The Crusaders are a huge part of the nervous system for the anatomy of the funk groove. Especially when it comes to it’s jazziest end. Now its 2016,I turn around and only one member of the original Crusaders lineup is still alive in Stix Hooper. Of course this year,there’s been so many other musicians (mostly those born in America’s “silent generation”) who’ve passed away. At the same time,its recently come to my attention that the Crusaders groove is truly immortal beyond its individual members. So in terms of profiling their songs,it seemed best to put the spotlight specifically on them.
Today,I’ll be showcasing Wayne Henderson. The Texas trombonist was a founding member of the group when the were called The Jazz Crusaders. This group were hard bop/soul jazz pioneers. And wrote some of that jazz tributary’s most defining numbers. By 1972,the band had dropped the adjective “jazz” from their name. And their concentration was squarely on the funk. In 1974 they signed to MCA. And brought in guitarist Larry Carlton as a member. One excellent example of this is the opening song off their 1974 album Southern Comfort entitled “Stomp And Buck Dance”.
This jam is one I’d describe as a superb example of unison soloing. Stix keeps the rhythm sturdy with a 6 beat funky beat accented with percussive cymbals. Wilton’s bass line and Larry’s growling guitar bursts are right there with that bottom. Joe Sample meanwhile provides ascending/descending chords with a processed Fender Rhodes piano. On the choral parts,Sample comes in with even more acoustic/electric piano parts as Wayne and Wilton come in with wonderfully harmonic sax/trumpet solos and accents. The song itself pares right down to its initial base before fading out.
Southern Comfort is a CD I picked up about twelve years ago at the now defunct Common Sense Pawn Shop. The moment my dad and I put this in the car CD player,we were both entranced in this songs thick world of funkiness. The idea of combining sharp solos with clean unison playing made “Stomp And Buck Dance” one of my very favorite Wayne Henderson compositions written for The Crusaders. All the members talents just shine like the sun on this song. And among the Crusaders many songs and albums,this one stands out as one of their finest overall funk jams.
Filed under 1974, drums, Fender Rhodes, Funk Bass, jazz funk, Joe Sample, Larry Carlton, piano, rhythm guitar, Saxophone, Stix Hooper, The Crusaders, trombone, Wayne Henderson, Wilton Felder
One of the ongoing points Henrique Hopkins and I have in our conversations about shopping for records has to do with my experiences with the record stores in coastal Maine towns. Whether it be Acadia Nation Park (the location of the famous vacationing town of Bar Harbor) or the mid coast region that includes Belfast,Camden and Rockland there is nearly always a brick and mortar record store to hang out in and find new grooves. These are also areas that flourish with great appreciation for the arts. Doesn’t matter of one is a painter,musician,writer or stone mason. These are usually wonderful places to enjoy,purchase and especially create new works of art.
Camden was always a favorite place to go. It was once the home of Wild Rufus. This is where a lot of my immediate pre and post millennial crate digging sessions took place. That store’s been closed down for some years now. However today I met the man who started it up before I was even born. His name is Matt Brown. He and his wife Karyl share a store front. He sells the music/music related media and she sells homemade jewelry and clothing. The music part is called Manny’s,the other is Karyl’s Handmade Jewelry. My father told me to go investigate this new store a couple of weeks ago while he was in Camden with my mom. So she and I decided to venture there today.
These are the four CD’s I picked up from Manny’s today. Mr. Brown sells modern vinyl as well as new and used CD’s. Many of his used items are actually from his personal collection. And they account for Larry Carlton and Billy Cobham albums I picked up. He professed to love jazz and blues,and even commented on how strong a guitar player he felt Carlton was upon seeing my purchases. We also talked about my seeing B.B. King with Dickey Betts five years ago at the Bangor waterfront. And how great it was to see Muddy Waters perform with Eric Clatpon,Albert Lee and Muddy’s band at the Augusta Civil Center in Maine on May 25th,1979.
This coming Saturday is National Record Store Day. It’s been a couple years since I began this “record store stories” concept for Andresmusictalk. Meeting this Matt Brown was a great experience for me. And am looking forward to future encounters in his record store. I’d like to conclude this article by saying something to every jazz/funk/blues/soul/rock crate digger/record collector reading this. If you travel and decide to visit mid coast Maine this summer,stop into Manny’s and Karyl’s if your in the town of Camden. They have a growing collection of records he Brown makes it a great experience for anyone interesting in music.
