Monday, March 19, 2012

BYOV - Meeting #9

The ninth installment of BYOV was held on February 19th at Barbès with the diehards. I’ve forgotten to check if the weekends scheduled are around holidays and I’ve been burned a couple of times. The low attendance has been attributed to the proximity to holidays.  Naturally, we would love to have high attendance.

Thus… Important Announcement!

All future BYOVs will take place on the last Sunday of each month unless there is some annoying holiday or hindrance. We’ll figure out November and December as we get closer.

Back to #9… I thought that the themes were particularly strong. They are listed below:

a) The United Nations band. Looking for your best collaborations between musicians of different nationalities. Maybe I can finally bring this classic hip-hop joint featuring Hakeem Olajuwon

b) Wrote a song about you. Wanna hear it? Here goes… Tribute albums are tricky. They can be inspired or really terrible. Let’s hear your choice for either best or worst tribute album.
c) Love on the beat. Sure, Serge… But we love the beat. We want to hear your favorite groove, break or in the pocket rhythm. Jab’o Starks and Stubblefields are accepted. I’ll provide a drum kit if someone knows Pretty Purdie.

Joel Harrison found the assignment tough, especially with international collaborations. As he had done a number of collaborations with musicians of foreign tradition, he tried to locate one that he felt would fit the bill. While searching, he found it difficult to find a collaboration that didn’t sound dated. I would have to agree that many collaborations blending music of different cultures have become dated, but they have remained interesting to hear.

Steve Futterman thought differently. He believed that most of these collaborations have retained a modern sound, at least more contemporary than some of the more recently released collaborations.

1.  Mahavishnu Orchestra – “Meeting of the Spirits” from The Inner Mounting Flame (Columbia KC 31067, 1971)
Presented by Steve Futterman – MP3 – Theme: A

This track didn’t play long before it was guessed simultaneously by a handful of attendees.

This was truly a band of musical gypsies. The members of the group came from scattered locations all over the world. Guitarist John McLaughlin is from Yorkshire, England; drummer Billy Cobham is from Panama; keyboard player Jan Hammer is from Prague, Czechoslovakia; violinist Jerry Goodman is from Chicago and bassist Rick Laird from Ireland.

I ventured to ask Steve why he had brought a Mahavishnu track when he had such a negative reaction when Ben Monder had played a track from a later record - Visions of the Emerald Beyond - at a previous BYOV. Steve thought that the ensemble assembled on The Inner Mounting Flame was spectacular while the added strings, etc. on the later recording was way over the top.

Steve felt that the music on The Inner Mounting Flame was an extension of the directions taken by John Coltrane and Jimi Hendrix.

We had a few eye-witnesses to the power of Mahavishnu, including Steve, Joel and Richard Gehr. They all remember enjoying the experience. Some more than others.

“It was one of the first times I did coke, so I don’t remember much…”

Steve remarked that the traded solos between McLaughlin and Goodman reminded him of the bebop duels between Dizzy Gillespie and Bird.

“It was the world’s tightest garage band.”

Joel: “It is obvious this was pre-ProTools.”

Talk turned to guitarist Gregg Bendian’s Mahavishnu Project, a well-known group that has continued in the vein of McLaughlin’s groundbreaking ensemble to enthusiastic response. The Project got a thumbs up from all Mahavishnu enthusiasts present.

2.  Saheb Sarbib – “East 11th Street” from Aisha (Cadence Records CJR 1010, 1981)
Presented by Robert Futterman – LP – Theme: A

Robert: “This wasn’t chosen because it is obscure…”

“But it is, huh…?”

We heard a big band playing a slightly loose and thoroughly swinging fare.

Joel: “Gotta be Dizzy, right?”

Steve: “No… This music doesn’t get the point.”

Joel: “It isn’t Don Ellis is it?” No.

We wondered if the leader was one of the musicians. He was indeed.

No one was able to guess the group or the leader. Robert thought that someone might have been able to guess the trumpeter, Ahmed Abdullah, who probably had the highest profile of any of the musicians on the recording.

Robert had read the theme of international collaboration and had immediately thought of Sarbib’s Multinational Big Band, though Sarbib and Brazilian percussionist Guilherme Franco were the only non-US citizens involved. Sarbib is a Frenchman of Algerian descent.

