Rabbits & Carrots – Soul Latino (1969)

Rabbits & Carrots
“Soul Latino” 1969
Reissue on Vampisoul 2007 with extra tracks (Vampi CD 088)

1. Pais Tropical
2. Hip City
3. Romeo Y Julieta
4. Funky Chicken
5. Jarabe
6. Las 4 Culturas
7. Everyday People
8. Oh Calcuta!
9. Los Pelos Tiesos
10. Workin’ On A Groovy Thing
11. Spill The Wine
12. We Got More Soul
13. Sex Machine
14. Express Yourself

The first time I heard this all-instrumental record I was skeptical. Why bother, I asked myself, covering James Brown and Sly Stone in the late 60s when those artists were still putting out great music at incredible levels of productivity? The second time I listened to this, I asked myself, “Why the hell not?” This record is a lot of fun, even if the hype from Vampisoul about the hip DJ’s who spin it doesn’t do anything to excite me (in fact its more likely to make me ignore it..)

How can I *not* like a record that opens up with a soul-jazz take on País Tropical with a slightly-overdriven pseudo-Wes Montgomery guitar lead playing the vocal melody? If you can’t find that catchy then you’re hopeless. On first hearing this record I had thought that maybe these guys were Nuyorican because of the emphasis on black American music. Imagine my surprise to find out they were a bunch of Mexicans. Rabbits & Carrots were basically a nightclub / bar band in Mexico City, founded by Salvador Aguero with his brothers, that included mostly a lot of anglophone contemporary hits in their repertoire. But whereas there were tons of Mexican rock bands at the time with fuzzed-out guitars playing psychedelic or progressive rock with long wanky guitar solos, English lyrics, and beards, these guys were enamored with soul and funk music. Jorge Ben, Rufus Thomas, Kool & The Gang… Neil Sedaka.. Oddly enough the liner notes mention that the song “Las Quatras Culturas” is the one original composition on the album, somehow “about” the May 1968 massacre of students in Mexico City, when really the song is a blatant James Brown rip-off. But no matter, it’s still pretty cool albeit a little too upbeat for a song ostensibly about state repression. My favorite tune on here is an arrangement of a traditional tune, “Jarabe” that shows off just how well this band could cut loose in a style that really did blend a Latin rhythmic sense with soul from its northern brothers. On the whole this record has a lounge lizard, rather cheesy quality that must be what the ironic hipsters are enamored with, but the band approaches their material with enough inspiration (and some serious jazz chops from saxophonist Ramón Negrete) to make them stand apart from just a generic bar band.

 

The last four tracks on this disc come from an EP released years later by their label Musart. The band rather tragically abandons the exclusively instrumental approach they had adhered to in favor of incorporating a singer, identified only as “Max” in the typically ramshackle liner notes provided by Vampisoul. Although I can appreciate the effort of attempting to translate “Sex Machine” into Spanish, this guy is no James Brown. The results are kind of hilarious, but still doesn’t qualify as “so bad it’s good.” In fact I would have to say that these four tracks are just fucking godawful. Repeated listens only confirm how awful they are. The version of “Spill The Wine” just makes me want to pull out my Eric Burdon & War LP from my dusty archives. These songs require a vocal swagger and charisma that the singer just lacks, and I must say the results of the translation are questionable. They fall flat, and are rather embarrassing, and I think Vampisoul would have done these guys a service by leaving them off the album. But they are kind of a sketchy label anyway, seemingly consulting with nobody on these reissues (they have even been sued by Fania, for example), but they have been unearthing some nice treasures from the musicial seen of D.F., Mexico, for the rest of the world.

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Bobby Hutcherson – Now! (1969) with Eugene McDaniels & Harold Land

Bobby Hutcherson – Now!
Released 1969
BlueNote Records (BST 84333)

This reissue BN 73164

The first time I ever heard Bobby Hutcherson was probably on Eric Dolphy’s “Out To Lunch.” Even though everything on that album is noteworthy, memorable, and intriguing, I found Hutcherson’s work there particularly deserving of those superlatives. Capable of delicate texture and agile flight in his playing, he more than earns his reputation of a big fish in a rather small pond (post-bop vibraphonists). This album is something of a best-kept secret – the presence of not only Harold Land, whose other collaborations with Hutcherson are acclaimed by critics and audiences, but also Eugene McDaniels and Candido, should make this record stand out on anyone’s radar.

