Thursday, December 29, 2011

BYOV - Meeting #7

The latest session of the Bring Your Own Vinyl was a special one for me. I was celebrating my 30th birthday. The group met on a crisp December 11th afternoon at Barbès. To sweeten the deal, I brought a cake. Check her out.

“Who made the cake?”

Me: “My girlfriend.”

Jim: “That’s love. Did she put those speed indicator dots on there?”

Me: “No… I did.”

Jim: “That’s psychotic.”

This particular BYOV was well attended (the cake) and had a bonus theme added into the mix. I had to add a holiday music theme. They would probably have found a way to bring some anyway.

Here’s what we had to work with:

a) Who was that guy? Heard a killer feature for some guy you’ve never heard of before? Bring it in. More obscure the better.
b) Family time. Some families take trips, some play board games… Some hipper families make music. Bring your favorite track by a family band.
c) Who knew he had it in him? Bring an outstanding track by a musician that stepped into the spotlight after having an established career in a group led by another.
 d) Favorite holiday jams. I don’t want to hear any Tubular Bells. You hear me?
Once again, the submissions were treated like blindfold tests, for the most part.

Here we go…

1. Dollar Brand w/ Kippie Moeketsi – “Memories of You” from Dollar Brand + 3 (Soultown, KRS 113 (1973))
Presented by Seton Hawkins – LP – Theme: A

The track began with a sedate piano introduction joined by an expressive alto saxophone. The duo had an obvious rapport and a very soulful, bluesy inflection.

The saxophonist had a very raw, natural sound. Extremely expressive. I thought that the pianist might be obvious for the guys but no one guessed. Seton was searching for the horn player’s name.

“I bet it is a black guy…”

“Is the player deceased?” Yep.

“American?” Nope.

Steve: “That’s Dollar Brand and that saxophonist that he used to play with. I don’t remember his name.”

“Dudu (Pukwana)?” No.

We had actually been discussing Dudu before the meeting began, as I had introduced Seton to Steve as our South African jazz expert.

We continued to listen. The response from the listeners was extremely positive. They all seemed to enjoy the spirit of the horn player.

Steve asked for the initials. “K – M.”

No one was able to guess, so Seton introduced us to Kippie Moeketsi.

Seton: “The Charlie Parker of South Africa.”

Moeketsi was one of the elder statesmen of jazz in South Africa. A major proponent of jazz in South Africa and one of the first players to have exposure outside of the country, garnered while on tour with the King Kong musical in London. Moeketsi was also a member of  one of South Africa’s most popular, and now legendary, jazz ensembles, the Jazz Epistles. The group included a number of musicians who became legends, including pianist Abdullah Ibrahim (Dollar Brand), trombonist Jonas Gwangwa, trumpeter Hugh Masekela, drummer Early Mabuza and bassist Johnny Gertze.

This recording of this Eubie Blake standard was one of Moeketsi’s last recordings. He had become increasingly difficult to work with as he suffered from bi-polar disease and alcohol dependence. Ibrahim and his wife Sathima Bea Benjamin returned to South Africa at the beginning of the 1970s. During their stay, Ibrahim recorded a number of sides for the Gallo label, including this duet with Moeketsi.

2. The Ramsey Lewis Trio – “Merry Christmas, Baby” from Sound Of Christmas (Argo, LPS-687 (1961))
Presented by Zak Shelby-Szyszko – MP3 – Theme: D

Zak: “I’ll probably be the only one taking this theme.”

Joel: “I hope.”

I knew Zak was a Christmas music fan. He pretty much forced me to buy the Charlie Brown Christmas album last year. I don’t regret the purchase.

Zak was going to show us that there was a tradition of great jazz and blues Christmas songs out there.

He started us off with this bluesy, piano trio version of Lou Baxter and Johnny Moore’s “Merry Christmas, Baby.” 

“Sounds like he’s coming from the Red Garland school.”

“Is it a Ray Bryant recording?” Nope.

“How recent?” Probably in the ‘70s (actually 1961).

No one was getting the pianist.

Zak: “He’s a really famous guy.”


The Ramsey Lewis Trio recorded an album of Christmas songs in 1961 for Cadet. A short album with the trio featuring bassist Eldee Young and drummer Red Holt and the addition of strings on the B-side. Ramsey could do no wrong, so it wasn’t surprising that recording a Christmas album didn’t hurt him. Wink, wink.

