstructing these for a streamlined, open music that allowed for both improvisation and direct musical interplay between various members -- were integral, and created in Davis' music a space that changed jazz forever.
Disc one ends with the full version of "Splash" that appeared on Circle in the Round. Here, all of its four interludes are included after the unedited version of the tune. All of the interludes were recorded as scripted fragments with no improvisation and featured Hancock playing electric harpsichord and Corea on organ. Lastly we get "Splashdown," the first Davis recording that features Zawinul and the three-keyboard lineup. Here, too, the track was unissued and one has to wonder why because the dialogue between the three principals, and Holland and Williams, is remarkable -- Davis is all but absent, but it hardly matters as Shorter covers his territory well. With two electric pianos and an organ, the tune is so psychedelic and fat; full of a kind of inherent funkiness brought by the rhythm section, and Shorter underscores the jazz element in his solo by taking two cues from Coltrane and turning them into modal paragraphs. Both interludes that follow the tune were also rejected.
Disc two is where the In a Silent Way project begins in earnest. The next set is from the album issued in 1981 as Directions. The three tracks that comprise it reveal just how far Davis was willing to take the massive keyboard section. With slow, drifting, methodical improvisation concerned more with the development of sound and texture than riffs and intervals, the Davis group drifts through "Ascent," with Zawinul keeping the color hushed and silvery as Hancock improvises and Corea plays a series of modulated, though very subtle, changes. The most noticeable change is on the driving "Directions," both pieces one and two. Williams has been replaced, for this session at least, with Jack DeJohnette, and the driving, slippery force of DeJohnette's drumming with Shorter's precisely punctuated soprano solo is overwhelming in its glorious intensity. These are both unedited takes, recorded as they happened without studio trickery from Teo Macero. The second take is slower, more defined; the intimate speech that developed between Shorter and Zawinul here offers a first glimpse of the sound that would be the genesis of Weather Report a little over a year later. For the time being, largely due to the intuitive improvisation of DeJohnette's drumming, the sound of "Directions" was a rock sound with wild intervalic fanfare and slippery rhythms shifting under the explosive interplay between soloists and ensemble.
From the middle to the end of disc two, the In a Silent Way project begins to take shape. The first version of "Shhh/Peaceful" rings with the presence of John McLaughlin's guitar. The first version is a bit faster from the jump than the one released later -- and heavily edited. There is no chord structure to the tune; there's just a small groove figure with solo vamps appearing all over it. The bassline is doubled by Corea's electric piano; Hancock's silky piano accompaniment fills in the shapes. The hi-hat and McLaughlin's guitar shimmer colors and nuances as Davis enters with the only solo he could play to such beautiful accompaniment. There is an accented chordal passageway from the middle to the end where Zawinul enters, creating a series of overtones with his organ that lend a spectral, eerie presence to the proceedings. It dissolves eventually, only to give way to the intro to Zawinul's gorgeous "In a Silent Way/It's About That Time." The rehearsal version has a ton of chords compared to the way it was written; they were added as coloration devices to involve the instrumentalists in a deeper way. First, there is the reductionism of McLaughlin playing the melody in just one chord, and then Davis and Shorter enter to play over the Rhodes and doubled bassline.
When the early recorded versions are set in place, and McLaughlin opens the tune, you can feel how much the tune has developed from the rehearsal tape. The pace is tortoise-like; everything is gone from the mix, and there's just that guitar with Zawinul eventually adding his organ and Hancock slinking his piano into the intervals. When the band does enter, it's via Shorter's sweet, singing soprano rather than Davis' trumpet. It's reduced to essence as a melodic frame with no foundation to hook onto, as transitory and elegant as it is beautiful.
The suspended vamp that begins "It's About That Time" is a floating one; it never anchors itself to either E-or F-sharp. Hancock offers the chords and Corea and Zawinul join him, playing shifting, ghostly fills before McLaughlin jumps in and doubles the keyboards sleepily with a bluesy graciousness. The piece was recorded in sections, so everything we hear has an illusory quality to it, because Macero edited it all into one tune. Solos and density structures mark the individual takes; Hancock and McLaughlin deconstruct tonalities in favor of sound, creating overtonal ambiences.
The rest of the set offers finished, wonderfully remastered versions of both "In a Silent Way/It's About That Time" and "Shhh/Peaceful": those that appeared on the original LP. Bob Belden's revealing, insightful, and authoritative liner notes tell the fascinating story of how the recorded tracks were edited into final versions, so we won't go into it here. But the two other tracks recorded with the same band minus Tony Williams -- replaced by Joe Chambers, of all people -- are both unissued: "The Ghetto Walk" and "Early Minor." Both are deeply Hendrix-influenced, using his choice of keys and a series of sevenths around E-flat, B-flat, and A-flat, and finally shifting themselves, in transmuted form, to the big daddy of all rock keys, E. Both of these tracks, filled with space, blues, rock, and killer piano and organ fills, are rhythmically carried by Holland and danced through the pocket by Chambers, who, while not as muscular as either Williams or DeJohnette, was more nuanced as a blues player, which is what these two awesome numbers called for, as they turned out to be -- especially "Ghetto Walk" -- the precursors to the material that would be recorded for Jack Johnson a year later.
There is nothing extra in this set in terms of fluff, viscera, or detritus. All of the material included from these sessions offers perhaps the most fascinating look to date into the musical mind of Miles Davis, who was undergoing a revolution of his own -- he looked to the younger players for inspiration and guidance in how to handle the new forms; the liner notes bear this atypical personification out. Each track is an audible step in that development, and a step toward the goal of what would be the first Miles Davis "groove" album -- not in the Blue Note sense of the vernacular -- one of atmosphere and ambience and texture and drift -- not of melodies and changes. The package is handsome and well-illustrated to be sure, but the music alone is worth the package price. In many ways -- far more so than the Bitches Brew sessions -- this is the long-sought key that unlocks the door to the room that has the answers as to why and how Davis made such a complete break with his own music on In a Silent Way -- a music which he never returned to -- at least on record. It's the first box set in a long time that's been worth playing from beginning to end.