Eugene McDaniels’ career had one of the strangest trajectories in music: coming into his art as a bop jazz crooner who would sometimes share stages with Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderley, and Ornette Coleman, and then being catapulted to pop stardom with a string of R&B hit records in the 60s, morphing into a politicized soul-jazz-funk artist who made two amazing albums for Atlantic in the early 70s, then writing some notable songs (including a #1 hit) for Roberta Flack, and then mostly disappearing. These sessions were cut slightly before his landmark “Outlaw” album was released (coming soon to a blog near you, by the way).

The usage of a vocal chorus on this album remind me somewhat of “Up With Donald Byrd” (1965) but way more abstract. The album “Now!” is associated with Black Power consciousness. McDaniels’ lyrics may not be as weirdly radical as on his own Atlantic releases that inspired Kissinger to suggest wiretapping his house or whatever, but they are still pretty out-there. They unfold more in the form of tone-poems than straightforward lyrics. Some of them are rather hard to make out (the song ‘Now!’ for example) and a search around the interwebs yielded no results for transcriptions. Here are some samples from the opening cut –

Free soul soul free touch me heal you change
Lock your lost key touch me heal you change
Free soul soul free touch me free me
Touch the spiral falling upwards
God is watching, God is dying, slow change

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Eugene McDaniels

Anchoring the quintet is drummer Joe Chambers, whose albums credits also include Freddie Hubbard, Wayne Shorter, Andrew Hill, McCoy Tyner, Charles Mingus, and Archie Shepp. His work, described somewhere as “cymbal-driven forward motion” is propulsive and staggering, bringing that motion to the brink of collapse in places, a mimetic counterpoint to the lyrics.

The next track, “Hello To The Wind”, written by Chambers, is gorgeous in description-defying ways. It would be better to let the listener to experience this with no preambling words of introduction or commentary. It grabs you from the opening measures of the guitar arpeggios and McDaniels voice. A little more than halfway through this piece McDaniels breaks into some vocalizations that fall somewhere between Qallawi singing and Leon Thomas, curling my toenails and raising the hair on the back of my neck, and Candido breaks into very heavy and relentless santería territory on the congas. This cut might well be the best example I can think of that blends accessible melodic figures (damn near ‘pop music’) dropped amid post-bop intimations of free jazz

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I was thinking the other day that I have most likely overused the word “haunting” during the nearly two years this blog has been active . What do we mean when we call a piece of music haunting? Do we mean that a melodic line lingers in our consciousness long after the music comes to a stop? Wouldn’t we just call that “catchy”? Or is it the sensation of that melody, harmonic internal, rhythmic change, coming back hours and hours later, “coming back to haunt us”? Does it remind us of things we can’t forget, or refuse to forget? Or do not want to forget. Not yet. All the tales of wandering spirits roaming among us have at least this much in common – that such shades and ghosts call to us because they have not received the proper rites required for a peaceful rest in the afterworld. This is where the difference between forgetting and letting go is salient. There are things we should not, ever, forget – the experience of love found or faded; our friends and ancestors gone from this earth; the rape of your land, your sisters and mothers; the enslavement of your people. Finding peace is no easy road and there are plenty of reasons we might not want to find it, or let it find us. We become haunted. It abets our hunger for vengeance or vindication, it is aided by the sting of slights, loss, and injustice. The song “Now!” was composed by Hutcherson for a lost friend, the bassist Albert Stinson.

