A reflective piece on the passing of one of Jazz’s greatest fusion artists, Mr. George Duke.
Whenever Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson is interviewed, we should take time to grab a pen and paper, and take notes. The knowledge of music history never fails to impress, and his references and personal accounts are like none other. When seasoned interviewer Terry Gross invites Questlove on her NPR show Fresh Air, we can be sure that within the hour, we will be a tad bit smarter than we were before we listened.
Here is the entire interview with Questlove and Terry Gross, who discuss everything from Questlove’s first gig at Radio City Music Hall, his new book, and his crush on Amel Larrieux.
Click here to listen.
Some jazzmen take risks, experimenting with every album and evolving through the years of their career. Others, not so much.
Lou Donaldson is reminiscent of DJ Premier. When you hear a Premier beat, you know what you’re going to get; gritty, urban, pure hip hop, and anyone who works with him reciprocates the same emotion. Lou Donaldson is similar, where his sound is a great example of jazz with a touch of soul and funk. Analogizing Lou Donaldson to Premier serves other meanings, given that Donaldson is one if hip hop’s most sampled jazzmen.
Also similar to Premier, artists that worked with Lou Donaldson knew their place. Tonally, the alto saxophone is a loud instrument, and at times, piercing and overbearing. Donaldson’s sound is mellower than the typical alto, and in this 1967 album Alligator Bogaloo, falls into place perfectly. This album features excellent guitar work by a young, but accomplished George Benson (especially on One Cylinder), organ work by Lonnie Smith, Melvin Lastie on Coronet, and Leo Morris, who later became known as Idris Muhammad, on drums.
(Donaldson on the title track Alligator Bogaloo) “[W]e made the date and we were three minutes short. I said we don’t have no more material. And the guy said just play anything for three minutes so we can fill out the time. So I just made the riff and naturally the guys could follow it. That’s the only damn thing that sold on the record.”
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Slept On: Steve Williamson, Journey to Truth, Verve Records, 1994
In 1994, British saxophonist Steve Williamson released the recording Journey to Truth. This was his third and apparently last “solo” recording. The disc was a bit of a “left turn” for the artist whose two prior albums had explored a mix of “traditional” and “experimental bop” jazz styles. This recording continues those explorations, but contains elements of hip-hop, funk, righteous/astral-jazz, and R&B.
From what I’ve read, the problem many had with this recording is the very thing I love about it. It’s a “concept” album that is divided into three movements: The Journey (tracks 1-5, righteous astral-jazz); The Pffat Factor (tracks 6-10, hip-hop); and That Fuss (tracks 11-13, R&B funk). However, most of the songs contain a mix of all of these elements. This recording is not easily categorized, and for those who expected an album of “pure” straight-ahead jazz, “pure” or “hard” hip-hop, or “pure” R&B or funk, this album was not a satisfying listen. Because it was not easily categorized, it was perhaps a difficult recording to sell.
To some, this recording is disjointed and unfocused. To me, there is a natural rhythm…a natural order to this recording. It is a spiritual journey through the inner and outer spheres. Lyrically, the songs address spiritual and social concerns. Musically, the recording mimics a spiritual journey, i.e., the natural rhythm of life. The Journey gets you centered and grounded in your spiritual self, The Pffat Factor (dramatically) shifts your focus outward into the hardness of world, and That Fuss draws you back inward, inviting self-reflection. The recording is best listened to from start to finish, with an open mind, willing to take the trip.
Williamson’s solo style might be described as abstract improvisation, with odd harmonics and angular counterpoints…fluid but unexpected. After listening to his playing, you can’t help but think of John Coltrane. Indeed, the liner notes contain a quote from Coltrane, and similar to Coltrane’s A Love Supreme (expressing Coltrane’s spirituality), this recording is in movements.
I think I’m most surprised that this album did not get more attention if only because of the participation of members of The Roots. Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson plays drums on half of the tracks, “Hub” Hubbard plays bass on a couple of the tracks, and Black Thought contributes rhymes on a couple of the cuts.
Many times, good recordings, important recordings, innovative recordings, don’t get much attention because of what is getting attention. This recording may not have been very “radio friendly,” but it is innovative and it challenged the status quo. It has stood the test of time (it does not sound dated or trendy) in a way that many of the recordings that got attention in 1994 have not.
Here is “Journey to Truth” from The Journey (Steve Williamson, tenor sax, programming; Jhelisa Anderson, vocals; Anthony Tidd, piano; Marc Cyril, bass; Ahmir Thompson, drums; Henri Jelani Defoe, guitar). Righteous astral jazz soul funk groove.
02 Journey To Truth 1
Here is “Pffat Time” from The Pffat Factor (Steve Williamson, tenor sax; Black Thought, rhyme; Ahmir Thompson, drums; Marc Cyril, bass). Check out the brilliant interplay between Williamson and Black Thought.
09 Pffat Time
Here is “Blakk Planets” from That Fuss (Steve Williamson, tenor sax, piano, programming; Noel McKoy, vocals; Jhelisa Anderson, vocal harmonies; Ahmir Thompson, drums; Black Thought, rhyme; Marc Cyril, bass). I need more of this in my life.
Written by: Carled
In a time when jazz was the popular art form, this 1958 Tonight Show with the Terry Gibbs Quartet and Terry Pollard is an indication of what style was accepted by mainstream media. In this performance, Terry Gibbs shows why he is one of the forefathers to introduce the vibraphone to the newer eras of jazz, being a precursor to the likes of Bobby Hutcherson and Roy Ayers. Although this is the Terry Gibbs Quartet, it is Terry Pollard who steals the show.
You may not have heard of Terry Pollard. She didn’t record much during the after the 1950’s, but in this video she proves to be a fabulous Jazz woman, showing her exceptional skill on the piano and the vibraphone. Jazz has always been dominated by men, so to see a woman who has nearly perfected her craft as a jazz musician could be seen as a stunning rarity, but in actuality, it could have been more common than the mainstream media has lead us to believe. Regardless of her career, or lack there of, this video shows her excellence, and we are lucky enough to witness this one performance that will forever change the common perception of the historical relevance of jazz vibraphonists.