Sunday, 25 April 2010

Gene Estes - Westful: Jazz In Hollywood


Westful: Jazz In Hollywod


256+ VBR LAME mp3
Vinyl rip & scans from Nocturne NRS-701

Preview clip:
Big "P"
Besame Mucho

Although the name may not jump out at you right away, first-call LA percussionist Gene Estes has played a part in many classic recordings, including some of my best-loved soul faves like Willie Hutch's The Mack, Eddie Kendrick's The Hit Man (c/o Flabbergasted Vibes RIP) and Johnny Bristol's Feeling The Magic. He worked with practically every big name who recorded in LA for a major label during the 60s and 70s and appeared on dozens of albums spanning genres from jazz and soul to rock and country and almost everywhere in between. Counted among the "Important Records" to which he contributed are The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, Frank Zappa & The Mothers' Freak Out! and David Axelrod's Songs of Innocence as well as critically-acclaimed records by Leonard Cohen, Johnny Cash, Nilsson and a host of others.

Brian Wilson w/ Gene Estes on the vibes in May 1967 from
Pop Surf Culture: Music Design Film and Fashion from the Bohemian Surf Era

OK, so he's also assisted corporate concoctions like Sonny & Cher, The Monkees, Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow, Eric Carmen, REO Speedwagon and many other mediocre MOR megastars but then that's LA session life for ya, ain't it? It's no wonder then that this obscure solo project, the culmination of a couple years spent jamming every Sunday night with other SoCal session stalwarts, is brimming with the energy of a joyful release from frustration and monotony. In the liner notes Estes describes their weekly rehearsals as not "trying to prove anything with writing or's just a matter of having a ball" and that pretty much says it all about the atmosphere here.

Besides a noticeable lack of bombast or breakneck tempos normally found on drummer-led big band dates, there's really not much in the way of surprises here - just the sound of some excellent musicians gelling together to get that swing and nailing their solos without melodrama or overwrought pyrotechnics. In fact, the entire affair actually sounds
like a throwback that could have been recorded 15-20 years prior and as such, it's one of those rare jazz albums recorded in the 70s upon which Mr. Yanow and I can agree:

AMG Review
by Scott Yanow
Other than a very obscure early-'60s LP for the Carlton label, this album from 1976 was drummer Gene Estes' debut as a leader. For the only recording by Estes' rehearsal big band, the drummer contributed five of the nine selections and all of the arrangements. Among the all-star jazz and studio players heard from are saxophonists Med Flory and Tom Scott, trumpeter Conte Candoli, trombonists Herbie Harper and Bob Enevoldsen, pianist Joyce Collins and Gene's younger brother Alan Estes on vibes. The excellent music is essentially straight-ahead and has its exciting moments, although this LP may be difficult to locate.

Gene would maintain his roughly 16-year cycle and record another album as leader in 1993, when he returned with another equally anachronistic slice of jazz called On The Edge. There would be one further posthumous release, In A Sentimental Mood, which contained material recorded shortly before his passing in 1996.

Discography as Leader

1960 The Greatest Stereo Vibraphone in Recording History
[Carlton ST LP 12/25]

1976 Westful: Jazz In Hollywood
NRS-701] at Soundological

1993 On The Edge

[Progressive 7095] at Amazon

2000 In A Sentimental Mood
[Arbor ARB0101]
at iTunes

Gene Estes - Drums
Med Flory - Sax
Tom Scott - Sax
Bob Hardaway - Sax
Jay Migliori - Sax
Bill Hood - Sax
Meyer Hirsch - Sax (7 & 8)
Ollie Mitchell - Trumpet
Ralph Osborn - Trumpet
Conte Candoli - Trumpet
Herbie Harper - Trombone
Bob Enevoldsen - Valve Trombone
Dick Leith - Bass Trombone
Joyce Collins - Piano
Alan Estes - Vibes
Jim Hughart - Bass

1 Sharly My Boy
2 All About Henry
3 Poca Nada
4 Big 'P'
5 Pot Luck
6 D.A.V.
7 Sweet Lump
8 Besame Mucho
9 Good-Bye

Ride off into the sunset with Gene Estes and Soundological in the comments.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Moe Koffman - Museum Pieces


Museum Pieces

256+ VBR LAME mp3
Vinyl rip & scans from Janus JXS-7073

Preview clip:
Digs (Archaeology)

