Sunday, 27 September 2009

Mel Dancy - Guest Post at Arkadin's Ark

Still serving up the Mainstream Red Lion records in September, this time with the help of Arkadin. In case you haven't noticed, he's also provided a few excellent sets for the shad shack this week and he's asked me to do a guest write-up for today's post at the Ark, Mel Dancy's Just A Little Lovin'. Check it out!

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Sonny Red - Sonny Red

Sonny Red

256+ VBR LAME mp3
Vinyl rip & scans from MRL 324

And Then Again

As a bit of a birthday gift for the shad shack, which celebrates its first anniversary today, we've saved the best for last. In fact, some folk even speculate this lesser-known set from vet Sonny Red may even be the best of entire MRL run. Whther they're right or wrong is strictly a matter of personal taste but you'd have a helluva time ruling it out of the running.

If you're unfamiliar with the name, you're not alone. Obviously we're not talkin' 'bout the French metal band nor the thoroughbred nor the Bonanno mob family capo Alphonse Indelicato nor the heavily tattooed rapper nor the country/blues harmonicat. That sentence alone illustrates the point made in more than a few biographical pieces on Sylvester Kyner: struggling to get noticed despite instrumental proficiency, compositional skills and the ability to enlist top-tier talent, his generic name didn't do much to help him stand out from the crowd. In this day and age, when "Sonny" and "sax" are mentioned in the same breath, one is more likely to immediately think of Rollins, Stitt, Criss or maybe even Fortune.

However, Kyner seems to have made a memorable impression on those with whom he worked, especially upon the wife of a fellow alto player from the NYC scene it would seem since Gloria Coleman composed a track called "Hey Sonny Red" for Soul Sisters, her debut on Impulse! records. Sonny had made his way out to the big apple about five years before this was cut and worked with a lot of the same folks. Wonder how her hubby George felt about that? BTW, Coleman also released a cookin' album for Mainstream, Swings and Sings Organ.

Hey Sonny Red

Musician and scholar Ivan Svanoe wrote the definitive piece on Red, so the minimal biographical info I could find on him would be a drop in the Bluesville: The Journey of Sonny Red bucket. The following is taken from the Mississippi Rag's coverage of Annual Review of Jazz Studies #13 published in 2003:
The longest essay is a thorough oral history of the modern alto sax player Sonny Redd (or Red), aka Sylvester Kyner (1932-81), Anders Svanoe's "Bluesville: The Journey of Sonny Red." Born in rural Mississippi in 1932, Redd grew up in Detroit and moved to New York City in 1957 to enter the burgeoning modern jazz scene there. He played with major musicians, recorded and was generally known as a capable and entertaining musician, but there was by then a glut of post-Parker alto players and Redd never established an identity with the jazz audience. Nevertheless, he persisted stubbornly in the music, becoming "a jazz survivor" in one commentator's words.

Svanoe's history is very thorough, with many interviews, photographs and other documents, 40 scores of compositions and solos (including scores to several flute quartets) and an annotated discography of Redd's work. The essay runs to 145 pages, virtually a whole monograph and is very well organized and readable. It is an interesting scrutiny of a workaday musician who was not a "jazz giant" or a publicity hound but who made a highly individualistic contribution to modern jazz.

Since the discography below was culled from the usual sources (AMG, Discogs, Jazz Discography Project, googling) I'm sure Mr. Svanoe's annotated discography of Sonny's performances is more thorough, particularly when it comes to his long career as a sideman.
Of course, until you can source a copy of that print-only piece, there's always trusty ol' AMG to get the basics down.

by Scott Yanow
Sonny Red was a good but not great altoist who was somewhat lost in the shuffle in the 1960s and '70s. He worked in Detroit with Barry Harris (1949-1952), in 1954 temporarily switched to tenor while with Frank Rosolino, and later that year joined Art Blakey briefly. In 1957, with his arrival in New York he gained some recognition, recording with Curtis Fuller and Paul Quinichette, in addition to having several dates as a leader (1958-1962) for Savoy, Blue Note, and particularly Jazzland. Despite some freelancing and recording with Clifford Jordan, Pony Poindexter, Donald Byrd, Kenny Dorham, and Yusef Lateef among others in the 1960s, Red was in obscurity by the 1970s.