3. Charles Brown – “I'll Be Home for Christmas” from Merry Christmas Baby (Big Town Records, BT-1003 ())
Presented by Zak Shelby-Szyszko – MP3 – Theme: D

Zak kept the holiday hits coming. This example had wah-wah guitar and a squelchy synth.

This was undoubtedly a ‘70s recording. The slow jam production and “hi-tech” musical gadgetry was impossible to ignore.

The vocalist had a certain Lou Rawls type sound. No one was guessing his name.

The blues/R&B vocalist Charles Brown put out this rare Christmas album in the early 1970s. He had recorded another Christmas album earlier in his career at the beginning of the 1960s. Zak mentioned that his wife had a copy in Detroit and kept it as a treasure as they had never been able to find another copy (we remedied that on eBay the next day).

4. Bill Evans Trio w/ Arnold Wise – “Beautiful Love” from Bill Evans at Town Hall, Volume One (Verve, V-8683 (1966))
Presented by Steve Futterman – MP3 – Theme: A

Steve had submitted a recording featuring an artist “so obscure you wouldn’t know the name if I told it to you.”

He prefaced his submission by saying that the pianist was famous and he was looking for the one of the rhythm players.

Steve: “You’ll know the recording right away…”

Of course, these jazzers grasped Bill Evans piano playing right away. This was his live recording from Town Hall in 1966. Now it was only a matter of piecing the rest of the ensemble together.

“Obviously that is Paul Motian on drums.” Not obviously…

Robert: “Is that Larry Bunker on drums?”

Steve: “No. But who is it?”

No one had it.

“Is it Chuck Israel on bass?” Yes.

“Good bassist.”

Ted: “Apparently Paul Motian didn’t like him.”

As for the drummer, no one was able to remember his name. They went through the list of musicians associated with Evans.

Steve: “When I mention the name, you still won’t know him.”

Joel: “What’s the point of that?”

It was drummer Arnold (Arnie) Wise. Apparently, he only appeared on one other album, vibraphonist Dave Pike’s Doors of Perception.

Steve: “Seems like he was a competent drummer. Why didn’t he record more?”

Jim: “Must have been an obnoxious fella.”

“Are you sure that his name isn’t a pseudonym?” Not that I can tell.

Ted: “He could have died. ODed. He was hanging with Bill…”

It amazed Steve that a classic record like this could have a performer that has remained such a mysterious figure. Wise was replaced by Marty Morell, which, from the ensuing groans, must have been a bad move on the part of Evans.

5. Kermit Driscoll – “Thank You” from Reveille (8 Records, 19/81015 (2010))
Presented by Joel Harrison – CD – Theme: C

Joel wanted to play us music from a musician who illustrated a notable, illustrious sideman making it as a leader. He thought that this player put together and led a tremendous group.

Drums led followed by a resonant bass, then guitar and piano. The group layered a repeated phrase until they broke from one another to create a choppy rhythmic effect.

“Is it Miroslav Vitous?” No, but an interesting guess.

Joel: “You should know the guitarist. The drummer is famous and the pianist was featured in Ben Ratliff’s recent rundown of important pianists to watch.”

I definitely heard Frisell. His tone has been permanently ingrained in my brain.

No one could figure out the rest of the ensemble.

The leader was bassist Kermit Driscoll, a first call bassist and solid accompanist. The rest of the band included drummer Vinnie Colaiuta and pianist Kris Davis.

Most liked the piece.

“Very well done but not to my tastes.”

6. Rufus Reid – “Habiba” from Perpetual Stroll (Theresa Records, TR 111 (1981))
Presented by François Zalacain – MP3 – Theme: C

“Wow! Love the drummer.”

The drummer was very snappy, playing along with piano and bass.

François mentioned that this recording received a 5 star review in DownBeat when it was released.

“It doesn’t mean shit. Maybe one of you reviewed it.”

Jim: “Okay… Everything you put out from now on gets 2 stars.”

Ted guessed that the leader was bassist Rufus Reid. The trio was actually the rhythm section for Dexter Gordon’s famous 1980s Quartet. So that meant that the snappy drummer was Eddie Gladden. Ted was asked to remain mum on the pianist. Jim was able to guess Kirk Lightsey.

The record was released on the extremely well curated but now defunct Theresa label from California. François reissued Perpetual Stroll on Sunnyside in 1987.