Norma Winstone - 1972 - Edge of Time

Norma Winstone
Edge of Time

01. Edge Of Time
02. Perkins Landing
03. Enjoy This Day
04. Erebus (Son Of Chaos)
05. Songs For A Child
06. Shadows
07. Song Of Love

Alto Saxophone, Clarinet – Mike Osborne (tracks: A2, A3, B1)
Bass – Chris Laurence (tracks: A1 to B1, B3, B4)
Drums – Tony Levin (2) (tracks: A1 to B1, B3)
Flute – Alan Skidmore (tracks: B4)
Guitar – Gary Boyle (tracks: B1)
Piano, Electric Piano – John Taylor (2) (tracks: A1 to B3)
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone – Alan Skidmore (tracks: A1 to A3, B1)
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Flute, Bass Clarinet – Art Themen (tracks: A1 to B2, B4)
Trombone – Chris Pyne (tracks: A2, A3, B1), Malcolm Griffiths (tracks: A1 to A3, B1)
Trombone, Euphonium – Paul Rutherford (2) (tracks: A1 to B1)
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Henry Lowther (tracks: A1 to B1, B3, B4), Kenny Wheeler (tracks: A2, A3, B1)
Vibraphone – Frank Ricotti (tracks: A1, B4)
Voice – Norma Winstone

Norma Winstone has a lissome voice, agile and expressive, and she's a fine improviser as well. That's not to say she's a vocal athlete, however; although she's known for her wordless improvisations, Winstone is a fine interpreter of lyrics and composed melody -- a plain-speaking, rhythmically direct singer who gets to the heart of the matter quickly and effectively.

Winstone played piano and organ in her youth. She began singing semi-professionally by the age of 17, influenced by conventional jazz vocalists. During the '60s she became attracted to the jazz avant-garde. She played in groups led by pianists Michael Garrick and Mike Westbrook; she also sang with such forward-thinking musicians as saxophonist John Surman, flügelhornist Kenny Wheeler, composer Michael Gibbs, and pianist John Taylor (whom she married in 1972). A late-'60s gig at Ronnie Scott's club in London (also on the bill was the legendary tenor saxophonist Roland Kirk) garnered her critical notice. In 1971 she was named best jazz singer in a poll by the British publication Melody Maker. That year, she recorded her first album as leader, Edge of Time, for the Decca label. With Wheeler and Taylor, Winstone formed Azimuth, a critically acclaimed contemporary chamber jazz group that recorded several times for the ECM label starting in the mid-'70s. Winstone is also an accomplished lyricist, having written words to music composed by guitarists Egberto Gismonti and Ralph Towner, bassist Steve Swallow, and vocalist Ivan Lins, among others.