To illustrate just how obscure, one of the only reviews conjured up for this particular session (recorded at the East Coast Record Plant in the last week of June '71 and released the first week of September) was found in the April 1972 issue of Black World magazine:
The liner notes indicate that Sonny Red (Mainstream), a.k.a. Sylvester Kyner, is a "Detroiter who has been around for many years, but has been out of the limelight for too many of them," Yes, it would seem so. "Love Song," overdubs Sonny Red on both alto sax and flute, the result a lush, Pharoah Sanders-like quality accented beautifully by pianist Cedar Walton, bassist Herbie Lewis, and drummer Billy Higgins. "Mustang" should please the foot-tappers, and "A Time For Love" the romantic. In fact, the whole album is a sign: "Quiet. Serious men at work."

Sylvester "Sonny Red" Kyner - Alto Sax & Flute
Cedar Walton - Piano
Herbie Lewis - Bass, Viola
Billy Higgins - Drums

1 Love Song
2 Tears
3 Mustang
4 And Then Again
5 My Romance
6 A Time For Love
7 Rodan


1959 Out of the Blue (Blue Note 4032)
re-issued 1996 on their Connoisseur series
at Sic vos Non Vobis
in contributions c/o grumpy

1959 Two Altos (w/ Art Pepper) (Regent 6069)
at u2n2

1960 Breezing (Jazzland JP-932)

in comments c/o grumpy

1961 A Story Tale (w/ Clifford Jordan) (JLP-940)
at Pathway To Unknown Worlds

1961 The Mode (Jazzland JP-959)

1962 Images (Jazzland JP-974)

1971 Sonny Red (Mainstream MRL 324)

The Mode & Images reissued as Red, Blue & Green
at Escuela de Jazz (lossless) & Blaxploitation Jive (mp3)

As sideman

1957 Tommy Flanagan & Curtis Fuller - Jazz .... It's Magic! (Savoy MG-6055) (also available on Lone Hill's Curtis Fuller Complete Savoy Sessions)
1957 Curtis Fuller - Curtis Fuller with Red Garland (New Jazz NJLP 8277) at Jazz Cartoon
1957 Paul Quinichette - On The Sunny Side (Prestige PRP-7103)
1957 Curtis Fuller - New Trombone (Prestige PRP-7107) at RFCCBH
1957 Frank Wess - Jazz Is Busting Out All Over (Savoy MG-12123) at barin99
1960 Various - Gretsch Drum Night at Birdland (Roulette SR-52049, Vogue 600107)
1961 Bill Hardman - Bill Hardman (Savoy MG-12170) reissued as Saying Something (Savoy SJL/K-1164)
1962 Pony Poindexter - Pony's Express (Epic BA-17035)
1964 Bobby Timmons - Live at the Connecticut Jazz Party (Chiaroscuro 2030, Early Bird 104)
1966 Kenny Dorham - The Shadow Of Your Smile (West Wind WW 2049) aka Last But Not Least 1966, Vol. 2 (Raretone FC 5022)
1966 Kenny Dorham - Live at the Half Note (WABC-FM broadcast Feb. 25) bootleg cover here
1966 Donald Byrd - Mustang (Blue Note BLP 4238) at Blaxploitation Jive
1967 Donald Byrd - Blackjack (Blue Note BLP 4259)
at Blaxploitation Jive
1967 Donald Byrd - Slow Drag (Blue Note BST 84292) at Blaxploitation Jive
1967 Donald Byrd - The Creeper (Blue Note LT 1096) at Blaxploitation Jive
1968 Yusef Lateef - The Blue Yusef Lateef (Atlantic SD-1508) at OufAr KhAn
1972 John White - John White (Mainstream MRL 330) at Soundological
1974 Roy Brooks - Live At Town Hall (Baystate RVJ-6028) at private press
1978 Howard McGhee/Benny Bailey/Teddy Edwards - Home Run (Storyville 4082)

Soundological tames Sonny's red lion HERE and HERE.