What's the direct connection to the previous post featuring Hank Crawford? Since Moe avoids the sax entirely, it's the fact Crawford and Koffman regular Doug Riley were past musical directors for Ray Charles; Hank for an extended stint at the start of the 60s and RIley for a short spurt at the end of the same decade. Otherwise, the albums were released within a year of each other and share something in musical sensibilities as well, a fact picked up on by Dusty Groove who mention it in their brief review:
A groovy album of moody electric funk tracks from Moe Koffman -- and probably one of his best records from the 70s! The groove is nice and rolling, with less of the break-oriented sound than you might expect, but still with some very nice mellow, almost CTI-ish moments, thanks to keyboards from Don Thompson.
Not much left unsaid about Moe or this roster of regulars in one of the many posts here on Soundological covering Koffman and Riley. However, out of Moe's oeuvre, it is by far and away the closest to the smooth jazzfunk sound epitomised by Creed Taylor's imprint. More importantly, it pretty much sidesteps the copious cheese slathered upon the albums book-ending this session (Jungle Man before, Things Are Looking Up after) and hits a sweeter spot where groove, technique and studio polish intersect.

A snapshot of many popular trends in jazz during the period, there are a couple adventurous post-bop tunes on hand ("Dinosaurus" & "Wildlife"), some proto-smooth jazz moments ("Pharoah's Dream"), orchestral string-backed slow blues ("Evolution Blues") and a couple outright funkified offerings in the form of Weather Report-style fusion with some drum breaks ("Rocks") and the Mizell-flavoured downtempo funk of "Digs."

Days Gone By (Egyptology)

Based on its use by Jill Scott, you may already be aware of the mellow "Days Gone By (Egyptology)" and though it's not the best track on the record, it's why sample-spotters often snatch this one up on sight. That bite alone is one of the main reasons copies of this album are seldom seen out in the wild, coupled with the fact this is probably Koffman's strongest effort in the latter part of his pop-fusion phase so folks were likely more inclined to keep it in their collections.

Jill Scott's Slowly, Surely & Marc Mac's Visioneers Remix

Featuring prominently on the track is Ed Bickert's crystal clear tone on the guitar. He displays his deft mastery of the instrument throughout the album and for many fans his playing here is a big reason to pick up this set. Though more well-known for his work on bass, Don Thompson's contributions on keyboards (mostly Rhodes) are mainly as an astute accompanist with few solos on the album outside of "Wildlife" and "Days Gone By." Speaking of Ed and Don, this album was released around the same time as their critically acclaimed live duo set, At The Garden Party.

Intro to "Rocks (Mineralogy)"

On "Rocks" it's pretty clear Riley's still crushing on Mwandishi and Head Hunters era Hancock but always with his own bluesy touch thanks to his B-3 background. However, he's all over the map stylistically on his own composition "Dinosaurus", a tune described as "a delightful romp through the harmonic overtone series" which highlights both his skills and his influences (especially Bud Powell and Oscar Peterson) but meanders a bit too much as a result of some kitchen-sinkism.

For the most part Moe keeps it melodic throughout, maintaining his mainstream-oriented style without taking the type of excursions in his solos witnessed on the kosmigroovish Solar Explorations nor straight-up displaying his bebop chops like when he was Live at George's. However, he has a few moments where he lets go a bit and soars high, especially on "Pharoah's Dream" and "Wildlife."

Sometimes a picture doesn't paint a 1000 words
Australian issue [RCA VPL14130]

All in all, an enjoyable album that saw a modicum of critical and chart success here in Canada upon its release (nominated for 2 Juno awards in 1978). Created as a conceptual piece to accompany exhibitions at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto (pictured on the back cover), its main drawback is in replicating the sterile, hands-off environment of most museums to a fairly high degree.

As indicated by the cover art's roped-off skeleton, sarcophagus and caveman mannequin, the music is often dryly academic and tends to be aimed moreso at the head rather than the heart or hooves. However, as also hinted at on the cover, there's just enough howler monkey to keep things lively and nobody is placed on a pedestal so it stands as cohesive communal effort among some of Canada's A-list jazzbos of the late 70s.

Moe Koffman - Flute
Ed Bickert - Guitar
Marty Morell - Drums and Percusion
Rick Homme - Electric and Acoustic Bass
Don Thompson - Keyboard, Arco String Bass
Bob Mann - Rhythm Guitar on "Rocks," "Digs" & "Museum Piece" + solo on "Dinosaurus"
Doug Riley - Keyboard on "Rocks," + Clavinet & Piano on "Dinosaurus"

1 Museum Piece
2 Rocks (Mineralogy)
3 Digs (Archaeology)
4 Evolution Blues
5 Pharoah's Dream
6 Wildlife (Mammalogy)
7 Days Gone By (Egyptology)
8 Dinosaurus

Celebrate Cheeba's birthday today by tagging along with Soundological & Moe for a trip to the museum - free ticket in the comments!