After the song-suite of the first side, the second side of this record stretches out. Wally Richardson plunks down dissonant squalls of understated guitar on “The Creators,” the electric piano of Stanley Cowell punching out a carpet of sound, the bass and drums locked in a smoky and deliciously repetitive paean to the old gods ending in hand-claps and more Candido. The final cut “Black Heroes” is more hard bop and the lyrics here are the ones most obviously connected with black consciousness and civil rights. The word “now” again enters our awareness. “Lies are wearing so thin the people can see through them now. Now. Freedom now! Right now!” Harold Land takes the first solo, twisting around the main theme in contortions of Coltrane; Hutcherson follows with quick jolts to our blood pressure. Be careful. Did I mention Bobby Hutcherson is on this record? I haven’t talked about him much because it goes without saying that he is in his element here as master of ceremonies. This album qualifies for the Flabbergast stock phrase of “a singular addition to his discography.” It really is. I wouldn’t lie to you.

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After the original album are bonus tracks from a 1978 platter called “Blue Note Meets the L.A. Philharmonic” (BN-LA870) that also featured Carmen McRae and Earl Klugh. Normally these Blue Note CD’s feature alternate takes from the same sessions, a practice that tends to appeal mostly to the jazz fanatics. But this time it’s quite different, as we get to hear the song-suite from the original album’s first half played 8 years later with full orchestra and new arrangements. I miss the inspired playing of the original quintet (especially Chambers and Land) but these guys aren’t chopped liver either and Eddie Marshall lays down some serious funk. The real treat here is the orchestra, giving a fifth dimension to what were already transcendent pieces of music. The sound is nothing short of stunning on this live recording. Bereft of McDaniel’s lyrics, the orchestra still manages to bring out the grace and fluidity of his contributions, hanging in the air like an after-image on our aural retinas. After the reprise of “Now!” we can hear an enchanted audience in what is almost certainly a standing ovation. Rather than the often-repetitive alternate takes for the jazz scholar, this addition to the CD version is a wonderful coda to what may be Hutcherson’s most overlooked album.

1 Slow Change 7:14
2 Hello To The Wind 5:56
3 Now 2:44
4 The Creators 12:32
5 Black Heroes 7:03
6 Slow Change 5:05
7 Now 2:49
8 Hello To The Wind 3:06
9 Now (Reprise) 1:43

Personnel: Tracks 1 – 5: Bobby Hutcherson: Vibraphone; Harold Land: Tenor Sax; Kenny Barron: Piano; Stanley Cowell: Piano; Herbie Lewis: Bass; Joe Chambers: Drums: Wally Richardson: Guitar, Electric Guitar; Candido Camero: Conga; Gene McDaniels: Vocals; Hilda Harris: Vocals; Albertine Robinson: Vocals; Christine Spencer: Vocals.

Tracks 6 – 9: Bobby Hutcherson: Vibraphone Manny Boyd: tenor and soprano saxophone; George Cables: piano; James Leary: bass; Eddie Marshall: drums; Bobbye Porter Hall: percussion; Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Calvin Simmons.

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Gary Bartz – Anthology 1970-1977 (2004)

Gary Bartz
“Anthology”
2004 Soul Brother Records (CD SBPJ 23)
Made in England
Recordings from 1971 – 1977

1 Celestial Blues 7:35
2 Uhuru Sasa 6:47
3 Drinking Song 5:16
4 Dr. Follow’s Dance 2:39
5 I’ve Known Rivers 8:34
6 I Wanna Be Where You Are 7:14
7 Ju Ju Man 9:11
8 Sea Gypsy l 6:19
9 Gentle Smiles s 4:22
10 Music Is My Sanctuary 6:21
11 Carnaval de l’Espirit 5:55
12 My Funny Valentine 7:11

Single-artist compilations are a difficult thing. It can be hard to represent an artist’s trajectory faithfully and still produce a coherently listenable document, let alone please everyone in the process, especially if the subject in question is a jazz artist. Soul Brother Records deserves massive props for pulling this off with this Gary Bartz anthology, which presents highlights from his most inspired post-bop output of the 1970s. My introduction to Bartz was, like many people, via his work with the Mizell Brothers, but there was so much, much more to the man’s legacy. Soul Brother makes the smart move of presenting this material in roughly chronological order beginning with selections from the incredible two volumes of “Harlem Bush Music.” Spiritual, socially-conscious, adventurous and above all soulful, this stuff soars and the vocals of Andy Bey qualify as one of the best-kept secrets of the universe.

