Tag Archives: jazz icons

Anatomy of THE Groove: “Freaks For The Festival” by Rahsaan Roland Kirk

Rahsaan Roland Kirk, born Ronald Theodore in Columbus,Ohio, had a creative ethic strongly connected to his nigh time dreaming. That includes the two changes he made to his given name. As he started leading his own bands, his music grew from its hard bop roots to bring in elements of the avant garde and even older jazz styles such as ragtime. Kirk’s music also thematically explored the black power ethic of the 60’s-with a socially conscious comic wit that perhaps influenced 70’s funk era icons as George Clinton. As a multi instrumentalist, particularly with reed instruments, he was also a major innovator.

Blind from childhood due to a botched medical treatment, he developed a form of playing that has thematically broken records. It was known as circular breathing-which allowed him to sustain complex notes on saxophone almost indefinitely. Not to mention often playing three saxes at the same time. One album of his my father often playing parts of for me as a child was 1975’s The Case Of The 3 Sides Dream In Audio Color. It was a double album whose fourth side was largely empty saves for a sound snippet at the end. The song from it I’m talking about today though is called “Freaks At The Festival”.

Kirk’s rapping starts out the song before the ultra funky JB’s/Clyde Stubblefield style drum comes in-soon accompanied by Kirk’s bass sax melody. After this, his self made “one man horn section” accompanies the ever more flamboyant drumming, an amazing and complex funky electric jazz bass line. During the third chorus in, Kirk’s flute solo accompanies what I’m pretty sure is Richard Tee’s Fender Rhodes piano-with Kirk and the band exchange some their vocal raps. With some of the sax tones having some heavy fuzz peddle on them-all before everything comes to a big musical climax at the end.

“Freaks At The Festival” musically reminds me of what one might get if Cannonball Adderley,Art Ensemble Of Chicago and The JB’s all got together to do an avant funk record. The sound that the instrumentalists (who are hard to pin down due to crediting and my knowledge level at identifying musicians) is alternately controlled, focused, rhythmic and thematically chaotic. The wild way in which the melodies are played contrast heavily with its coherent funk rhythm attitude. And knowing what I know of him, this is one of Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s most defining songs that I’ve yet heard.

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Anatomy of THE Groove For The Brothers & Sisters Who Aren’t Here: “Lenox Avenue Breakdown” by Arthur Blythe

Arthur Blythe,the LA/San Diego free jazz sax player,passed away on March 25th this year at the age of 76 due to complications from Parkisons disease. The only reason I am aware of him comes from a question to my father. It was about the last jazz album he brought before I was born. And it was Blythe’s 1979 album Lenox Avenue Breakdown. His recording career started comparatively late,similar to the also recently passed vocalist Al Jarreau. His group in the late 70’s was also a major training ground for a new generation of free jazz musicians such as guitarist James Blood Ulmer.

Not being an academic jazz writer,the best way for me to write about the more acoustic styles of jazz would be based on the feeling and sound they convey. Arthur Blythe’s music came across to me as being very similar in flavor to how Miles Davis approached his music during its electric period-strong rhythmic foundation but with a more abstract,free jazz compositional style. Blythe and his group seemed to be doing something similar but more acoustically. One song that best exemplifies that musical attitude is the title song to the album Lenox Avenue Breakdown.

Jack DeJohnette’s drums get the groove going with some hard swinging-with Ulmer and bassist Cecil McBee’s interaction keeping up with James Newton’s melodically bluesy flute. Newton and Blythe really let loose with their reed fanfarring after that,and just before each solo section of the song as well. The first solo is an extremely intense one from Blythe-flying into the higher registers with DeJohnette and Ulmer following along with his intensity. Next up is Newton’s extremely atonal flute solo-following by Bob Stewart’s bouncing tuba solo before that reed fanfare brings it all to a halt.

Arthur Blythe had been a member of the The Underground Musicians and Artists Association in the mid 60’s. And he began his recording career under the name ‘Black Arthur Blythe” to maintain his strong ethnic identification. His playing on the song “Lenox Avenue Breakdown” is filled with that passion,but is very clean in tone. This actually adds to its power. The aggressive loudness and emphasis on solos actually adds a bit of a rock feeling to the free funk-jazz atmosphere of the song. Its taken me some years to really get into the song. But its a strong musical statement from Arthur Blythe.

 

 

 

 

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Anatomy of THE Groove: “Harlem Boys” by Sonny Rollins

Walter Theodore Rollins,known primarily as Sonny,remains one of the few surviving members of the original bop era of jazz. Starting out with musicians like Jackie McLean, the native New Yorker really began to set off the hard bop/soul jazz revolution. This is evident in the song that I myself (and many others) associate closest with him: “St. Thomas”. This song brings in the Carnival styled percussive drumming and rhythmic sax playing whose roots lay in Rollins’ roots from his US Virgin Island native parents. This Caribbean instrumental vibe would always remain a staple in the saxophonists music.

Having recently been covered regarding a recent volume of his Road Shows live CD series by one of my blogging partners Ron Wynn,its come to mind just how natural it was for Sonny Rollins to evolve into the funk end of jazz. This occurred gradually on his albums for Milestone from 1972 onward. His final studio album of the 70’s was called Don’t Ask. It found Rollins strong embracing funk with the Headhunters Bill Summers along with Mark Soskin,Al Foster and bassist Jerome Harris. The one song that really says it all for the funk (to me anyway) on this particular album is its opener entitled “Harlem Boys”.

Summers and Foster get the groove heated up from the start with a grooving drum/percussion stomp-with the rhythms accented by Soskin’s and Harris’s dancing foundational bass line harmonizing piano melodies. Then Rollins starts playing the choral melody, while Soskin plays a bouncing piano solo. The bridge of the song breaks it down to Bill Summers percussion mixed high with Al Foster’s drums-featuring Rollins improvising his melody right over it. After that the songs slowly concludes with its main them. Rollins plays an atonal,bop style solo before the song closes out on his solo alone.

This song stands as a powerful,rhythmically heavy dance/funk tune performed acoustically by a group of seasoned jazz/funk players. From the piano to Rollins’ thick and phat sax tones,everything on this song manages to be melodically AND rhythmically strong (and very funky) all at the same time. Something tells me this period of Sonny Rollins musical output isn’t too well known. Yet the hard bop style he helped pioneer the entire framework for the jazz/funk sound this song embraces. So its wonderful to hear Sonny Rollins arrive at an important checkpoint of his own musical path.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 1970's, Al Foster, Bill Summers, drums, Funk Bass, jazz funk, jazz icons, Jerome Harris, Mark Soskin, New York, percussion, piano, Saxophone, Sonny Rollins

Sonny Rollings Hold The Stage,For The Forth Time: An Overview By Ron Wyn

Sonny Rollins

Today at 2:25 PM

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Filed under Bobby Broom, concerts, Jazz, jazz icons, Live music, Music Reviewing, Ron Wynn, Sonny Rollins