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.


Solomon said...

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for all these wonderful LPs.
Your blog is amazing!!!!
Thank you for giving us and the covers,it's very difficult to us to find them...I'm very grateful....Be good!!!
Kostas from Greece.

Chris said...

Enjoyed this one quite a bit, thanks for the find!

cheeba said...

You're welcome guys!

Kostas, as a record collector for over 25 years, it's almost as much about the covers as what's in them. I'm especially glad to share those with my readers!

Dr. M. L. Grim said...

Great album, this John White joint, and very much "drunken master style," as you say. Good work, comrade.

E-mile said...

heard this one already from beeQ indeed, quite strong stuff. One little thing (no, you can't help that Cheeba!) it's a damn shame his wonderful & almost angry guitarwork is kept away from the mix, I mean the reeds & brass overwhelm the fantastic wah chords every now and ...most of the time anyways! nevertheless a standing example of an exciting Red Lion album...almost like the first time I put on my Buddy Terry's....
peace, E-mile
BTW: good to know digesting the flutes went well for you [:-)

boogieman said...

Thanks, I'm always interested in albums with Butterfield Blues Band alumni (in this case Phil Wilson).
This one's pretty obscure though.