Nobody seems to have passed through the ranks of Miles Davis’ various ensembles and come out unchanged but Bartz seemed to have been doing his own thing when Miles picked him up for a brief stint that yielded the semi-live album “Live Evil” (more complete material from those concerts appearing on 2005’s “Cellar Door” release). But performing with Davis’ post-Bitches Brew lineup (at the time including Airto on percussion, Keith Jarrett on electric piano, and McLaughlin still on guitar) may have inspired Bartz to stretch out even further in his work as a bandleader. But Bartz has plenty of other credits under his belt as a sideman, most prominently with McCoy Tyner but he’s also recorded with Woodie Shaw, Pharoah Sanders, and Charles Mingus.

The playing on the tune “Drinking Song”, the oldest piece on this collection, is simply fierce as the whole band raises your consciousness out of your bohemian apathy. Bartz pays homage to Langston Hughes with the track “I’ve Known Rivers” off the live record of the same name. Four entire tracks from the Mizell collaborations (the records “The Shadow Do” and “Music Is My Sanctuary”) may be a little disproportional considering that stuff already has wider exposure, but you won’t hear me complaining because it does indeed flow very nicely. Wrapping up the set with a sultry, melancholic reading of “My Funny Valentine” with vocalist Syreeta is a very nice finishing touch to this very satisfactory anthology. It’s also good to know that this disc apparently has Gary’s own approval as he wrote short note about the release and about music as a healing force to be included in the booklet.

I am so happy listening to this collection that I am planning on a mini-flood of Gary Bartz in the weeks to come, so prepare yourselves and meanwhile enjoy this teaser to whet your musical appetite.

Bartz
Bartz

 

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Jimmy McGriff – Soul Sugar & Groove Grease (1971)

Jimmy McGriff
Soul Sugar / Goove Grease
Two albums both released 1971 on Groove Merchant
Reissue on Groove Hut Records 2007 (GH66704)
McGriff

1 Sugar Sugar
2 Ain’t It Funky Now
3 Signed Sealed Delivered I’m Yours
4 Dig on It
5 Bug Out
6 Now Thing
7 You’re the One
8 Fat Cakes
9 New Volume
10 Spirit in the Dark

McGriff

11 Groove Grease
12 Bird
13 Plain Brown Bag
14 There Will Never Be Another You
15 Canadian Sunset
16 Mr Lucky
17 Moonglow
18 Red Sails in the Sunset
19 Secret Love

I think the only way these two records could make me happier is if they opened up with a soul version of “Yummy Yummy Yummy I’ve Got Love in My Tummy.” Since it does not I suppose I can accept “Sugar Sugar” in its place. If this disc was any more fun it would be illegal. Before Jimmy Smith thought of covering pop and soul hits with marvelously funky results, Jimmy McGriff was already laying down cuts to make the jazz purists wince while turning up their erudite noses. McGriff didn’t care and doesn’t seem to have been restrained by such labels, often positioning himself as more of a blues player anyway. I have been meaning to do a post here about another fabulous Groove Merchant disk he did with soul-blues singer Junior Parker that is just amazing. All in good time, even though I’ve been thinking about doing that post for over a year now…

Since a great deal of songs on these two albums are all-instrumental covers of hit songs, you can feel free to use it at your next karaoke party. That is if you are not only prepared to tread the same musical ground as James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Sly Stone, and Aretha Franklin, but also spar with the infectious chops of Mr. McGriff. My guess is that he will upstage you. But feel free to give it a go.

A glance at the lineup on these two platters may not cause any names to jump out at some of you. But his musicians here all have a pretty impressive pedigree, having played with the likes of Nina Simone, Eric Dolphy, Ahmad Jamal, Art Tatum, Stan Getz, Pharoah Sanders, B.B.King, Lonnie Liston Smith, Lonnie Smith, Charles Earland, among others and many more. Particularly noteworthy is bassist Richard Davis who just dominates these two albums like the monster he was. He sometimes plays with a phasor enevelope-follower effect on his bass that adds a nice subtle twist to his tone.