Robert had seen the group during the early 1980s at a free show at the South Street Seaport in New York City and had enjoyed the gig enough to pick up a copy of the LP.

Sarbib was primarily a bassist but also doubled on piano and organ. He led a handful of recordings during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The Multinational Big Band included a sort of who’s who of the New York out scene in the early 1980s. Saxophonists David Sewelson, Booker T, Jemeel Moondoc and Mark Whitecage; trumpeters Ahmed Abdullah, Roy Campbell and Steven Bernstein; percussionist Guilherme Franco and bassist David Hofstra all show up among others.

Definitely a fun release.

3.  Conjure – “Fool-Ology (The Song)” from Music for the Texts of Ishmael Reed (American Clavé AMCL 1006, 1984)
Presented by Richard Gehr – CD – Theme: A

Before playing his track, Richard wondered if there had been some kind of consensus that made it only appropriate to present the music as a blindfold test. There wasn’t but most participants enjoyed it. Richard didn’t enjoy it so much and preferred a straight up presentation.

On the subject of blindfold tests, Joel suggested that there be awards for the most correct identifications. Perhaps that could be arranged.

Back to the music…

Even though Richard was going to tell us, this selection wasn’t a tough one to guess. A handful of listeners knew that it was a Kip Hanrahan production. I filled in Conjure and Ishmael Reed’s name. My good KC pal Dennis Price introduced me to this one when I was in high school.

Conjure was a group pieced together by record producer Kip Hanrahan for his American Clavé label. The group presented text of writer/poet Ishmael Reed (wanna read a wild book? Check this one out) sung by guest vocalists accompanied by original music.

Hanrahan is well known for his dabbling in genres as diverse as tango, salsa, Afro-Cuban, jazz and funk for his productions.  He is constantly involved with musicians from other countries in the creation of his own eccentric recordings.

The group that he put together for “Fool-Ology” included a number of illustrious musicians from the States and the Caribbean. This tune was written by the Art Ensemble of Chicago trumpeter Lester Bowie and featured accompaniment by saxophonist David Murray, bassist Jamaladeen Tacuma, Latin jazz bassist Andy Gonzalez and drummer Billy Hart. The track also presented a handful of tremendous musicians of Caribbean descent, including master Haitian vodou drummer Frisner Augustin (RIP), Haitian guitarist Elysee Pyronneau, Puerto Rican percussionist Milton Cardona and Cuban percussionist Orlando “Puntilla” Rios.

Everyone present was a fan of Hanrahan’s work with American Clavé. Unfortunately, many musicians aren’t.

I had to tell the story of my first and only meeting with Mr. Hanrahan.

I was at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC for a performance by Guillermo Klein. The wonderful Larry Appelbaum was going to do a pre-concert interview with Klein and there were a number of folks waiting for said interview. I was speaking with Larry when he pointed out Hanrahan.

Naturally, I wanted to meet Kip and thank him for his work and the fantastic music. I approached and said, “Mr. Hanrahan…? It is very nice to meet you. I’m a big fan, blah, blah…”

He took my proffered hand with a wary look and asked, “Do I owe you money?”

Very nice guy with a sense of humor. Obviously, the music meant a lot to him. I’m happy to see that American Clavé has returned to business with some reissues and new things of late.

4.  Roy Brooks – “The Free Slave” from The Free Slave (Muse Records MR 5003, 1970)
Presented by Zak Shelby-Szyszko – MP3 – Theme: C

Brother Zak brought in a pretty grooving drum driven number for the beats theme.

Richard: “Must be the drummer’s album.”

That was very clear. The drums were mixed way up front.

Zak mentioned that he used to play this one a lot while working in a coffee shop in Detroit. Many listeners would later ask who the group was or would recognize the drums from being sampled on hip-hop tracks.

Steve took the first stab: “Idris Muhammad?” Nope.

“Were the other musicians in the ensemble well known?” All - except the pianist. Kind of an allstar band.

“When was it recorded?” In 1970.

Zak: “Bret, I’m surprised you don’t know from all that hip-hop you listen to.”

I was surprised, too. I was racking my brain. It did seem familiar.

Robert: “The trumpeter is playing like Freddie (Hubbard), but not… The tune has a very (Les McCann) ‘Compared to What?’ vibe.”

