Cal Tjader, Camp Lo, 45 King/Latee, Maurice Davis: Sparklin’

Cal Tjader: Leyte
From Soul Sauce (Verve, 1964)

Camp Lo: Sparkle
From Uptown Saturday Night (Profile, 1997)

45 King feat. Latee: Brainstorm
From For DJs Only EP (45 King Records, 198?)

Maurice Davis: Mr. Lonely
From 7″ (BeeGee, 197?)

I’ve spent the last week or so slaving over an assignment involving classic funk tunes and frankly, if I hear another Commodores or Ohio Players song, I might have a seizure. To unwind, I’ve been listening to a variety of different tunes, a sampling of which follows.

Technically, these songs are a bit out of order since I wouldn’t have gotten to Tjader’s “Leyte” if I hadn’t been listening to Uptown Saturday Night and wondering, “I wonder what sample Ski used?” Admittedly, I probably should have already been up on “Leyte” given that Soul Sauce was one of Tjader’s most successful albums ever but oddly, I never got around to picking this one up (probably because I saw it around so much, I just figured I’d grab it “next time”).

Sometimes, there’s nothing so good to chill out to than a great vibraphone track and Tjader has these in embarrassing abundance (at some point, I really need to post up his version of “Morning” off of Agua Dulce but another time, another time) and “Leyte” is right up there with the best. It has a smoky, Afro-Latin sabor that’s laid-back without being lazy, what people should mean when they speak of “lounge” music instead of that campy kitsch that often passes for it. And the vibes – ah, the vibes – sparkling…

…which of course, brings us to Camp Lo’s “Sparkle,” one of the smoothest cuts off the still-slept-on Uptown Saturday Night album and obviously, one that borrows heavily from “Leyte.” Given the throwback, ’70s steez of Camp Lo, they sound perfect over this track (even if their lyrics could be more obtusely stream of consciousness than Ghostface’s). By the way, be sure to track down the “Mr. Midnight” mix of “Sparkle” which is basically an acapella set over the “Sparkle” beat but filtered to a ghostly wisp of the original. Mega-minimalist and surprisingly effective.

As it was, by sheer coincidence, in my iTunes playlist, “Leyte” was followed by “Brainstorm” and the two songs were perfect for one another given that this obscure 45 King track also uses vibes on it. I still have to thank’s Robbie E. for swapping this EP with me, plus Cold Rock Da Spot gets love for their recent 45 King-themed post. Had this been on a commercial single, it would have easily been up there with the best of Latee’s Wild Pitch catalog not to mention 45 King at his best.

Lastly, I recently got a copy of this Maurice Smith single from rapper/producer/game show player Thes One who knew I was a fan of BeeGee material (the local, Los Angeles, Scientologist-funded label), especially since he thought keyboardist Shelton Kirby was playing the Rhodes on here (and I love me some Rhodes).1 As a vocalist, Smith’s style sounds initially too old-fashined for the song – there’s a time warp effect – but as the song builds, it all melts together better and Smith ends up reminding me of Eugene McDaniels; this song, sound-wise, would have fit nicely onto something like Headless Heroes. I love how the song builds slowly, and the arrangement takes these small, but significant turns after each bridge. Lovely indeed.

  1. Not a Scientologist-funded label. Not sure why I thought that.