BTW, someone coming to the site for their first time today will be the 50,000th unique visitor! Welcome and thanks to you and everyone else who has stopped by since we started in July 2009!

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Pete Yellin - Dance of Allegra

Dance Of Allegra


256+ VBR LAME mp3
Vinyl rip & scans from MRL 363

Bird and the Ouija Board (excerpt)

One of the best things about maintaining the shad shack is getting a chance to hear pieces from the MRL collection that otherwise may not have come up on my radar. One example of this are the superb efforts of Pete Yellin, Dance for Allegra from '72 and It's The Right Thing from '73. After hearing them, they both found their way near the top o' my grocery list and as luck would have it, I found the first a few weeks ago. As usual, the version available through Soundological is a bit better than 160k res dropped at the shack and includes the full scans of labels and artwork.

Not a lot to tell about this album which was named for his daughter Allegra, who was probably in primary school at the time. She's currently a children's music teacher music so her pop's (and grandaddy's) love of music and dance undoubtedly rubbed off on her during those idealistic years between the birth of the hippie dream and its death due to yuppie schemes. For a great little analysis of this window in time for music and spirituality, I highly recommend you check out ish's insightful exploration of the subject posted
recently at Ilé Oxumaré.

This set was recorded at the East Coast Record Plant in NYC near the end of May 1972, at the same time Ernie Wilkins was working there with Alice Clark on her legendary album for Shad's imprint. With that type of creative atmosphere and loving inspiration, all while spring was in full swing, it's no surprise this is such a buoyant, hopeful album where the all-star ensemble stretches out its tendrils like green shoots reaching for the sun. After a two-decade break in recording as leader, Yellin enlisted some of these same players in efforts during later years, with close friend Eddie Henderson playing on the '99 version of Mellow Soul and Billy Hart skinning up on last year's How Long Has This Been Going On?

One of the highlights of the MRL catalogue and not to be missed.

Wikipedia bio
Yellin is the son of an NBC studio pianist. He turned down an athletic scholarship at the University of Denver to study at Juilliard under Joseph Allard (saxophone) and Harold Bennett (flute). He worked in the 1960s with Lionel Hampton, Buddy Rich, and Tito Puente, and worked with Joe Henderson's band from 1970 to 1973. Around this time he also played with Mario Bauza, Hampton again, Maynard Ferguson, Sam Jones, Charles Earland, and the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis big band. In 1974 he formed his own band, and played at the Newport Jazz Festival.

As a sideman, Yellin has worked with Bob Mintzer, Eddie Palmieri, George Benson, Machito, Chick Corea, and others. He founded the jazz program at Long Island University in 1984, acting as coordinator for the studio there until the end of the 1990s.

by Ron Wynn
His father was a pianist and NBC staffer, and Pete Yellin has recorded as a leader and was also part of Joe Henderson's early '70s band. He's a solid, sometimes exuberant player with extensive range, and a decent flutist. Yellin studied sax with Joe Allard and flute with Harold Bennett. He earned his degree from Juilliard, and at one point entertained thoughts of basketball stardom. Yellin had an athletic scholarship to the University of Denver as freshman, but then turned professional as a musician.

He played with Lionel Hampton in the early '60s, then with Buddy Rich and Tito Puente. Yellin joined Joe Henderson's band in 1970, and remained until 1973. He formed his own band the next year, and played at the Newport Jazz Festival in New York. He returned to play with Puente in 1974. Yellen worked in the horn sections of Rich and Bob Mintzer during the '80s. He recorded for Mainstream, but the session is currently unavailable on CD.

