This isn’t some grand insight but what I find remarkable about the career of the late Donald Byrd was his ability to span so many different phases of jazz. For a cat who started in the bebop era, he bridged from there into post-bop, dabbled a bit in free, became one of the giants of the soul jazz era, and then became a massive force during the heyday of fusion. The vast majority of artists – of any genre – have trouble transitioning between even micro-changes in musical styles. Donald Byrd stayed relevant for at least 20 years. That’s as impressive a feat as I’ve seen by any artist above or below the platinum line.
The following playlist is absolutely not meant to be comprehensive. There’s dozens of songs I could have included but opted not to, either because they seemed so obvious to replay them would be redundant or, more to the point: they weren’t my favorites. But even this modest sampling gives you the idea of the astonishing range of Byrd’s musical genius.
Continue reading THE MANY FLIGHTS OF DONALD BYRD
I decided, in late 2012, I really didn’t want to write RIP pieces anymore. I meant, absolutely, no disrespect to the likes of Marva Whitney or Inez Andrews or Fontella Bass or Ravi Shankar, et. al. But it is depressing when your site begins to resemble a roll call of the dead and as I’ve said in the past, for people like me, in love with music of the 1960s and ’70s, we are definitely entering into a time when a lot of our heroes and heroines will be passing away. […]
Continue reading DONALD BYRD: RIP
It seems wrong to say I had a “great time” at a memorial but I will say: if the goal of this Sunday’s public memorial for Matthew Africa was to partake in the kind of joyous socializing and good cheer that accompanied his gigs and parties, then it did everything you could want and more. At the end, a second line band lead people through the streets of Oakland, giving Matthew a proper musician’s send-off.
Matthew Africa is gone. I’m having trouble accepting this.
I probably first met him around ’91 or ’92, when I started volunteering at KALX FM in Berkeley. I admit: Matthew intimidated the hell out of me at first. He wasn’t unfriendly but he carried himself with a certain, serious countenance. He didn’t seem like the type to suffer fools lightly and I guess I thought myself a fool, or close enough to one. What trips me out to realize is that, for the longest time, I just thought of […]
Continue reading FOR MATTHEW AFRICA
I originally meant to write this as a dedication to Burt Bacharach, having recently prepped a mix for the Burt Bacharach Tribute night at Devil’s Pie. I was running behind (as I often do these days) but today, Hal David died.
I’m sure someone far more learned in the great American songbook can explain why, between the two partners, Burt Bacharach has seemed to draw more praise than David. It’s extraordinarily difficult to find a song that one man worked on that the other did not as well; as far as […]
Continue reading FOR HAL (AND BURT)
Maurice Gibb passed away before I had really begun Soul Sides so I never paid due respect to the Bee Gees. As a ’70s baby, some of my earliest memories of music revolved around hearing The Bee Gees – who were inescapable in the late ’70s – on the radio, at malls, etc. A bit milquetoast and cheesy? Sure. But I still love listening to this ballad in particular.
Robin Gibb, who passed away today, is that high falsetto you hear. Thanks for all the music.
Letters from my betters:
All Things Considered on Chuck Brown.
Ernest Hardy on Donna Summer.
Along with Run DMC, the Beastie Boys were the first rap artists I ever listened to obsessively. I never thought of them as a trio of individual MCs; they always sounded to me like a group package so I can’t say MCA was “my favorite” of three. But if Ad Rock had the most elliptical voice with its droops and slurs, MCA was the hardcore anchor: rough and rugged.
It saddens me to realize how both Run DMC and the Beasties, each lost a core member far before their time. At least, […]
Continue reading HE HAD A LICENSE TO ILL
Sad news: Jimmy Sabater, the “velvet sound” of Latin soul, just passed away. To me, Sabater is one of the most undersung of the boogaloo giants, the literal voice to many of the style’s great hits. I had a chance to interview him a couple of years back for the liner notes to the Joe Cuba Sextet’s We Must Be Doing Something Right and am grateful to have had that opportunity.
Sabater and Cuba were, for the most part, inseparable from one another. It’s impossible to consider the accomplishments of one without […]
Continue reading REMEMBERING JIMMY SABATER
RIP, Don Cornelius.