Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Bob James - 1975 - Two

Bob James 

01. Take Me To The Mardi Gras 5:50
02. I Feel A Song (In My Heart) 5:26
03. The Golden Apple 7:20
04. Farandole 8:24
05. You're As Right As Rain 5:29
06. Dream Journey 5:57

Bass – Eric Gale
Cello – Alan Shulman, Alla Goldberg, Tony Sophos, George Ricci, Jesse Levy, Seymour Barab, Warren Lash
Clarinet – Eddie Daniels
Drums – Andrew Smith
Electric Piano, Clavinet, Synthesizer, Organ – Bob James
French Horn – Al Richmond, Jimmy Buffington, Peter Gordon
Guitar – Eric Gale (tracks: A1, A2, B1), Richie Resnicoff (tracks: A3, B2)
Percussion – Arthur Jenkins, Ralph MacDonald
Trombone – Eddie Bert, Tom Mitchell, Tony Studd, Wayne Andre
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – John Frosk, Lew Soloff, Marvin Stamm, Randy Brecker, Victor Paz
Violin – Charles Libove, David Nadien, Emanuel Green, Gene Orloff, Harold Kohon, Harry Cykman, Harry Glickman, Harry Lookofsky, Joe Malin, Matthew Raimondi, Max Ellen, Paul Gershman
Vocals – Frank Floyd, Lani Groves, Patti Austin, Zachary Sanders

Recorded at Van Gelder Studios, December 1974 & January 1975.

Bob James himself on two:

Thinking back on it, this album is like my sophomore year as a recording artist. By the time we went into the studio to cut the album, One was already pretty popular, so we needed a strong follow-up. There are several songs on this record that were continuations of the same concepts as the first one. There was an adaptation of a classical piece on it called “Farandole,” which went on and got a lot of airplay. The other track was “You’re Right as Rain,” which was my arrangement of a popular vocal track at the time. We tried to give a groove to it, similar to “Feel Like Making Love.” This record reminds me of my friend Ralph Macdonald a lot too because Ralph really helped me out. He helped out all the rappers too by playing the cowbell part on “Take Me to Mardi Gras.” [laughs] Ralph has had a lot of success from his records that have been heavily sampled too. And one of his most successful samples is from a tune called “Mr. Magic,” that Grover Washington did. The part from “Mr. Magic” that got used was the arrangement I did for it. But because I didn’t technically write the song, Ralph got all the income from that track. [laughs] I did the arrangement and played piano, but I didn’t see any money from “Mr. Magic.” We talked about it years later and still joke that we’re even, because he never saw any income from playing the “Take Me to Mardi Gras” bells. [laughs]

 “Take Me to Mardi Gras”
I was a pretty big fan of Paul Simon at that time and even did some work with him in the studio. I’ve always really liked that song and thought I could bring something to it as an instrumental version. So I decided to do it with a kind of Latin groove, and low and behold, twenty-five years or so later, these hip-hop guys used it a lot. I mean it’s a really simple vamp. Ralph [MacDonald] is the guy playing the cowbell on the intro. Ralph played percussion on many recordings in the same era as I did. And he’d played percussion on many of my albums, while I played piano on many of his. So he helped me out this time by sitting in and playing a pretty standard intro section. It wasn’t anything that was really thought about or heavily planned. We were just improvising in the studio and trying to establish a carnival type of mood before the melody came in. We wanted to just let the rhythm section do their thing. But the way the record got mixed, the cowbell part is really prominent. I’m sure lots of rappers were just looking for a loop to rap over and the tempo for it was just right. That’s why I think Run-DMC and other early folks used it so much. I am very fond of this song.

“Farandole (L’Arlesienne Suite #2)”
The way we worked with rhythm in that era were often repetitive vamps. There were some real nice bassline vamps that were similar to “Nautilus.” They were short and just two measures long that just repeated, so it is very easy to edit. I think this has been sampled many times because there is a big enough chunk separated from other elements, which made it easy for producers to come in and make a loop out of. It is a classical composition by a composer by the name of Bizet, and I just arranged it and adapted it for a jazz tune. Creed and I liked playing around with compositions.

I was just talking on the phone to a very good friend of mine as we recall the music that we both loved in the '80s and still enjoy listening to this day. Bob James, whom we both watched at a live concert years ago, was one of the subjects of our conversation, and we both agreed that of all Bob James' recordings, "Bob James Two" is our top favorite. Likewise, we both agreed to JAZZIZ Magazine's 1997 Readers' Poll which voted Mr. James as the #1 Best Acoustic Pianist and #1 Best Jazz Composer. Our phone conversation prompted me to write this review.

I have loved the music of Mr. James ever since I heard the albums he collaborated with a gifted guitarist, Earl Klugh, on "One On One" and a follow-up "Two Of A Kind," which my friend and I both own in LP formats. This wonderful CD consists of six tracks (I wish there were more) superbly arranged and conducted by the very talented Mr. James himself, who also plays electric piano and organ magnificently.

The opening and one of the best tracks, "TAKE ME TO THE MARDI GRAS" was composed by another famous artist, Paul Simon, and it was a jazz staple in the '70s/'80s and everyone I know loves this dynamic tune. The mixed ensemble of various instruments blended perfectly in harmony to produce this awesome recording. I especially like the solo clarinet by Eddie Daniels as well as Eric Gale on guitar.

"I FEEL A SONG IN MY HEART" is a standout! This song has straight-to-the-point lyrics and sung by one of the finest divas in the jazz scene and my favorite jazz vocalist, Patti Austin. Hers is a kind of voice that is really meant to sing jazz/blues songs. Her interpretation is heartfelt and moving, not to mention the flawless arrangement. Some of my favorite songs that she recorded are "How Do You Keep The Music Playing," "Say You Love Me" and "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes."

Another highlight to me is the track that I never get tired listening to all these years.... "YOU'RE AS RIGHT AS RAIN," which was originally recorded by the Stylistics in the '70s. Remember the famous and best-loved Rhythm & Blues group back then? Their most notable songs are "You'll Never Get To Heaven If You Break My Heart," "I'm Stone In Love With You," "Stop Look And Listen To Your Heart" and "You Are Everything."

The track that has a classical touch is "Farandole:"L' Arlesienne Suite No. 2." It was arranged and adapted from the great master Georges Bizet's composition. It features a fine jazz musician, Hubert Laws, on flute. The rest of the tracks are Bob James' original compositions "The Golden Apple" and a very remarkable tune, "Dream Journey."

Superb recording! Will never get tired listening to it especially "I Feel A Song In My Heart."

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