Pete Yellin - Tenor Sax, Flute
Eddie Henderson - Trumpet, Flugel Horn
Kenny Barron - Electric Piano
Stanley Clarke - Bass
Billy Hart - Drums
Dom Um Romão - Percussion

1 Dance Of Allegra
2 Esculynn
3 Bird and the Ouija Board
4 Mebakush

Discography as leader

1972 Dance of Allegra (Mainstream)
1973 It's the Right Thing (Mainstream)
at the shad shack

1995 Mellow Soul
Buy from Pete

1995 European Connection: Live!
Buy from Pete

1996 It's You or No One
Buy from Pete

1999 Mellow Soul
Buy from Pete

2008 How Long Has This Been Going On?
Buy from Pete

Albums available directly from Yellin's website (with preview clips).

Soundological dances with Allegra HERE or HERE.

Monday, 21 September 2009

The Stroziers - Red Light

Red Light


320 CBR LAME mp3
Vinyl rip + pics from MRL 415

Swamp Walkin' Charlie

Welfare Woman

This one comes courtesy Arkadin P.I. of Arkadin's Ark, who is currently on a well-deserved vacation. Sherlock, as we often call him, has been a boon to the music blog world the last year, consistently emerging from the depths with more gems in hand than a pearl-diver at an oyster farm. He's been especially helpful with filling up the many holes at the shad shack and this is yet another one he's plugged. However, due to time restrictions and the fact blues ain't really his bag, he passed it my way to post on Soundological.

As you can tell from the clips it's a straight-up blues set and a one-shot for the brothers as a family unit, at least on Mainstream - although the info is severely sketchy, they may have had another later release of some type or other under the name Hill Street Blues Band. As for Red Light it looks not so much to be for Shad but more like the tapes were licensed/bought from elsewhere since Bobby didn't produce. Its place in the sequence of the label's catalogue, immediately after the first Ted Nugent cash-in re-issue effectively announced Red Lion's demise as a creative enterprise, is an even clearer indicator this was not done in-house.

Similar to other releases at the tail end of the run, this record has markedly different album art than the normal Ruby Mazur style and lacks liner notes since
by this point in time MRL, gasping for breath, had dispensed with gatefold covers in order to cut back on costs. However, it was all over but the cryin' and there were only a half-dozen more releases to come before the label closed it doors for good. It took a while to dig up some solid info on these Atlanta brothers, mostly due to the mysterious Abner. However, once I clued into the fact that "Abner Strozier" and "Al Strozier" were the same cat after reading the latter's MySpace page, the pieces started to fall in place.

Al Strozier ca. 2009

Source: The Al Strozier Band @ MySpace

Born in 1942, Al was the oldest of the brothers and the most musically prolific. Highlights of his lengthy career include a year with the Soul Stirrers alongside Sam Cooke and being a founding member of Gladys Knight and the Pips, playing with them from their formation until they left Atlanta. He also founded the legendary Houserockers with Luther Johnson and, due to his serious skills on the harmonica, spent over three decades supporting blues artists like Little Richard, Clarence Gatemouth Brown, Billy Wright and BB King. He's still going strong to this day in his native GA with the Al Strozier Band, playing a mix of R&B, blues and soul originals.

Clyde Strozier ca. 2005

Source: Georgia Council for the Arts

Clyde, born in 1946, was the middle kid. He started playing blues guitar when he was 9 and prior to forming this group with his brothers had been a member of The Tams and played in bands behind Curtis Mayfield and Martha & The Vandellas. According to him, it was really brother Al who wrote The Tams' biggest
hit "Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy" and not the writers credited (Whitley & Cobb) who "stole" it. Sucks to be Al since that slice of upbeat soul found longevity thanks to the Northern Soul crowd and can be heard on Kent's excellent Shoes compilation. Clyde still works the Atlanta blues scene, although in contrast to his elder brother's band he specialises in a much rootsier brand of acoustic folk-blues. He recently spent time as a Master Artist with the Georgia Council of the Arts' Traditional Art Apprenticeship program, preserving the blues art form by assisting in the development of younger players.

