Category: jazz

On this day in music history: June 15, 1978 – …

On this day in music history: June 15, 1978 – “Sunlight”, the eighteenth studio album by Herbie Hancock is released. Produced by Herbie Hancock and David Rubinson, it is recorded at The Automatt, Different Fur Trading Co. in San Francisco, CA and The Village Recorder in Los Angeles, CA from August 1977 – May 1978. Following collaborations with his former Miles Davis band mates Ron Carter, Tony Williams, Wayne Shorter and trumpeter Freddie Hubbard under the name V.S.O.P., Herbie Hancock shifts musical gears once again.  A tireless innovator always in search of new musical avenues to explore, Hancock merges his stellar jazz chops with more mainstream R&B, pop and disco sounds on his next release. For “Sunlight”, Hancock assembles a group of top musicians to back him including Leon “Ndugu” Chancler, Harvey Mason, Tony Williams (drums), “Wah Wah” Watson, Ray Parker, Jr. (guitars), Jaco Pastorius, Byron Miller, Paul Jackson (bass), Bennie Maupin, Ernie Watts (saxophone), Bill Summers and Raul Rekow (percussion). The first album to feature him singing, it also marks the beginning of Hancock’s use of the Sennheiser Vocoder VSM 201 heard prominently on the first single “I Thought It Was You” (#85 R&B), becoming a key element of his sound throughout the rest of the 70’s and well into the 80’s. To promote the single in clubs, Columbia Records in the US issues a promotional 12" of the song (b/w the title track), featuring a unique edit that to date has never been released anywhere else. This promo has become a sought after collector’s item by fans in later years. The jazz/funk fusion and disco flavored sound of “I Thought”, while drawing a mixed reaction from his more straight ahead traditional jazz audience, it brings the prolific musician a newer and younger audience that embraces the new sound. Hancock also re-records “I Thought It Was You” again in 1979 with Japanese vocalist Kimiko Kasai for the album “Butterfly”, released exclusively in Japan. In and out of print for many years, the album is remastered and reissued on CD in 2013 as part of the career spanning box set “The Complete Columbia Album Collection 1972-1988”. “Sunlight” peaks at number three on the Billboard Jazz album chart, number thirty one on the R&B album chart, and number fifty eight on the Top 200.

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Early Rolling Stone Covers – Photos by Baron W…