Both albums also have fabulously tacky blaxploitation jackets, the better to arouse you with.

Weird side note: according to a friend of mine, the first three tracks of Groove Grease on this reissue are HDCD encoded. Although it’s not uncommon to find HDCD coding on discs that don’t mention it on the packaging, it is somewhat mysterious why they would encode three tracks and stop. I actually have an HDCD player packed away in a storage shed full of audio gear but I am not about to drag it out to verify this. I will take my friend’s word for it, and pass it on to you for what it’s worth.

I think anybody with a pulse will find themselves enjoying this music. And I promise I will have that collaboration with Junior Parker here before the year is out..

McGriff

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Herbie Hancock – Fat Albert Rotunda (1969)

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Herbie Hancock
FAT ALBERT ROTUNDA
Released 1969 on Warner Brothers (WS 1834)
CD Reissue WEA Germany

1. Wiggle-Waggle (Hancock) – 5:51
2. Fat Mama (Hancock) – 3:49
3. Tell Me a Bedtime Story (Hancock) – 5:01
4. Oh! Oh! Here He Comes (Hancock) – 4:08
5. Jessica (Betts/Hancock) – 4:13
6. Fat Albert Rotunda (Hancock) – 6:29
7. Lil’ Brother (Hancock) – 4:26

* Herbie Hancock – Synthesizer, Piano, Arranger, Conductor, Keyboards, Piano (Electric)
* Johnny Coles – Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Horn
* Joe Henderson – Flute (Alto), Sax (Tenor)
* Garnett Brown – Trombone
* Joe Farrell – Sax (Tenor)
* Eric Gale – Guitar
* Buster Williams – Bass, Percussion, Bass (Electric), Bass (Acoustic)
* Billy Hart – Percussion, Drums
* Albert “Tootie” Heath – Drums
* Rudy Van Gelder – Engineer

*#*#*# He doesn’t receive an album credit, but the ubiquitous Bernard “Pretty” Purdie is on the drum-kit for Wiggle Waggle.

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poem from the album liner notes

FAT ALBERT ROTUNDA was Herbie Hancock’s first record cut for Warner Brothers, and a big departure from The Prisoner, his last album for Blue Note and first away from Miles Davis. It’s a phenomenal album, populated with pieces of sweaty soul-jazz and funk that presages the funk fusion approach he would explore further in the early to mid-70 alongside more spacious compositions that would fit anywhere in his catalog as Hancockian. For a long time I had been confused about this album because I knew from experience that its release date was a bit too early to coincide with the famous Fat Albert TV series that brightened my Saturday mornings as a young tyke. Now having done a little research, I know that the music here was composed and recorded at Bill Cosby’s bequest for a television special featuring Fat Albert and most or all of the characters of the future TV cartoon. If anyone knows where I can find a copy of that special, please speak up as I would give up my funkiest polyester to see it. The record is dominated by the inimitable Wurlitzer work of Hancock and the punchy horn riffs of Joe Henderson, Johnny Coles, Joe Farrel, and Garnett Brown. The first two tracks are just monsters, in particular Fat Mama. Buster Williams alternates between electric and upright bass on this album, transitioning smoothly as the songs demand. “Tell Me a Bedtime Story” could have been an outtake from Maiden Voyage and yet it doesn’t particularly clash with the other material. The record also sports Eddie Gale on guitar who would lone his talents to Roberta Flack this same year. This is a singular edition to Herbie Hancock’s discography, atypical and yet still emblematic of him at his best, and one of my personal favorites.

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Hugh Masekela – Home Is Where the Music Is (1972)

HUGH MASEKELA
Home Is Where The Music Is
Original release 2xLP on Blue Thumb BTS 6003
Reissue 2008 Verve B0011230-02

Part Of A Whole 9:37
Minawa 9:38
The Big Apple 7:52
Unhome 5:20
Maseru 7:12
Inner Crisis 5:52
Blues For Huey 6:26
Nomali 7:20
Maesha 11:49
Ingoo Pow-Pow (Children’s Song) 6:47 Continue reading