Curtis was the youngest of the brood, born a year after Clyde and as often happens with the baby of the bunch, there was nothing left for him at the table when they passed out internet biographies.

Clyde Strozier - vocals, guitar ,bass
Curtis Strozier - drums
Abner Strozier - harmonica, vocals on "Swamp Walkin' Charlie"

1 Red Light
2 Mo-Jo-Georgia Woman
3 Swamp Walkin' Charlie
4 Big Boss Man
5 Honest I Do
6 Oh Baby You Don't Have To Go
7 Welfare Woman
8 Love Shortage
9 Let's Have A Party

Saunter through Arkadin's red light district with Soundological HERE or HERE.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Blue Mitchell - Many Shades of Blue


Many Shades of Blue


256+ VBR LAME mp3
Vinyl rip & scans from Mainstreram MRL 402

Harmony of the Underworld

I'm the biggest sucker for Blue Mitchell's 70s Mainstream sides. They were a major component of my initiation into the realm of jazzfunk and the first three are etched in my mind forever so, thanks the psychological process of imprinting, his sides are among the sine qua non of the milieu for me. I finally picked up a near mint vinyl copy of this one a few weeks ago and now need only Vital Blue to complete my Mitchell Red Lion series. This funky muther has already appeared at My Favourite Sound and Audio Design Studio in the past (check the shad shack for links) but during the Month(ish) of Mainstream we're stackin' 'em high and sellin' 'em cheap and this one's just another on the pile.

As usual, Blue has a stellar line up behind hime here since it seems Mitchell and Sarah Vaughan were the only artists on whom Shad actually spent proper money. The two are also tied as the most voluminously released artists on MRL (both providing 7 albums of new material for Shad in a few short years) so their stature, productivity and faithfulness were probably big factors in that equation. Not counting the split with Roy Haynes when Shad was in scavenger mode, this is the last LP Mitchell released on the label before it shuttered, after which he moved on to a series of labels.

Among these were RCA (Stratosonic Nuances, Funktion Junction) and ABC (African Violet, Summer Soft) where he would be slathered in strings and discofied to such a degree that on occasion he might as well have been just another one of the session musicians. Never again would he regain the raw funkiness and full-on souljazz feeling that typifies his Mainstream output. Mitchell would die before he had a chance to do so, passing away prior to the end of the decade at the relatively early age of 49.

Dusty Groove Review
Sweet electric 70s funk from Blue Mitchell -- blowing here in some of the hippest arrangements of his career! Blue's trumpet alone is always pretty darn great, but for this album he's working with arranger Dave Matthews -- who gives the tunes fierce groove that mixes vamping guitars with snapping drums -- sort of picking up the groove that Matthews forged with James Brown, but allowing for a lot freer jazz interplay!

The guitars are often recorded in a cool way that has them sounding a bit "watery" alongside the rhythms -- so much so, you'd swear they were keyboards at times -- and this approach sounds really great underneath Blue's tighter, harder, more punctuated solos over the top of the tracks. Additional support comes from horn players Joe Farrell and Seldon Powell -- and titles include "Funk Walk", "Blue Funk", "Funny Bone", "Golden Feathered Bird", "Harmony Of The Underworld", and "Hot Stuff".
Funky Walk

Blue Mitchell - Trumpet
Wilbur Bascomb, Jr. -
Electric Bass
Michael Moore - Electric Bass

Joe Beck - Acoustic & Electric Guitar
John Tropea -
Acoustic & Electric Guitar
Sam T. Brown - Acoustic Guitar
James Madison - Drums

James Bossy - Trumpet
Jon Faddis - Horn

Irwin "Marky" Markowitz - Horn

Joe Farrell - Flute, Tenor Sax
Seldon Powell - Tenor & Baritone Sax

Frank Vicari - Tenor Sax

1 Where It's At
2 Harmony of the Underworld
3 Funky Walk
4 Blue Funk
5 Golden Feathered Bird
6 Beans and Taters
7 Funny Bone
8 Hot Stuff