Winstone has also performed and/or recorded in ensembles with Jimmy Rowles, Lee Konitz, Tony Coe, Fred Hersch, John Abercrombie, Dave Holland, Peter Erskine, and George Mraz. In 1992 she collaborated with composer/arranger Steve Gray in the creation of "A French Folk Song Suite," commissioned and performed by the North German Radio big band. She is also a member of Wheeler's big band. In July 2002 she was awarded the title Best Vocalist at the BBC Jazz Awards at London's Queen Elizabeth Hall. That same year, she released the album Chamber Music with pianist Glauco Venier. Winstone next returned in 2006 with Amoroso... Only More So featuring the Stan Tracey trio. Winstone then paired for two more albums with Venier, including 2007's Distances and 2009's Stories Yet to Tell. In 2013 Winstone delivered the album Mirrors with longtime collaborator Wheeler. The trio album Dance Without Answer, featuring Venier, appeared on ECM in 2014.

This album features many of the most significant musicians in British jazz of the late 1960s and 70s. It also benefits from imaginative compositions and arrangements by John Taylor, John Warren, Neil Ardley, John Surman and Norma Winstone herself.

The opening, title track written by Taylor and Winstone is a memorable exploration of both arrangement and improvisation in equal measure. A tentative beginning gives way to a dynamic brass arrangement accompanying a lyrical song, Winstone's voice ever-soaring and whooping. By contrast, the second track "Perkins Landing," a ballad by Warren and Winstone is a quieter affair with satisfying brass arrangement, featuring solos by Winstone and notably, Malcolm Griffiths on trombone.

"Enjoy this Day," the longest track, again penned by Taylor and Winstone, encapsulates the zeitgeist of this special but brief period in British jazz, evoking at various times the music of Mike Westbrook, Michael Garrick and Ian Carr—all of whom featured Winstone's vocals on at least one of their albums—and here Winstone introduces some of her remarkable wordless singing to be found on Westbrook's underrated masterpiece Metropolis. An outstanding track which sandwiches dynamic arrangements with vocal and trumpet solos by Winstone and Kenny Wheeler, with still some room for a brief but powerful foray by Tony Levin on typically scintillating drums.

Alan Skidmore's ethereal flute, accompanied, by piano and bass, heralds a plangent opening to "Erebus (Son of Chaos)" slowly building into a high octane number with strident, haunting brass ensemble passages, vocal ululating improvisation, and on this track only, Gary Boyle on electric guitar. The culmination of a repeated riff in the final passage of this powerful composition perfectly typifies the writing skills of John Surman at his best.

On the short "Songs for a Child," an Annie Ross-like opening soon evolves into elegant wordless singing over a background of piano and Art Themen's lilting soprano saxophone duetting with the voice. The diffident vocal opening of the penultimate track "Shadows" transmutes into a fast paced rhythmical outing showcasing Henry Lowther's deft trumpet soloing, whilst the whole track is embellished by Winstone's masterly, tonally flexible vocals. The final, short track, "Song of Love" is a gentle ballad featuring voice and a drum-less quintet comprising flute, bass clarinet, trumpet, vibes and bass.

This is a very welcome digipak reissue of a notable album, for too long unavailable. Not for nothing was Norma Winstone voted top female singer for three years running in the Melody Maker jazz polls from 1971-1973, and this, her first solo album, originally released in 1972, is surely one of the reasons.

