Les Baxter: Yellow Sun (GNP Crescendo, 1969, African Blue)
The term “exotica” always conjures up some swank ’60s bachelor pad, the kind with a well-designed hifi system, some mid-century modern furniture and a crystal decanter of liquor. I wasn’t alive when the genre was more popular but it’s hard to imagine that exotica wasn’t much more than a slightly sexed up variation of easy listening: something more often heard in banal suburban living rooms than a downtown corner condo. It was also one of the more prominent examples of audio tourism, promising to transport the listener away to some foreign, um, exotic land but often quite vague in actual destination.
Case in point, the only formal exotica LP I’ve ever owned has been Les Baxter’s quite decent African Blue but not only is it unclear what’s “African” about any of the songs on here but this album is basically the commercial version of a KPM library record by Baxter entitled…Bugaloo in Brazil which manages to invoke both Afro-Cuban grooves and Brazilian music even though those are completely different musical traditions. So…yeah.
But hey, the tunes are sweet, especially the vocal-laced bossa ballad “Yellow Sun” (entitled “Tropical Canvas” on the KPM LP). Now excuse me while I go sip a martini.
Raymond Guiot: Oriental Vibrato (Tele-Music, 196?, Indicatifs)
Chatelain & Roy: La Parade Du Depart (Tele-Music, 196?, Un Tour De France)
I’ve said this on many occasions (here) but while I definitely don’t go out of my way to collect library records as a genre, I also don’t pass them by when I cross paths with a decent one. These two both came from my recent Paris trip (Tele-Music is a French library series) and while I didn’t score my main Tele-Music white whale, I wasn’t mad at paying relatively little for each of these.
“Oriental Vibrato” is some straight up dusty fingers joint (no, I mean, literally, it was) though I’m surprised that it doesn’t seem to have been sampled by anyone. What’s the squawk made by? Sounds like a horn of some sort but with a weird muted effect.
I’m definitely all about “La Parade Du Depart,” which is the only memorable track off an album inspired by the Tour De France. It’s all about that transition from the flute-y funk it opens with to the MJQ-like piano tinkling. Interestingly, my 10 year old loves this song though when pressed, she can’t articulate why. Like father, like daughter?
Les Fantasistes D’Haiti: Panno Caye Nan Bois Chene (Celini, 196?, S/T)
Hypnotic spiritual jazz-esque biguine track out of Haiti. Vocalist Ansy Derose sounds amazing here. More info on the group here.
365 Days of Soul, #158
Dizzy Gillespie: Manteca (America, 1974, The Source)
Dizzy first made “Manteca” famous back in the mid-1940s and it would become one of his most important recordings in terms of introducing Latin influences into American pop music (and obviously jazz). He’d go onto re-record the song many times throughout his career but if you’re looking for the funkiest one: here it is, recorded in France in ’73. Kenny Clarke is a beast on drums here but the whole rhythm section whips this into a jazz dance frenzy.
365 Days of Soul, #107
Monty Alexander: Monticello (MPS, 1972, 7″)
Speaking of undercover covers, this is such an obviously blatant flip on Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues,” it’s kind of boss that Monty tried to pass this off as his own original composition.
365 Days of Soul, #70
Royale Jazz Trio: Routine (Roper, 1977, Modern Jazz Elementary
Dance instruction album.
A cool little jazz dance album that features a slew of cover songs masquerading as different dance practice numbers. “Routine” is, of course, “Django.” There’s also covers of “Theme De Yoyo” and “A Night In Tunisia.”
365 Days of Soul, #69
BADBADNOTGOOD: Limit To Your Love (Self-released, 2012, BBNG2)
Pop and hip-hop influenced jazz album.
I was ready to move onto something else but I love that this is a cover (James Blake) of a cover (Feist).
365 Days of Soul, #67
BADBADNOTGOOD: The World Is Yours/Brooklyn Zoo (Self-release, 2011, BBNG)
Hip-hop influenced jazz album.
If I remember this correctly, someone at the sampling workshop that Thes and I put together asked what we thought of hip-hop instrumental remakes by jazz bands, citing BBNG as one example. I said I hadn’t heard their work but that, on principle, it always seemed like an odd idea since odds are, a jazz remake wasn’t going to improve upon the instrumental of the original.
But you know what? This is pretty damn good. And no, it’s not better than Pete Rock’s original but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good in its own right. You get a sense of the essence of the source material, executed quite nicely by a trio that sounds capable of executing on a whole lot more (but is content with this little trip down memory lane).
365 Days of Soul, #66
Spontaneous Combustion: Steppin’ Loose (Spontaneous Combustion, 1979, 7″)
Jazz-funk single out of St. Louis.
I certainly don’t go out of my way to collect jazz-funk records the way I used to back in the late ’90s and early ’00s but I still have a soft spot for the sound. From what I can gather, this is Freddy G. “Boom Boom” Washington’s outfit, back when he was based in St. Louis.
365 Days of Soul, #51
Jo Jo Smith: Combinations (Hoctor, 197?, Jazz Dance Today)
Jazz dance instructional album.
There’s at least three kinds of collectible Hoctor LPs: the ones where then-current pop songs were being covered, the ones where folks created original songs, and then these: the most “dance instructional” ones where where you have long tracks that don’t function so much as conventional songs as they rhythm tracks for dancers to practice over. And in that regard, this album is one of the best you’ll find by Hoctor. Breaks, piano, bass galore.
365 Days of Soul, #35