Soundological has a shady deal for you HERE or HERE.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Johnny Coles - Katumbo (Dance)

Katumbo (Dance)
256+ VBR LAME mp3
Vinyl rip & scans from MRL 346

Funk Dumplin'

Shad went way back with Johnny, the former was working at Savoy in 1947 when Coles recorded a set there with Leo Parker's sextet (also an early stomping ground of Gene Ammons) in 1947 and later he would also participated in the occasional Shad-directed Dinah Washington EmArcy session.
Coles was far from an unknown quantity at this point, famous for his work with Gil Evans and Charles Mingus and with albums as leader at Epic and Blue Note under his belt. Johnny was steady giggin' and probably wasn't in dire straits for the cash so odds are it was a one-off opportunity to stretch out on his own while meantime Shad likely saw a bankable property with proven appeal for the jazz demographic's core.

The sidemen Shad recorded leading their own combos at MRL were often members of touring big league big band machines, such as those of Duke Ellington or Ray Charles. This set was taped sometime in '71, on the cusp of Coles' membership in each. Johnny C wasn't the only one moonlighting for this effort; drummer Bruce Ditmas and Tuba player Howard Johnson were gigging with Gil Evan that year while Gregory Herbert was working with Woody Herman at the time.

The remaining member of the brass section is another example of Shad's sloppy record-keeping since it appears to be Ashley (not "Astley") Fennell on trombone. He had previously played with Archie Shepp and would go on to work with Sam Rivers' band, appearing along with bassist Reggie Workman
(check his superb bio and discog at never enough rhodes) on Rivers' 1974 classic Crystals. Pianist par excellence Cedar Walton rounds out the septet, providing plenty of what made him a popular first-call keyboardist for studio work.

Dusty Groove Review
A sweet album of soulful jazz from trumpeter Johnny Coles -- a wonderful talent who made a sad few albums as a leader! The record is quite different than Coles' earlier work for Epic and Blue Note -- in that it's got the slightly electrified Mainstream sound of the 70s firmly in place -- with electric and acoustic piano from Cedar Walton and electric and acoustic bass from Reggie Workman. Tracks are longish, and while they're not exactly all-out funky, they mostly groove pretty nicely -- in a spiralling fragmented sort of way. Titles include "Funk Dumplin", "Petits Machins", "Betty's Bossa", "728", and "Never Say Goodbye".

Johnny & Friends at Lex Humphries Funeral 1994

Back: ?, Lawrence Jones Middle: Lucky Thompson, ?, ?, ?
Front: Kenny Gates, Mickey Roker, Bootsie Barnes, Donald Byrd, Tommy 'Red Fox' Jordan, J.D. Fingers
Photo source: Bootsie Barnes

All About Jazz bio
Johnny Coles never became a star name, but his associations with a half-dozen of the leading jazz figures of the post-war era are significant enough testament to his musical ability.

Whether through circumstances or lack of inclination, Coles seemed content to work with others at the helm throughout his career, but he earned a significant reputation within those parameters. He was never a band-leader of any note, and recorded very few records under his own name. His debut album The Warm Sound, appeared in 1961, while his most significant record as a leader, Little Johnny C, was issued on Blue Note label in 1963.

He taught himself to play trumpet from the age of 10, later adding the customary flugelhorn as well. He studied music at the Mastbaum Vocational School in Philadelphia, and played in army bands during the war years. His initial post-war experience came in commercial bands, notably a rhythm and blues outfit led by saxophonist Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, which also included John Coltrane and Red Garland in its ranks.

He continued that rhythm and blues association with bands led by the likes of Earl Bostic and Bull Moose Jackson in the early 1950s, but was also playing in more mainstream jazz settings by that time. They included working with drummer Philly Joe Jones in 1951, and a more extended association with saxophonist James Moody in 1956-8 [appearing on Flute 'n The Blues & Return From Overbrook collected on Hey! It's James Moody, Moody's Mood For Love and James Moody]. On leaving Moody's band, Coles began working with Gil Evans, whose own standing in the public eye had been greatly elevated by the success of his collaborations with Miles Davis.