Zak: “I love the space. The guys were just locked into this groove.”

Joel: “Is the trumpeter Blue Mitchell?”

Steve: “No. He’s better than that. Let’s go by labels… It isn’t Blue Note. Is it Prestige?” No.

“Cadet?” No.

It turned out the record came out on Muse.

Zak had to give us this one. It was one of drummer Roy Brooks’s few dates as a leader. The band included trumpeter Woody Shaw, saxophonist George Coleman, bassist Cecil McBee and pianist Hugh Lawson.

Zak: “This was very early Woody Shaw but he was definitely known.”

Steve: “Hmm… He was toning down his style to fit the music.”

Brooks had been a top-flight drummer in the 1960s. He had played with many different leaders, including Horace Silver, Yusef Lateef, Abdullah Ibrahim, Max Roach and Charles Mingus. He was also known for playing strange percussion instruments, most notably the saw.

During the mid-1970s, Brooks began to suffer from a mental disorder and returned to his hometown of Detroit. There he began medicating with lithium. He continued to play with the local Detroit independent jazz scene and to teach in the local community.

In the 1990s, Brooks stopped using his medication and became increasingly out of hand. After a few arrests for threatening neighbors and an assault, Brooks was taken to prison and then put into psychiatric care. He passed away in 2005.

Another sad story of a tremendous jazz musician.

5.  Mike Cooper – “O.M.M. Coda” from Life and Death In Paradise (Fresh Air 6370 500, 1974)
Presented by Me – LP – Theme: A

I decided to bring a pretty esoteric recording that featured an interesting pairing of a folk/rock guitarist with some African jazz musicians.

The track began with overdubbed guitars overlapping followed by a distinctive vocal.

“Sounds like (Dylan’s) ‘Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues’…”

Steve: “Or ‘Desolation Row’.”

Richard: “Maybe it is Butch Hancock? He’s the closest guy to Dylan who isn’t Dylan.” Nope.

Then came in the trembling, arco bass that filled out the sound a bit more.

Steve: “Forget Dylan… This sounds like (Van Morrison’s) Astral Weeks.”

“Is it (bassist) Richard Davis?” Nope.

Finally, the rest of the ensemble fell in with drums and sax in a more upbeat prancing, rocking section.

Steve: “I’m not familiar with him but is the singer Scott Walker?” No. Definitely not.

“What are his initials?” M and C.

“MC Hammer…?” Ha-ha. Not close.

This was the first time that these guys heard guitarist/vocalist Mike Cooper.  The English musician born in 1942 became a contemporary of fellow guitar experimenters like Bert Jansch and Davy Graham. He has explored all types of music from all over the world, most notably folk, rock, blues and free improvisation.

“Are you sure his name isn’t Mick…?”

Though Cooper alone was a cool discovery, I let them know that the more obscure musicians were the foreigners.

“Is the saxophonist that South African guy?” You mean Dudu Pukwana? No. But this player was well acquainted with him. Though, this saxophonist was English.

No one could guess the others.

Death In Paradise was Cooper’s sixth release as a solo artist and featured collaborations with a handful of luminary jazz musicians living in England, including saxophonist Mike Osborne and two South Africans - bassist Harry Miller and drummer Louis Moholo.

This release has never been reissued. There are tentative plans, however…

6.  Jimi Hendrix – “Killing Floor” from Jimi Plays Monterey (Reprise Records 25358-1, 1986)
Presented by Steve Futterman – MP3 – Theme: C (A, too)

Steve: “Here’s another one you’ll get right away.”

Yep. The Jimi Hendrix Experience stampeded through the speakers performing Howlin’ Wolf’s classic “Killing Floor.”

Steve: “It is stunning. He just gets it so right.”

This song was Hendrix’s introduction to a larger US audience, basically. The first tune he played at the Monterey International Pop Festival in June 1967.

Joel: “This is amazing rhythmic playing.”

That was why Steve wanted to play the track. The dynamic between Hendrix’s tremendous guitar and the rhythm section of bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell was tremendous.

Zak: “Mitch Mitchell was such a monster.”

Steve: “That guitar attack is so hard to do plus he’s singing.”

Robert: “Not to mention that this is an international band, too.” 

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