Lou Donaldson – Alligator Bogaloo (Audio) (1967)

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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Miles Davis – Workin’ with The Miles Davis Quintet (1959) (Audio)

Jazz can be considered to be derived from many different themes and concepts, but at the base is the sound of The Miles Davis Quintet

Bilal feat. Robert Glasper – Butterfly (Audio) (2013)

Bilal’s latest offering, A Love Surreal, is vivid. Even in its most brooding moments, the music seems to pop with an unexpected vibrancy. It hits and you should be ready for it.

Initially, I wanted to explore the first proper track from the album, a song that has already received considerable coverage, but definitely deserving of another look.
Bilal – West Side Girl “West Side Girl” is a lyrical birthday party. It’s just fun. I must have played that song for a half-hour straight, just so I could master the vocal cadences to lines like…

“Well, if the Devil wears Prada, this is Hell
It gets hot when you close to me
Love, drug, potion me
Burn like 151
I think it’s so much fun, girl”

All of a sudden, I’m dancing around my room; falling in love with a girl I haven’t even met yet. Lyrical 151. It’s that kind of real.

So, the plan was to do an in-depth exploration of that song and call it a day. But I told myself that I needed to finish the album first. Because every relationship needs closure.

And that’s when I happened upon “Butterfly.”

This is the track that completely contradicts that sonic buoyancy I referenced earlier. This one’s for the midnight sessions.
Bilal – Butterfly feat. Robert Glasper Bilal and Robert Glasper. That’s all the moment requires. And it’s an appropriate simplicity. A composition this tender needn’t be layered in grandiosity. Real emotion is raw and naked, just like this.

Again, there isn’t much to even expound upon. This is doing a lot with very little. To set a mood is to elicit feelings buried underneath. You do so not with hyper-aggressive overtures, but with a subtlety deserving of a response. This was a flawlessly executed endeavor. Modern balladeers, relax and takes notes.

I will say this. If the Black Jesus I pray to every night does, in fact, exist, we will get some sort of joint project from the two. Their chemistry is frightening in the most beautiful ways I’ve ever heard. Masters at work, I thank you.


Written By: Paul Pennington
Bilal - A Love Surreal

Donald Byrd – A Personal Retrospective

My earliest memories begin in the backseat of a ’92 Camry. It was in my mother’s car that I was introduced to music.

Before Jay-Z, before the radio, before MTV, before anything else modern, I listened to what she did and that began with Donald Byrd.

It annoyed me, because even at a young age, I wanted to be defiant. I wanted to rage against the parental machine. Listening to the same music as your mother is textbook lame and I hated myself for succumbing to her infectious tastes. So, I decided to hide.

Conjuring Fitzgeraldian nightmares of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg or perhaps even Big Brother, itself, a pair of bright, attentive eyes met mine. Rear-view mirrors are a child’s worst enemy. Their watchtower-like construction required of me a new level of stealth. And just like that, I was discreetly nestled behind the driver’s seat, quietly mastering my greatest gift—the air trumpet. Despite my fears, I knew this much: You can’t just plaaaaay the air trumpet; you’ve got to really PLAY the air trumpet. So, at the tender age of nine, I choreographed a flawless set of movements to accompany my imaginary virtuosic displays. Even in the reduced confines of my leather-bound stage, I articulated every note with an orchestrated dip and an exaggerated sway. I was effortlessly cool. I was Donald Byrd. I was a legend in my own mind. Ask about me.

Donald Byrd – Change – Makes You Want To Hustle

Now it may sound strange – a nine year old kid, inconspicuously spazzing out to an old jazz-funk fusion record on the backseat of his mother’s car. Ironically, it made even more sense to me. I appreciated the music of my generation, I really did, but it didn’t make me feel the same. This was different.

As a teenager, I came to terms with it all and accepted myself for who I was. I did, however, find myself occasionally justifying this ardent stannery vis–à–vis a burgeoning appreciation for hip-hop’s primary sources.

“Nah, see…I was riding out to that Wiz, you know? Just doin’ me. But then I had…um…I had put this on by accident. It’s straight doe, cuz…like…it’s the same song. Nahmean?”

Blackbyrds – Mysterious Vibes
Wiz Khalifa – Ink My Whole Body

It’s funny thinking about all of this now, because as we speak I’m going through my mother’s old crates, exploring dusty vinyls from the Donald Byrd back catalogue. Life always comes full circle.

City Life

Donald Byrd has passed away and we will hear endless conversations about his achievements—countless degrees, years upon years educating the children, and a discography that shaped the entire platform of hip-hop. But honestly, I’m not interested in any of that right now. This one feels a bit more personal.

And let’s be clear. I never met Donald. I was never in the Blackbyrds (Wikipedia won’t acknowledge my contributions to the Complete Car Sessions, recorded from ’97-’99). And I never even got to catch him live. But when my mom put me in that backseat, she drove me to school and Donald Byrd was my first teacher.

I don’t mean to suffocate you with melodramatic wordplay. I, too, recognize the possibly overbearing sentimentality of my prose, but that doesn’t make these words any less true. Donald Byrd meant more to me than just about any artist of my own time. Through his art, I found the critical framework for my overarching theses on organized sound. He is the reason I value, above all, the Roots, Robert Glasper, and any other musician that defies traditional archetypes.

But I’ll save that discussion for another day. Right now, I just say thanks to Donaldson Toussaint L’Ouverture Byrd II. You will be missed.

Written By: Paul Pennington

Five Other Dave Brubeck Songs Not Named “Take Five”

In remembering Dave Brubeck, we look at the “other” works of his legendary career.

Lonnie Liston Smith / Curren$y – A Song of Love / 2Much (1976 / 2012)

Curren$y teaches us a lesson on the importance of Lonnie Liston Smith with his newest mixtape, Priest Andretti.

Erroll Garner – Autumn Leaves (1955)

This is what a warm autumn day sounds like, provided by one of its chief architects, jazz pianist Erroll Garner

Roy Ayers Ubiquity – Virgo Red (1973) (Audio)

This is one of Roy Ayers’ best album, and this article explains why.

Dave Pike – Jazz For The Jet Set (1966) (Audio)

This is a great look into 60s jazz that specializes in the marimba, Dave Pike.

70|30 Presents: Brasiliana – Mixed by DJ Haylow (Free Download)

Haylow’s newest mix features 120 minutes of bossa nova, jazz, samba, and lounge music for your listening pleasure. Click the banner for the free download, then sit back and relax, and enjoy what Brasiliana has to offer.

Roy Ayers Ubiquity – A Tear To A Smile (Audio) (1975)

Roy Ayers’ fusion sound is best exemplified in this 1975 release.

Abdullah Ibrahim – For John Coltrane (Live) | A Midsummer Night’s Eulogy

Taking a moment out to eulogize one of our most important figures, forty-five years later.

Rick James feat. Roy Ayers – Throwin’ Down Album (1982) (Audio)

Roy Ayers and Rick James combine for this album that many fans may not know about.

Herbie Mann – Impressions Of The Middle East (1967) (Audio)

This 1967 album by Herbie Mann features a young Roy Ayers as one of his sidemen.

Johnny Hammond – Gears (1975) (Audio)

Although the record cover doesn’t look the part, this album is filled with samples by contemporary artists, and it is brought to you by the great organists Johnny Hammond.