Early Rolling Stone Covers – Photos by Baron Wolman

Issue #2 – Tina Turner, 1967

Issue #6 – Janis Joplin, 1968 

Issue #7- Jimi Hendrix, 1968

Issue #13 – Tiny Tim, 1968

Issue #14 – Frank Zappa, 1968

Issue #31- Sun Ra, 1969

Issue #33 – Joni Mitchell, 1969 

Issue #40 – Jerry Garcia, 1969 

Issue #52 – Creedance Clearwater Revival, 1970

Issue #59 – Little Richard, 1970

On this day in music history: June 13, 1979 – …

On this day in music history: June 13, 1979 – “Mingus”, the tenth album by Joni Mitchell is released. Produced by Joni Mitchell, it is recorded at A&M Recording Studios in Hollywood, CA and Electric Lady Studios in New York City from Mid 1978 – Early 1979. Experimenting with jazz since “Court And Spark”, Joni Mitchell receives an unexpected call. Revered as one of the most innovative and influential musicians of his generation, bassist Charles Mingus contacts Joni to initiate a musical collaboration. A prolific composer as well, Mingus is responsible for writing many jazz standards, including “Haitian Fight Song”, “Pithecanthropus Erectus” and “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” among them. At the time, Charles Mingus is suffering from Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS), leaving him paralyzed and in a wheelchair, but is still mentally alert and brimming with musical ideas. Having heard Mitchell’s album “Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter” and particularly intrigued by the orchestrated suite “Paprika Plains”. Mingus knows instinctively that Mitchell is the right collaborator, to work on his final musical project. Charles gives her six melodies he’s written to put lyrics to. In spite of Mingus’ reputation for being tempestuous and mercurial, the musicians enjoy an easy rapport. Mitchell assembles “a dream team” of great jazz musicians including Herbie Hancock, Jaco Pastorius, Wayne Shorter, Peter Erskine, Don Alias and Emil Richards to back her. Nearly complete by the end of 1978, Joni plays five of the six completed compositions for Charles, who gives his approval. Sadly, Mingus does not live to see the albums release, passing away from his illness on January 5, 1979 at the age of 56. The final track completed is “God Must Be A Boogie Man”, just after Mingus’ death. The finished album is interspersed with spoken excerpts from Charles Mingus himself, including a brief clip of him scat singing with Joni. The gatefold cover features paintings by Mitchell, including portraits of Mingus to pay further tribute to the jazz icon. When “Mingus” is released, most fans are perplexed by the musician’s head long foray into jazz. Many critics react with outright derision, asking indignantly “oh, what’s she doing now???”. It becomes Joni Mitchell’s first album to not reach Gold status since her debut. In spite of this, Mitchell embarks on a brief tour to promote “Mingus”, including one at the Santa Barbara County Bowl, that is recorded and video taped for the live album and home video “Shadows And Light”. Years later, “Mingus” attains cult classic status, becoming a favorite of Mitchell’s loyal fan base. Originally released on CD in 1988, the album is remastered and reissued (w/ HDCD encoding) in 1999, featuring the artwork and lyrics restored to the package. “Mingus” peaks at number seventeen on the Billboard Top 200.

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On this day in music history: June 11, 1991 – …

On this day in music history: June 11, 1991 – “Unforgettable… With Love”, the fourteenth album by Natalie Cole is released. Produced by David Foster, Andre Fischer and Tommy LiPuma, it is recorded at Capitol Recording Studios, Conway Studios, Group IV Recording Studios, Hollywood Sound in Hollywood, CA, Pacifique Studios, Bill Schnee Studios, Track Record Studios in North Hollywood, CA, Lighthouse Studios, Ocean Way Recording, Westlake Audio, Johnny Yuma Recording Studios in Los Angeles, CA and Twentieth Century Fox Scoring Stage in Century City, CA from November 1990 – April 1991. Having successfully restarted her stalled recording career in the late 80’s after years of drug abuse and regaining her sobriety, Natalie Cole is about to begin her third decade with another career milestone. Following the release of the album “Good To Be Back” in 1989, Cole tells executives at her label EMI Records that she wants to record an album of standards originally recorded by her legendary father Nat King Cole. The label is not receptive to the idea, feeling that it “won’t be commercial” and will potentially alienate her new younger fan base. Determined to go forth with the project, Cole negotiates her release from EMI, when her management contacts Bob Krasnow at Elektra Records, who offers to sign her to the label and make the album. Assembling a team of producers that include Natalie’s then husband former Rufus drummer Andre Fischer, Tommy LiPuma (George Benson, Diana Krall) and David Foster (Chicago, Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Barbara Streisand), they go about the task of selecting which songs to record. They pare the list down to twenty two songs which include the standards “Paper Moon”, “Too Young”, “Mona Lisa”, “Nature Boy”, “Route 66” (featuring Natalie’s uncle Ike Cole on piano), “Smile”, “L-O-V-E” and “Darling, Je Vous Aime Beaucoup”. The albums centerpiece is the title track “Unforgettable”, which is turned into a virtual duet by lifting the vocal track from Nat King Cole’s 1961 re-recording. To add additional authenticity and reverence to the new version, they also use arranger and orchestra conductor Nelson Riddle’s original arrangement. Released in the late Spring of 1991, the album is an enormous artistic and commercial triumph, giving Natalie Cole the opportunity to honor her father’s legacy, while also becoming the most successful album of her career. “Unforgettable” sweeps the 34th Annual Grammy Awards in 1992, winning six awards including the three major prizes, Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Album Of The Year. “Unforgettable… With Love” spends five weeks at number one on the Billboard Top 200, peaking at number five on the R&B album chart, and is certified 7x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: June 4, 1942 – C…