Coles was a very different trumpeter in stylistic terms, but Evans admired his dry, economical sound and his ability to exploit musical space with just the right placement of notes, a virtue he did share with Davis. Those qualites are evident in Coles's contributions to several of Evans's important recordings, including the imaginative re-workings of classic jazz material in the New Bottle Old Wine (1958) and Great Jazz Standards (1959) albums [both available as part of Gil Evans: The Complete Pacific Jazz Sessions], and the seminal Out of the Cool, recorded in 1960 and regarded as Evans's masterpiece [other Evans productions on which Coles played include Miles Davis' Sketches of Spain & Porgy & Bess, Evans' The Individualism of Gil Evans, Duke Ellington's Blues In Orbit] and Kenny Burrell's Guitar Form].

Coles's rounded tone and controlled, almost austere lyricism, combined with his ability to find his own means of individual expression within the context his leader was trying to create, make that record a highlight of his six year tenure with the Gil Evans Orchestra, which ended when he was recruited by Charles Mingus for a tour of Europe in 1964, in a sextet which also featured saxophonists Eric Dolphy and Clifford Jordan, and pianist Jaki Byard.

Charles Mingus Live in Oslo '64 (full hour)

Jaki Byard (piano), Clifford Jordan (tenor), Charles Mingus (bass), Dannie Richmond (drums), Eric Dolphy (alto, flute, bass clarinet), Johnny Coles (trumpet)

Sadly, we will never know what might have come of that association, or that fascinating combination of talents. Coles was taken ill early on the tour [due to a stomach ulcer], and had to return home. He never rejoined the Mingus band, and missed most of the live recordings made on the tour, although those on which he did feature (which includes a concert with the sextet recorded at Town Hall, New York, just before the tour began) have left an intriguing glimpse of what might have been.

He continued to play and record in New York, including albums with pianist Duke Pearson [Honeybuns & Prairie Dog] and the Brazilian singer Astrud Gilberto [Look To The Rainbow & Dreamer]. In 1968, he joined the first incarnation of pianist Herbie Hancock's ground-breaking sextet, and is featured on The Prisoner (1969) [also Fat Albert Rotunda].

In 1969, Coles went all the way back to his early rhythm and blues roots when he joined the Ray Charles Orchestra, an association which lasted until the trumpeter was recruited by Duke Ellington in 1971. He remained a fixture in the Ellington Orchestra until 1974, then spent another two years with Ray Charles.

In the 1980s, his versatility and experience remained in demand. He made a rare album under his own name, New Morning, for the Dutch-based Criss Cross label in 1982, and toured with several tribute and revival bands, including the Count Basie Orchestra, Mingus Dynasty, and a project devoted to the music of pianist and arranger Tadd Dameron.

Coles retired from performing in 1989 [and passed away from cancer in 1997].

Discography as Leader

1961 The Warm Sound (Epic 16015)
at Sic Vos Non Vobis (flac) or here (192k not my rip)

1963 Little Johnny C (Blue Note 32129)
1971 Katumbo (Mainstream MRL 346)

1982 New Morning (Criss Cross Jazz 1005)
clips at Criss Cross or LP here (192k not my rip)

1983 Two at the Top w/ Frank Wess (Uptown 27.14)

Other notable sessions with the warm sound of little Johnny C included (in roughly chronological order) A. K. Salim's Afro-Soul/Drum Orgy, Eddie Jefferson's Jazz Singer, Tina Brooks' Waiting Game, Ray Crawford's Smooth Groove, Donald Byrd's Groovin' For Nat, Horace Parlan's Happy Frame of Mind, Grant Green's Am I Blue?, and a session job with fellow Philly natives The Ambassadors on their gem Soul Summit.