*Below is a link to an article in the Penobscot Bay Pilot about Matt Brown and Manny’s:
Wild Rufus founder opens new record and CD shop in Camden
Filed under 2016, BB King, Blues, Camden Maine, coastal Maine, Eric Clapton, Jazz, Larry Carlton, Maine, Manny's, Matt Brown, Muddy Waters, Record Store Day, Record Stores, Uncategorized
Larry Carlton has already shown up on this blog a year ago. In that case,it was talking about his 2001 solo remake of the Crusaders classic “Put It Where You Want It”,the original of course on which he played on as well. With eight years of recording with such vital instrumental luminaries behind him,Carlton signed with Warner Bros. records in 1977 and began recording his third solo album in his Room 335 studio. There he recorded with fellow session greats such as Paulinho Da Costa and Abraham Laboriel. The this self titled Warner Bros debut finally came out in 1978. It wouldn’t be for another seventeen years that I would pick up a copy on CD and get a chance to hear it.
The album began with a song named after Carlton’s studio. The song had the same basic rhythm and a faster tempo as Steely Dan’s “Peg”. Considering Carlton played on their Aja album the year before,it wasn’t surprising. Much of the album focused on replicating the sounds of many of the people he’d done session work for already. So the album had a very familiar approach to it all. In addition to a stripped down version of the Crusaders classic “Night Crawler”,one song on this album stood out to me for it’s own funky distinction. It was one of those songs I’d go back to over and over upon first picking up this album. It’s called “I Apologize”.
A deep piano chord opens up with the slow paced percussion grooving along. Laboriel’s slap bass plays on those percussive accents. Carlton sings the songs main melody while playing an amp’d up 12 bar blues solo right behind it. On the chorus of the song,the tempo slows into a peddle based,slow swinging jazzy melody featuring the backing harmony vocals of the Canadian rock band Motherlode’s William “Smitty” Smith. On the second verse,an electric piano adds it’s own accents. On the third there’s a full on guitar solo from Carlton before the song cycles up in pitch for the following chorus. The backing vocals of Smith plus Carlton’s guitar soloing close the song out until fade out.
In a similar manner to George Harrison’s “Woman Don’t You Cry For Me”,this song takes a full on 12 bar blues number and gives it a heavy contemporary funk treatment. Considering that funk is every bit as blues based as rock ‘n’ roll, this song has the effect of grooving and rocking hard with a sleek instrumental prescription. Carlton’s singing style presents an easy going smoothness that,while not overtly soulful in attitude certainly allows the rhythmic thickness of this funk to stand out on it’s more instrumental terms. Larry Carlton has certainly recorded some amazing funk over the years-whether it be as a session man,on his own or as a Crusader. And this is one of his strongest grooves for me.
Filed under 1970's, Abraham Laboriel, blues funk, guitar, Larry Carlton, Paulinho Da Costa, session musicians, slap bass, The Crusaders, Uncategorized, William Smitty Smith
Considering how many times they’ve been reinterpreted from within their own catalog of songs? Band members who have come in and out of the Crusaders over the years seem to able to find ways of expanding on the elasticity of their own compositions. And even styles of soloing with other musicians. In 2001 Larry Carlton,always a very reliable album maker over the years,released his seventeenth solo album entitled Deep Into It. As was usually the case? Larry surrounded himself with a small group of jazz/funk session players both old and new. And included two remakes of the Crusaders classic “Put It Where You Want It”-one of which was an extended version that really caught my ear in particular.
It all starts with a burst of organ from Ricky Peterson,which burns hot and cold by turns over the intro as Larry plays a subdued bluesy guitar solo with an equally subdued percussive back-round from Paulinho Da Costa-while Chris Potter joins in with a like minded sax solo. Each of the main refrains of the song have this exact same flavor-subdued and slowed to a crawl. While on the main chorus the drums of Billy Kilson drives home the other musicians to higher musical power.On the third refrain,Potter drags out his sax solo into the same grits ‘n gravy attitude as Larry’s funky guitar.
This pattern extends itself through the remainder of this song-each musician taking a similarly themed solo over the stripped down musical backup. From the grooving Wurlitzer of Rick Jackson to the hiccuping slap bass of Chris Kent-all for the final five minutes of the song. By that time? Each musician are all playing the main melodic theme in a subdued whisper of an instrumental conversation with each other-really throwing on the strong,down home bluesy gospel/soul style melodic orientation of the composition to it’s fullest possible affect.
One of the things that strikes me instantly about this interpretation of the song is the fact it takes down an entirely different attitude than the 1972 Crusaders original. Both have a rather tight flavor-with the solos all taking equal presidents over understated unison playing. This version truly embraces the idea George Clinton coined that any groove slowed down to a bluesier crawl makes it funkier. Now this song was already as funky as one could get to start with. But this amazing sextet of musicians just take it directly into the pocket of the song. It’s almost as if to say that,by the time of the new millennium,each musician who’d been a Crusader at one point was able to bring that groove to any other musician they played with. And if you ask me? That’s a pretty amazing musical feat for the funk!
Filed under 2001, Billy Kilson, Chris Kent, Chris Potter, Crusaders, Jazz, Jazz-Funk, Larry Carlton, Paulinho Da Costa, Put It Where You Want It, Rick Jackson, Ricky Peterson, slap bass, Wurlitzer organ