On this day in music history: June 4, 1942 – Capitol Records is established in Hollywood, CA. Founded by songwriting legend Johnny Mercer (“You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby”, “Autumn Leaves”, “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)”, “Hooray for Hollywood”), songwriter/film producer Buddy De Sylva, and music store owner Glenn Wallichs (Wallichs Music City), Mercer proposes the idea of starting a record label the year before to his friend Wallichs. A few months later, Mercer proposes the same idea to De Sylva who is an executive producer at Paramount Pictures. With the third partner aboard, the three get to work organizing their first releases and opening their first offices in a building south of Sunset Blvd. By July 1, 1942, the label releases its first nine singles. The label innovates new techniques in promoting the sales of records including being the first to distribute free records to disc jockeys for promotional purposes. Capitol quickly builds up an impressive roster of artists that includes Les Baxter, Les Paul, Peggy Lee, Stan Kenton, Les Brown, and Nat King Cole. Over the years that list of artists grows to also include Frank Sinatra, Stan Kenton, Judy Garland, Stan Freberg, Gene Vincent, Dean Martin, The Four Freshmen, Al Martino, The Kingston Trio, Nancy Wilson, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Linda Ronstadt, The Band, Steve Miller Band, Bob Seger, Natalie Cole, Tina Turner, George Clinton, Duran Duran, David Bowie, Queen, Heart, MC Hammer, Garth Brooks, Radiohead, Coldplay, Foo Fighters and Katy Perry. Happy 77th Anniversary, Capitol Records!!!

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Keely Smith photographed by Ken Whitmore cir…

Keely Smith photographed by Ken Whitmore circa 1957.

Singer, songwriter, musician and actor Leon …

Singer, songwriter, musician and actor Leon Redbone (born Dickran Gobalian in Nicosia, Cyprus) – August 26, 1949 – May 30, 2019, RIP

Born on this day: May 27, 1935 – Jazz/R&B …

Born on this day: May 27, 1935 – Jazz/R&B musician Ramsey Lewis (born Ramsey Emmanuel Lewis, Jr. in Chicago, IL). Happy 84th Birthday, Ramsey!!

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Born on this day: May 26, 1926 – Trumpeter and…

Born on this day: May 26, 1926 – Trumpeter and jazz music icon Miles Davis (Born Miles Dewey Davis III in Alton, IL). Happy Birthday to one of the most innovative musicians of the 20th century on what would have been his 93rd birthday.

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On this day in music history: May 25, 1979 – &…

On this day in music history: May 25, 1979 – “An Evening Of Magic… Live At The Hollywood Bowl”, the second live album by Chuck Mangione is released. Produced by Chuck Mangione, it is recorded at The Hollywood Bowl in Hollywood, CA on July 16, 1978. Riding high off of the huge crossover success his smash album “Feels So Good”, musician Chuck Mangione and his band consisting of James “Jail Bait” Bradley (drums), Charles “Meat Man” Meeks (bass), “General” Grant Geissman (guitar) and Chris “Vadala” Vadala (flute, reeds) are booked to perform a one off concert at the landmark Hollywood Bowl on Sunday, July 16, 1978. The band play along side a seventy piece orchestra, with Mangione also using the occasion to publicly debut the parts of the score he has written for the film “Children Of Sanchez”. With little time to prepare for the concert with the LA Philharmonic, Mangione and the other musicians (also with concertmaster Gerry Vinci and musical coordinator Jeff Tkayzik), rehearse on the Chaplin Soundstage at A&M Studios, the day before. Unable to set up at the Bowl until the day of the performance, the musicians only have time for one final three hour rehearsal before the actual show that evening. This in itself proves to be a major challenge, with the temperature hovering near 100 degrees by midday, the short rehearsal time does not even give the band the opportunity to run through all of the music one complete time. In spite of concerns about how the show will go, it goes off flawlessly. Playing in front of a sold out crowd of over 18,000 fans, the performance is recorded and released as a fifteen track double live album, which captures the Chuck Mangione Quintet at their peak. Out of print for nearly ten years, the album is remastered and reissued on CD in 1999, by Universal Music Group’s Hip-O Records imprint. “An Evening Of Magic… Live At The Hollywood Bowl” peaks at number ten on the Billboard Jazz album chart, and number twenty seven on the Top 200.  

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