Johnny Coles - Trumpet & Flugelhorn
Bruce Ditmas - Drums
Gregory Herbert - Tenor Sax
Astley (Ashley) Fennell - Trombone
Howard Johnson - Tuba
Cedar Walton - Electric & Acoustic Piano
Reggie Workman - Electric & Acoustic Bass

1 Never Can Say Goodbye
2 September of My Years
3 728
4 Petits Machins
5 Betty's Bossa
6 Funk Dumplin'

You can Katumbo if you want to with Soundological HERE or HERE.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

John White - John White

John White
256+ VBR LAME mp3
Vinyl rip & scans from MRL 330

Number 3


John White who? That's one of the biggest mysteries of Mainstream and his almost comically generic moniker makes it nigh impossible to root out whatever meagre morsel of info might be floating around in the cloud. Making matters worse, this has to be the most poorly documented recording in the entire MRL collection, which in itself is a pretty impressive feat. This time the only crumbs dropped are a roster and a photog credit. No liner notes, no bio, no other credits, no nothin'. To this day it seems no reliable reference can say who produced the affair, who engineered it or even what studio hosted the session on what date(s).

It was obviously a Bay Area endeavour which one can suss not only from the scenery but also from the presence of locals Hadley Caliman, occasional grateful Deadhead Merl Saunders and Terry Hansley of prescient 'frisco freak-out unit Fifty Foot Hose. Phil Wilson could have been anywhere at the time since he was in between gigs with The Butterfield Blues Band and Julius Hemphill's St. Louis cadre while the lack of photo for New Yorker Sonny Red is a tip-off he probably did overdubs back East when the tapes came in to the office, perhaps unsolicited. Merely speculation, of course.

The rest of the crew is a textbook study in nobodies. Go ahead, google 'em. More than likely they were either fellow buskers or jamming partners since none of them forged a musical career of any note. Heck, maybe they coulda just been neighbourhood drug buddies. Which brings us to the obvious hook up for JW's (alleged) only recorded outing, one Hadley Caliman. Since he had previously recorded for Shad and wrote the only track on the disc not composed by White ("Granite & Concrete," covered by Blue Mitchell on Blue's Blues) it's clear Hadley had a strong hand in developing the project.

The music itself is obviously inflected with that spoonful and the playing so loose it stumbles along with an ungainly grace like the musical equivalent of a Drunken Master Style disciple. The firm blues base, earthy electric bass lines and pro touch brought by Wilson and Saunders tether the funky cacophony of the off-kilter horns, offsetting the amateurish aspects of what was obviously a lets-just-get-in-the-studio-and-jam-then-see-what-happens approach. There are a few strong melodies and some genuine moments of inspiration scattered throughout and if it was tightened up in some places and stretched out in others, it might actually be a burner. Had it been released four years earlier it might even have made some impact as is.

Although it's really neither a rock record nor a funk record, White himself is pretty damn funky and riffs as well as proficient both in soloing and in a support role. His appeal lay in the fact he relies less on pyrotechnics than on wringing the right feel from his instrument to convey the emotional aspect of his material like a classic bluesman. However, adept as he is, no Hendrix he and White would likely be well into the triple-digits in a ranking of music's great electric guitarists. It's an enjoyable listen though, and it's grown on me the last few weeks since it arrived in the post. D
efinitely worth a listen for those who like horn-laden electric R&B with heavy jazz overtones.

John White - Guitar
Merl Saunders - Electric Piano & Organ
Phil Wilson - Drums
Hadley Caliman - Tenor Sax

Sonny Red - Alto Sax

John Wilmath - Trumpet
Jock Williams - Trombone
Dale Smith - Bass
Terry Hansley - Bass
J. Burr - Conga
Robert Williams - Vocal

1 Right Off
2 Number 3
3 Granite And Concrete
4 City
5 Help Us Out
6 Tried To Touch

BeeQ dropped the P-Vine reissue a couple weeks back but I had already ripped the first play of a still-sealed original vinyl copy by then so it's also available through Soundological HERE or HERE.