Mel Brown - 1973 - Big Foot Country Girl

Mel Brown
Big Foot Country Girl

01. Need Love
02. Home Folks
03. Red Cross Store
04. Little Girl, Don't You Know
05. Big Foot Country Girl
06. Goin' Down Slow
07. Stinging Bea

Recorded Jan 1973 at The Village Recorder, LA, and subsequently sweetened there.
Mixed Aug 1973 at Westlake Audio, LA

Accordion – Mel Brown (tracks: B3)
Acoustic Guitar – Mel Brown (tracks: A2)
Alto Saxophone – Lorenzo Carnegie (tracks: A1, A3 to B3)
Baritone Saxophone – Tobie Butler (tracks: A1, A3 to B3)
Bass [Fender] – Jimmie Calhoun
Clavinet – Jimmy Davis (tracks: A2, A3, B3), Mel Brown (tracks: A1, B1)
Congas – Bobbye Hall (tracks: A1, B1)
Drums – Jeff Osborne (tracks: A3, B3), Leonard Tarver (tracks: A1, A2, A4 to B2)
Guitar – Mel Brown (tracks: A1, A3 to B3)
Organ – Jimmy Davis (tracks: A1)
Piano – Jimmy Davis (tracks: A4 to B2)
Tenor Saxophone – Onion Miller (tracks: A1, A3 to B3)
Trombone – Jake Riley (tracks: A1, A3 to B3)
Trumpet – Carle Vickers (tracks: A1, A3 to B3), Jeff Osborne (tracks: A1, A3 to B3)
Vocals – Mel Brown (tracks: A4, B2)

Musically, it's what you usually get from a Mel Brown album, meaning a bluesy, funky and soulful mix, with a very down-home kind of sound.

Mel Brown - 1970 - Mel Brown's Fifth

Mel Brown 
Mel Brown's Fifth

01. Time For A Change
02. Good Stuff
03. Seven Forty-Seven (Airport Blues)
04. Luv Potion
05. Drifting Blues
06. Cheap At Half The Price
07. Home Made
08. Gimme A Little Slack

Alto Saxophone – Lorenzo Carnegie (tracks: A1, A2, B3)
Baritone Saxophone – Tobie Butler (tracks: A1, A2, B3)
Drums – Jeff Osborne (tracks: A1 to B3)
Electric Piano – Mel Brown (tracks: A3 to B3)
Guitar – Mel Brown (tracks: A1 to B3)
Organ, Bass [Keyboard] – Jimmy Davis (tracks: A1 to B3)
Tenor Saxophone – Onion Miller (tracks: A1, A2, B3)
Trombone – Jake Riley (tracks: A1, A2, B3)
Trumpet – Carle Vickers (tracks: A1, A2, B3)
Piano [Electric] – Clifford Coulter (A1)

(A1, A2, B3, B4) Recorded 21 Oct 1970 at United Recordings, LA
(A3 - B2) Recorded 23 Oct 1970 at ABC Recording Studios, LA

Back to the blues based guitar licks and the funky grooves, some blowing horns and jazzy improvisational parts & funny looped endings on both sides of the lp, really good stuff!

MEL BROWN learned the guitar while fighting against the meningitis when he was a kind. He spent hours and days to follow his father's footsteps and play the Blues.

He began his musical career as a musician for Bobby Bland and released his first LP in 1967 on Impulse.

He doesn't play "regular traditional old-fashioned Delta Blues" but a contemporary blend of Soul Blues where you can find, piece by piece, most of his influences.

"Luv Potion" is the last track on side one, a 10+ minute instrumental that gives a good idea of how this album sounds like : it's soulful, bluesy, jazzy and hot!

Not to mention the absolutely awesome gatefold cover...

Mel Brown ‎- 1969 - I'd Rather Suck My Thumb

Mel Brown
I'd Rather Suck My Thumb

01. I'd Rather Suck My Thumb
02. Scorpio
03. Eighteen Pounds Of Unclean Chitlings
04. You Got Me Hummin'
05. Do Your Thing
06. Troubles
07. Dixie

Bass [Fender] – Bob West
Drums – Greg Ferber
Electric Piano – Clifford Coulter
Guitar, Vocals – Mel Brown
Harmonica – Matthew Kelly
Organ – Clifford Coulter (tracks: A1 to A3, B2 to B4), Johnny Carswell (tracks: B1)

One of the bluesiest of Mel Brown's funky guitar records for Impulse. The album includes some very stripped-down performances that highlight Mel's deep soulful guitar style, and the nice groovy keyboards of Clifford Coulter. Mel sings a bit, but not much, and the best tracks are the long trippy instrumentals. Titles include "18 Pounds Of Unclean Chitlins", "You Got Me Hummin", "Scorpio" (not the Dennis Coffey version), and the funky funky "Do Your Thing", which has a tight Isleys groove.