7. Billy Pierce – “In Your Own Sweet Way” from Give and Take (Sunnyside, SSC 1026 (1988))
Presented by François Zalacain – MP3 – Theme: C

The next tune was a tenor saxophone solo. Steve chimed in with “In Your Own Sweet Way” immediately.

Ted: “It is someone who quotes.”

It was very quiet throughout the playback. The performance was very impressive as the player covered the breadth of the horn and maintained a nice balance between impressive flourishes and well-placed pauses.

“So when did he graduate Berklee?” (An obvious poke at the dexterity of the performer.)

François: “I guess he did. He was a sideman of Stevie Wonder at one point.”

“Gary Thomas?” No. Good guess.

François: “He was also a Messenger (a member of Art Blakey’s Messengers).”

Ted: “It is hard to recognize his language.”

“He sounds very Osby-esque.”

“Not very personality filled.”

Ted: “Depends on what kind of personality you like.”

No one was able to guess Billy Pierce.

François recorded a number of releases of Pierce during the 1980s and 1990s.
Pierce has been the head of the jazz faculty at Berklee for some time now and has been highly regarded by many, especially saxophonists.

8. Branford Marsalis w/ Wynton Marsalis - “Laughin’ & Talkin’ (With Higg)” from Romare Bearden Revealed (Toshiba EMI, 66230 (2003))
Presented by Ted Panken – CD – Theme: B

Ted brought in a recording done by members of the same family. The recording had a quartet of tenor sax, trumpet, bass and drums.

The tune was a jangly, swinging and faintly avant-garde.

“Are all four members of the same family?” I’m not going to comment.

“The Moffett family?” No.

“Dewey and Josh Redman?” No. “Ah fuck… there is only one sax.”

“What label is this on? SteepleChase?” No.

“Is it Ornette and Denardo Coleman? The trumpeter is as bad as Don Cherry.” Hmm…

“Was it Chico Freeman when he could play?” No.

“Is it Kidd Jordan and part of his family?” No. But these guys are in the same tradition as the Jordan family.

“Graham Haynes?” An emphatic no.

We were stumped but we should have gone with the most obvious. It was Branford and Wynton Marsalis. Maybe we were stumped because this seemed to be outside of Wynton’s comfort zone. Branford had always had this side to his playing but his classicist brother not so much. The tradition that Ted implied was the New Orleans family tradition, as the Marsalis family have been the largest and most revered.

The rest of the band was bassist Eric Revis and drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts. This was actually Tain’s composition, a tribute to the drum legend Billy Higgins.

Great recording. Group sounded great. Might have to track the whole album down.

9. Jimmy Raney & Doug Raney – “Stolen Moments” from Stolen Moments (SteepleChase, SCS 1118 (1979))
Presented by Robert Futterman – LP – Theme: B

The tune “Stolen Moments” was guessed instantly by Jim and Richard. Both admitted to listening to Oliver Nelson’s Blues and the Abstract Truth at least once a week.

The recording was done by two guitarists, along with bass and drums.

Zak: “Is it the Montgomery Brothers?” No.

Robert: “I didn’t mean to pick an obscure record. I just went to the basement and pulled something out. I hadn’t heard it in something like 20 years.”

Steve: “One of the guitarists has a Jim Hall like tone but with a different technique.”

Steve was ultimately able to guess that this was Jimmy Raney and his son Doug‘s recording from 1979. This was the second recording that the two had done together. It was interesting to hear the similarities between the two. The other players on the album were bassist Michael Moore and drummer Billy Hart. 

10. Blind Lemon Jefferson – “Christmas Eve Blues” from Christmas Eve Blues / Happy New Year Blues (Paramount, 12692-A (1928))
Presented by Oran Etkin – MP3 – Theme: D

We heard an old, old blues recording of a vocalist with guitar.

“Is this in English?”

Steve was able to guess Blind Lemon pretty quickly.

Oran gave a pretty in depth overview of Blind Lemon’s career.

Jefferson had established himself as a leading voice in the blues genre in the 1920s. He was one of the few blues vocalists to write his own material instead of only playing the handed down blues classics.

To record this 78 r.p.m. record, the producers had to track Jefferson down in Dallas where he was working menial jobs. The recorded the sides right there on a portable recorder.

Apparently, the recordings sold extremely well. Jefferson became one of the most popular and successful black commercial artists.

