SHADES OF SOUL, EP 1.3: THE SOUL JAZZ EPISODE

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Our latest episode of our Radio Sombra show, Shades of Soul, is dedicated the soul-jazz sound of the late ’60s (and its rediscovery and celebration in the 1990s). We end with a monster set of all five parts of the greater “Smilin’ Billy Suite”.

Shades of Soul 1.3: The Soul-Jazz Episode by Oliver Wang on Mixcloud

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SUMMER CHILLS

Question from Luca:

I’m amazed from Kool & the Gang’s “Summer Madness.” I really want to do a playlist with all the mood of this song. Chill out jazz, slow and relaxing, something meditative. Could you tell me some song like that, without voices, just instrumental?

Answer: Funny, I was just thinking the other day about how good Idris Muhammed’s “Loran Dance” is and that would very much fall into the groove you seem to be talking about:

I’d suggest the entire CTI/Kudu catalog could be cherry-picked to find other songs in this vein though I […]

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PRIVATE PILE: BOB ZELLIN TAKES US FOR A WHIRL

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Bob Zellin: Sunny + The Shadow Of Your Smile
From In a Whirl (Di No, 196?)

Sometimes, all it takes is a good cover. Add to that a 20-something organ prodigy, stroking the B-3, H-100 and a harpsichord, recording for a custom label, and covering a slew of jazz standards. This may border on lounge kitschy (not an unfair characterization) but a B-3 has such a distinctive, playful character that I’m willing to forgive a lot to hear someone who knows what they’re doing. Both of these covers are […]

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PRIVATE PILE: TEXAS PRISON MUSIC

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There’s albums recorded in prisons – think Johnny Cash’s famous At Folsom Prison or Eddie Palmieri’s Live at Sing Sing albums – but then there are prison albums recorded by prisoners. These seem to coincide with the heyday of custom album-making (since most of them were recorded remotely, at prison) as well as, perhaps, pre-“War on Crime” era prison policies were music was seen as one pathway to rehabilitation.

That was certainly the idea behind this prison LP issued in 1965 by the Texas Department of Corrections, with help from […]

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SINGLE SERVINGS: RICK HOLMES + ROY AYERS

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Rick Holmes: Remember to Remember + The Unknowledgeable One
From 12″ (Gold Mink, 1981)

Picked this up at Record Jungle the other week: a really strange 12″ produced by Roy Ayers, featuring L.A. radio DJ Rick Holmes. Some of you might already be familiar with Holmes since his voice graces the Cannonball Adderley Love, Sex, and the Zodiac album but I didn’t realize he went onto record something with Ayers, a decade later.

Musically, this is vintage post-disco Ayers; very groovy and soulful. Holmes though… He’s ok […]

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THE PEDDLERS SING “ON A CLEAR DAY”

During the first half of the last season of Breaking Bad, I was watching this scene from the episode “Hazard Pay” and my first thought was, “what song is this???

And as it turns out…it was this:

The Peddlers: On a Clear Day
From Three In a Cell (Epic, 1968)

I’m only slightly familiar with this British trio, mostly because of their awesome Suite London, which I wrote about back in 2007. But only recently, that was the only LP of theirs I ever owned. I slept on Three In a Cell and […]

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RED CLAY, RECORD REGRETS, AND OTHER QUESTIONS ANSWERED

Question from Gilberto: “What song was recorded first? Marcus Belgrave’s Space Oddissey or Freddie Hubbard’s Red Clay? Been always curious about that one.”

Answer: Through the magic that is Google, the “Red Clay” recording sessions were laid down in late January of 1970 so we can presume “Red Clay” was originally composed sometime in early 1970 or late 1969. Tribe Records, for whom Marcus Belgrave recorded Gemini II, didn’t even release its first album until 1972 and Gemini II, on which “Space Odyssey” appeared, didn’t appear until 1974.

So I’m going to have to go with Freddie on this one: sounds like Belgrave was influenced by “Red Clay” in composing “Space Odyssey.”


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JOHNNY PATE’S LOOK OF LOVE

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Johnny Pate: Constant Wind
From Outrageous (MGM, 1970)

I recently copped a Pate LP that I should have probably had years ago: Set a Pattern. It’s one of those “big in the ’90s/diggers” albums given the inclusion of “Look of Love” but as nice a Bacharach cover as it is, it’s a cut that really has no major function except for sample filing.

In contrast, I had totally forgotten about another one of Pate’s LPs from the same era: Outrageous. To me, it’s also a bit of […]

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THE MANY FLIGHTS OF DONALD BYRD

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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.1 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.
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  1. Case in point: the year in hip-hop in 1992.

MONTY ALEXANDER CHANGES COLORS

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Monty Alexander: Chameleon
From Monty Strikes Again (MPS, 1976)

I was recently flipping through a bin of LPs I’ve pulled aside to sell but given that this bin has gotten rather ancient, I’ve forgotten what the deal is with some of the records therein. That includes this Monty Alexander album that I began to needle drop, only to remind myself: oh yeah, this is the one that had this quirky acoustic piano cover of Herbie Hancock’s “Chameleon.”

In contrast […]

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