Mel Brown - 1969 - Blues For We

Mel Brown
Blues For We

01. Twist & Shout
02. Blues For We
03. Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da
04. Son Of A Preacher Man
05. Set Me Free
06. Freaky Zeke
07. Indian Giver
08. Stranger On The Shore

Mel Brown - guitar, vocals
Abraham Miller - drums
Unidentified horns and strings

Kind of In-Sound album to catch the spirit of the moment with pop hits, orchestrated parts & horns but still the outstanding guitar of Mel Brown is there in the mix!

Mel Brown - 1968 - The Wizard

Mel Brown 
The Wizard

01. Ode To Billie Joe
02. Swamp Fever
03. Blues After Hours
04. African Sweets
05. Stop
06. Chunk A Funk
07. Miss Ann
08. W-2 Withholding

Mel Brown, Terry Evans (guitar)
Mack Johnston (trumpet)
Clifford Solomon (tenor sax)
unknown (piano, organ)
Ronald Brown (bass)
Paul Humphrey (drums)
Roy Brown (vocals)

 The Wizard is a straight-ahead soul-jazz date picking up where Chicken Fat left off with a few originals alongside funky renditions of “Ode to Billie Joe” and Pee Wee Crayton’s R&B hit of the late '40s “Blues After Hours.” Blues for We relies more on an interesting selection of cover versions ranging from “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” and “Son of a Preacher Man” to the bubblegum staple by the 1910 Fruitgum Company “Indian Giver” and Acker Bilk’s “Stranger on the Shore,” which was the theme of a BBC television drama. Brown’s guitar work on both sessions is fluid and greasy, as are the funky drum licks, but occasionally, the arrangements drift into superior background music.

Mel Brown - 1967 - Chicken Fat

Mel Brown
Chicken Fat

01. Chicken Fat
02. Greasy Spoon
03. Home James
04. Anacrusis
05. Hobo Flats
06. Shanty
07. Sad But True
08. I'm Goin' To Jackson
09. Slalom

*Mel Brown - Guitars
*Ronald Brown - Bass
*Paul Humphrey - Drums
*Gerald Wiggins - Organ
*Herb Ellis - Guitar (on Tracks 1, 2, 3, 7 & 8)
*Arthur Wright - Guitar (on Tracks 4, 5, 6 & 9)

Recorded in Hollywood, California on 31 May & 1 June, 1967.

Best known for his decade-plus stint in support of Bobby "Blue" Bland, Mel Brown channeled elements of soul, funk, and jazz to create one of the most distinctive guitar styles in contemporary blues. Born October 7, 1939, in Jackson, MS, Brown received his first guitar at the age of 14 while battling meningitis, spending hours each day studying the music of idols like B.B. King and T-Bone Walker from his sickbed. His father, John Henry "Bubba" Brown, a gifted amateur guitarist who often backed Delta legend Tommy Johnson, was another seminal influence. After recovering from his illness, Brown joined the Duke Juniors, a teenaged spinoff of the popular local society band the Duke Huddleston Orchestra. Word of his prodigious abilities spread quickly throughout the region, and at 15, he played a series of gigs backing the great Sonny Boy Williamson. After a brief stint in Los Angeles, Brown returned to Jackson in 1955, honing his skills under Huddleston before permanently settling in L.A. three years later. After a six-month stretch with West Coast R&B singer Jimmy Beasley, Brown spent two years backing R&B great Johnny Otis. In late 1960, he toured with the Olympics, followed by a two-year tour of duty with the great Etta James. Most significantly, while touring with James he swapped his Les Paul for a hollow-bodied Gibson ES-175, later crediting the instrument for the warm, rich tone that set him apart from rival guitarists.