11. Carla Bley w/ Karen Mantler – “Funnybird Song” from Tropic Appetites (WATT Works, WATT/1 (1974))
Presented by Jim Macnie – MP3 – Theme: B

Jim’s first selection was a quick and quirky number. A quaint melody sung by a woman and child. A mother and daughter it turned out.

We were able to guess pianist/composer Carla Bley and her daughter Karen Mantler rather quickly.

Tropic Appetites was a fun record. A bunch of guests and strange popish tunes from the master songstress. This tune also featured a vocal from tuba / baritone sax player extraordinaire Howard Johnson. The record was released on Carla and her then husband Michael Mantler’s WATT label, later distributed by ECM.

12. John Carter – “Morning Bell” from Night Fire (Black Saint, BSR 0047 (1981))
Presented by Jim Macnie – MP3 – Theme: C

Jim prefaced this selection by saying that he had originally heard this tune in a shop in Boston during the early ‘80s and had always been struck by its beauty.

The tune had a lovely traded melody between clarinet and flute with bass and drum accompaniment.

I guessed James Newton on flute and figure it had to be Carter on clarinet. The rhythm section was bassist Roberto Miranda and percussionist William Jeffrey.

Carter was one of those guys that received most of his notoriety outside of playing. He was an important educator in Texas and California and got his first recognition after a couple of Ornette-esque recordings on Bob Thiele’s Flying Dutchman label. He then began releasing his own recordings with cornet player Bobby Bradford, a former Coleman sideman, on their own record label, Revelation Records.

Jim has been a proponent of these West Coast avant-garde musicians. There has been a fair share of interest coming back to these guys as Mosaic last year reissued some very out of print Carter / Bradford recordings on Revelation from the 1970s (definitely recommend picking that collection up).

Tremendous stuff.

Joel: “Nice underdog call…”

13.  Lijadu Sisters – “Life’s Gone Down Low” from Danger (Afrodisia/Decca, 278.150 (1976))
Presented by Richard Gehr – CD – Theme: B

Richard decided to forgo the blindfold test and just introduce us to the two sisters recorded here.

The Lijadu Sisters were former members of Fela Kuti’s group in Nigeria. When drummer Ginger Baker came to Nigeria, he discovered the two vocalists and decided to recruit them for his group Salt (he also began a romantic relationship with one of them).

Steve mentioned that he saw the group live in 1972.

Richard interviewed the sisters who now live in Harlem (a recent move from their former Brooklyn residence of nearly 30 years) around the recent reissue of this recording. Get the full story here. 

“Life’s Gone Down Low” was a slow song off the 1976 Decca recording. The beat was reggae influenced rather than the typical afrobeat that would have been expected. It was interesting to note that the record’s producer “Biddy” Wright played all the parts on the recording apart from vocals.

The song was later co-opted by rapper Nas on The Prophecy Vol. 2.

14. Steve Grossman – “The Sixth Sense” from Some Shapes To Come (PM, PMR-002 (1974))
Presented by Me – LP – Theme: C

I decided to bring a real barnstormer for my selection.

The group heard a massively funky drummer with a strong bass and rhythmic Rhodes. Then came a loud, modally based tenor sax. A very, very 1970s jazz-rock recording.

“Is the guy we’re listening for the leader?” Yeah.

Ted: “He sounds familiar. The name is on the tip of my tongue.”

“Billy Harper?” Nope.

“Pee Wee Ellis?” Uh, uh.

“This is a black guy, right?” No.

Steve was able to guess Steve Grossman.

I told them they might have guessed some of the accompanists if they had kept listening to the long track. A little over half way through the track a very recognizable synth sound begins to come out in a solo. Mr. Miami Vice himself. Jan Hammer.

Jim: “That’s disgusting.”

Me: “Gotta love that.”

The group was surprised to hear that it was percussionist Don Alias on trap kit. It was Gene Perla on bass. This was one of the handful of records that Perla released on his own label, PM (Perla Music).

I had known Grossman’s earlier work before finding this record. His main employment came under the electric groups of Miles Davis and with Elvin Jones’s stellar groups of the early to mid ‘70s.

Hammer also came through the ranks as a sideman, first with Sarah Vaughan and Elvin then as a member of the Mahavishnu Orchestra.

Perla had a similar trajectory. After his formative years with Woody Herman and Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Band, he went on to play alongside Hammer with Sarah Vaughan and Elvin Jones. He became involved with the jazz-rock sounds of the 1970s with Hammer, Alias and Grossman in the group Stone Alliance.

It was the ‘70s, man…

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