Friday, 16 April 2010

Hank Crawford - Tico Rico

Tico Rico


256+ VBR LAME mp3
Vinyl rip & scans from Kudu KU-35

Although this popped up on the essential and now-defunct The CTI Never Sleeps blog a while ago, I thought I'd offer up another rip from my clean copy of this fairly rare OOP session Hank Crawford recorded for Creed Taylor's Kudu imprint. There was also an issue with the tracks on that version being wrongly named and tagged, which is not a concern here since they are correct in this package.

This album actually highlights the issue of abuse of copyright laws since rumour has it the original tapes have disappeared. If true, this would mean CTI does not hold the original sound recordings and would only be able to exert rights based on ownership of a copy - which Brooklyn Law School's Jason Mazzone has included as one of the four types of what he calls "copyfraud." However, try as I could, I could find no official statement that the master tapes for this album no longer exist but it still doesn't necessarily mean the album is in the public domain, or the even greyer category of "orphaned works," by default just because no one can technically prove they "own" the original.

There may be other reasons CTI has not reissued this record. Out of the eight records Crawford recorded for Kudu, this is not the only one to never see a reissue since originally hitting the streets; neither Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing nor Cajun Sunrise have been released in digital format either. The remaining five that have been given the CD treatment are only available as Japanese imports on the King label.

For some reason, CTI has never reissued any of Crawford's albums on this side of the pond and the sole Crawford Kudu release on iTunes is Wildflower. WTF is up with that? It's especially odd since you'd think record company ghouls would be grinding his corpse like nobody's business after his passing just over a year ago. It's what they do best. Y'know, maybe there is some truth to the rumour after all...

Tico Rico & Funky Rooster

Fairly popular on its release, Tico Rico debuted at #31 in its first week and ultimately peaked at #28 on Billboard's 1977 Jazz Album chart. Of course, you know what that means to our favourite whipping boy over at AMG ...

Review by Scott Yanow

This LP has generally weak material ("Teach Me Tonight") is the only standard, the arrangements by David Matthews are routine and Crawford's soulful alto sounds obviously overdubbed over the string section; the "background" vocals on "Lullaby of Love" also do not help. The only reason to acquire this album is to hear Crawford's always appealing sound, but there are many more rewarding Hank Crawford recordings currently available.
In other words, Hank's holdin' his down but there's too much funky business goin' on out there on the lawn. Of course, this latter aspect is of most interest to our merchant friends at Dusty Groove, who are more forgiving and even more succinct playing up the album's strengths in their appraisal:
More of a David Matthews album than a Hank Crawford one -- as Matthews handled the arrangements in that slick funky big band style he was using at the time, letting Crawford come into solo over the top, but not really leading the session in any sort of obvious way.
However, probably the definitive assessment of this record on the web is likely courtesy of (surprise, surprise) CTI afficianado numero uno Doug Payne. He devotes a few paragraphs to this album in his insightful essay covering Matthews' work for Creed Taylor during the 70s. Not just a purveyor of fact-filled fanboy fodder, his wit and passion for the subject matter at hand always makes for an enjoyable read. I've snipped out some of the background info and play-by-play for Tico Rico in hopes you'll visit Doug's blog to learn more:
Hank Crawford recorded many albums for the Atlantic, Kudu and Milestone labels during his career, but very few on any label that had more than one or two great tunes. This is one that is terrific from start to finish, with Crawford in perfectly bluesy and swinging form, driven by Matthews's superb, yet simplified, electrifying charts. If a soloist is only as good as his arranger, then Matthews is probably the best Crawford ever had (and Crawford was the guy who arranged for Ray Charles!). Tico Rico - which has never been issued on CD - is undoubtedly their best work together. <<...>> Matthews provides an alluring, romantic underscore that Crawford simply sets alight. A fine achievement for both Hank Crawford and David Matthews.

Sax - Hank Crawford
Sax - Michael Brecker
Trumpet - Jon Faddis, Randy Brecker
Flute - Jeremy Steig
Guitar - Eric Gale
Bass - Gary King
Drums - Steve Gadd, Steve Taylor
Keyboards - Cliff Carter, Dave Matthews
Percussion - Nicky Marrero, Sue Evans
Cello - Alan Shulman, Charles McCracken
Viola - Emanuel Vardi, Lamar Alsop
Violin - Charles Libove, David Nadien, Emanuel Green, Marvin Morgenstern, Matthew Raimondi, Max Ellen, Max Pollikoff, Paul Gershman
Backing Vocals - Frank Floyd, Raymond Simpson, Zachary Sanders

1 Tico Rico
2 Teach Me Tonight
3 Lady Soul
4 Lullaby Of Love
5 I've Just Seen A Face
6 Lament
7 Funky Rooster

Soundological suggests you take your own Tico Rico to go while it's still hot in the comments!