By 1963 the grind of touring forced Brown off the road. He returned to L.A. and resumed his collaboration with Otis, enjoying an extended residency at the Club Sands. He also launched a session career, playing on records by everyone from Bobby Darin to Bill Cosby as well as T-Bone Walker's Funky Town LP. His contributions so impressed ABC/Impulse! producer Bob Thiele that he invited Brown to cut his own album for the label: 1967's Chicken Fat, a wonderfully greasy blues-funk outing pairing Brown with fellow guitarist Herb Ellis, remains a cult classic. A series of impressive LPs including The Wizard, I'd Rather Suck My Thumb, and Big Foot Country Gal followed in quick succession before Brown joined Bland in 1971, appearing on the singer's classic California Album two years later. During his stint with Bland, the guitarist also moonlighted behind blues legends John Lee Hooker, Lightnin' Hopkins, and Roy Brown, and in 1976 he relocated to Nashville, where he maintained an even busier session schedule than in Los Angeles. Upon resuming his collaboration with Bland, Brown made the decision to temporarily abandon guitar in favor of the piano. He remained with the singer until 1982, putting his performing career on hiatus and moving to remote northeast Mississippi in an attempt to escape the music business.

Brown resurfaced in 1983 as a member of the house band at the legendary Austin, TX, blues joint Antone's. In the years to follow, he backed everyone from Buddy Guy to Stevie Ray Vaughan to Clifton Chenier. In 1986, he accepted Albert Collins' offer to join his band the Icebreakers, recording the acclaimed LP Cold Snap before returning to Antone's. In 1989, he resumed his solo career with If It's All Night, It's All Right, released on the club's eponymous label. A few months later Brown headlined the Kitchener, Ontario, venue the Pop-the-Gator Club, finding the experience so much to his liking that he relocated to Canada in early 1990. There he formed a new band, the Homewreckers, and steadily toured the southern Ontario nightclub circuit, finally reappearing on wax in 1998 as a guest on Snooky Pryor's Can't Stop Blowin'. Brown's Electro-Fi label debut, Neck Bones & Caviar, followed a year later, winning the W.C. Handy Award for Blues Comeback of the Year. With 2000's co-headlined Double Shot!, he and Pryor earned a W.C. Handy nomination for Traditional Blues Album of the Year. The concert disc Homewreckin' Done Live followed a year later. After another five-year layoff from recording, Brown issued Blues: A Beautiful Thing in early 2006.

Mississippi-born, West Coast-based guitarist Mel Brown flexed his slinky fingers with blues god T-Bone Walker before going out on his own for this seriously funky 1967 session. The hot studio band here also includes versatile L.A. pianist Gerald Wiggins and none other than six-string legend Herb Ellis, who dishes up fiery exchanges with Brown on the backbone-slipping “Greasy Spoon” and the Down-South, down-home title cut. In addition to handling arrangements on the date, composer supreme Oliver Nelson (“Stolen Moments”) contributed two tunes; the tricky, frenetic “Anacrusis” and the wah-wah-covered “Hobo Flats.”

But it’s the blues that form the rich and juicy marrow of Brown’s soulful style, and Chicken Fat’s pair of late-night, down-tempo workouts—the sultry original “Home James” and the Ellis-composed “I’m Goin’ to Jackson”—will have you licking your lips with deep delight. Guitar chops meet pork chops on this gorgeous gatefold repress of the original Impulse! LP, one that’s sure to water the mouths of not only jazz and blues fans but of anyone who can’t get enough of that good ol’ raw, funky, Booker T.-style soul. Pass the sauce!

If you're into Booker T. & The MGs, Grant Greens funkiest stuff("Alive!"), John Lee Hooker,
Lou Donaldson or just like tight and smokin' grooves, then this has more than enough fat
chicken and guitar chops on it, to keep you satisfied for weeks.

I didn't even know who Mel Brown was before I stumbled over this album, and after listening
to it a couple of times I couldn't believe that I never even heard of the man, because this
is one of those rare albums where the quality NEVER drops and the groove just keep on building.
I just don't get it.

This could be almost anybodys bag. It's rooted in the blues, but brings R&B, funk and soul,
rock n roll, cool organ work and some incredible guitar exchanges.

Tight! Mellow! Cookin'! Raw!

I really hope that some of his other stuff from this period gets reissued, because if it brings the
same amount of juice, it needs to be squeezed.

Cornell Dupree - 1974 - Teasin'

Cornell Dupree

01. Teasin' 3:54
02. Blue Nocturne 5:15
03. Jamaican Lady 3:52
04. Feel All Right 3:18
05. How Long Will It Last 3:21
06. What Would I Do Without You? 5:47
07. Okie Dokie Stomp 2:47
08. Plain Ol' Blues 8:12

Guitar, Sitar – Cornell Dupree
Baritone Saxophone – Seldon Powell (tracks: A4 to B4), Trevor Koehler (tracks: A1 to A3)
Bass – Chuck Rainey
Drums – Bernard Purdie
Keyboards – Richard Tee (tracks: A1 to A3, B1, B3 to B4)
Percussion – Ralph MacDonald
Piano – George Stubbs (tracks: B2), Paul Griffin (tracks: A4)
Tenor Saxophone – David Newman (tracks: A1 to A3), Joe Farrell (tracks: A4 to B4), Seldon Powell (tracks: A1 to A3)
Trombone – Garnett Brown
Trumpet – Ernie Royal (tracks: A4 to B4), Joe Newman, Jon Faddis (tracks: A1 to A3)

A veteran of over 2,500 recording sessions, guitarist Cornell Dupree worked most prolifically in R&B and blues, but he was equally at home in jazz, particularly funky fusion and soul-jazz. Dupree was born in Fort Worth, TX, in 1942, and by the age of 20 was playing in King Curtis' R&B group. He became a session musician soon after, playing on Brook Benton's "Rainy Night in Georgia," as well as records by stars like Lou Rawls, Paul Simon, Barbra Streisand, Harry Belafonte, Lena Horne, Roberta Flack, Joe Cocker, Michael Bolton, Mariah Carey, and countless others. Dupree was also a member of Aretha Franklin's touring band from 1967-1976, and during that time also became a presence on many jazz-funk recordings, the sort that would find favor with rare groove and acid jazz fans in the years to come. Dupree's first jazz session as a leader was 1974's Teasin', which was followed by Saturday Night Fever in 1977, and Shadow Dancing in 1978. During the same period, Dupree was a member of the studio-musician fusion supergroup Stuff, which signed with Warner Bros. in 1975 and recorded four albums. They also reunited periodically in the '80s and spawned a mid-'80s spin-off group called the Gadd Gang, which Dupree also belonged to. Some of Dupree's most rewarding jazz albums came in the late '80s and early '90s; 1988's Coast to Coast was nominated for a Grammy, and funky sessions like 1991's Can't Get Through, 1992's live Uncle Funky, and 1993's Child's Play received positive reviews. 1994's Bop 'n' Blues was his most straight-ahead jazz album, also ranking as one of his best.

Though he had been a key session player for Atlantic since the late 1960s, guitarist Cornell Dupree was finally given the opportunity to record his own date for the label in 1974. Teasin' was co-produced by Mark Meyerson and Michael Cuscuna. Dupree's band for the date was made up of ace session players including drummer Bernard "Pretty" Purdie, bassist Chuck Rainey, percussionist Ralph MacDonald, his fellow Stuff co-founder Richard Tee on keyboards, and saxophonist David "Fathead" Newman. Other horn players on various tracks include Joe Farrell, Ernie Royal, Jon Faddis, Joe Newman, Ernie Royal, Seldon Powell, and Garnett Brown. Given Dupree's pedigree, there's an unmistakable Southern Texas vibe on the set, although it was recorded in New York. It's most notable in the appropriately named "Blue Nocturne," the gospel-flavored "What Would I Do Without You," the rocking "Feel All Right," and the T-Bone Walker-influenced "Okie Dokie Stomp" (Walker was one of Dupree's biggest influences). But the guitar player's jazz-funk side gets plenty of play, too, evidenced the grooving title cut, "How Long Will It Last," and even the Caribbean-tinged "Jamaican Lady." The arrangements on these latter tunes recall the CTI sound quite a bit but are, as a whole, punchier and somewhat more dynamic. This is a feel-good date to be sure, but it features stellar musicianship, good charts, and excellent soloing from Dupree and Newman.