Category: jazz

On this day in music history: August 17, 1959 …

On this day in music history: August 17, 1959 – “Kind Of Blue” by Miles Davis is released. Produced by Teo Macero and Irving Townsend, it is recorded at Columbia Records 30th Street Studios in New York City on March 2, 1959 and April 22, 1959. Recorded in two sessions six weeks apart, it features Davis backed by musicians John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Jimmy Cobb, Paul Chambers, Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly. The songs are created by Miles giving the musicians chord changes based on musical modes rather than traditional chord progressions, then improvising on those changes. The original LP release of “Kind Of Blue” is a source of confusion among musicians and fans for years when the three tracks (“So What”, Freddie Freeloader", and “Blue In Green”) on the first side of the album are a quarter tone sharper than originally played. The problem turns out to have been caused by one of the two tape machines recording the session running slower than the other. The album is not reissued with the songs at the correct pitch until 1992. All reissues from that time on are mastered using the back up 3-track session tapes cut during the initial recording session. The album goes on to become one of the most popular and influential jazz recordings of all time. Having taken over thirty years for the album to sell over million copies, its sales explode during the peak of the CD boom, tripling in sales during the 90’s and 2000’s. For the album’s 50th anniversary, Sony Music releases a three disc edition featuring the original album along with alternate takes of “Flamenco Sketches” and “Freddie Freeloader” (w/ the false start), along with in studio dialog recorded during the sessions. The second disc includes live recordings featuring the sextet, with the third disc being a DVD featuring a documentary about the development and recording of the landmark album along with the rarely seen television program “The Sound Of Miles Davis” originally aired on April 2, 1959. The album is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1992, and in 2002 is added to the National Recording Registry by the Library Of Congress.“Kind Of Blue” is certified 4x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: August 10, 1964 …

On this day in music history: August 10, 1964 – “How Glad I Am”, the tenth album by Nancy Wilson is released. Produced by David Cavanaugh, it is recorded at Capitol Studios in Hollywood, CA from March – May 1964. The eldest of six children born in Chillcothe, OH, grows up listening to artists like Nat King Cole, Dinah Washington, Billy Eckstine and Ruth Brown. These musicians as well as singing in church influences Wilson, and fuels her ambition of becoming a singer herself. By the time Nancy reaches high school, she is performing in talent contests and on local television in Columbus, OH. Though finding early success in those areas, Wilson is still unsure of her chances at making it in the music business. She attends college at Central State College, to pursue a degree in teaching. However, the pull of music is too strong to resist, when she is hired by bandleader Rusty Bryant to join The Carolyn Club Band. Wilson makes her first recordings for Dot Records as a member of the band. In 1959, she meets jazz musician Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, whom she becomes friends with. Adderley encourages Nancy to move to New York City, to further her career. Within a month of arriving in New York, Wilson has a steady club gig four nights a week, while holding down a job as a secretary during the day. By late 1959, she is signed to Capitol Records, and beginning a string of successful albums. Hitting her stride by 1963 with “Broadway – My Way”, Nancy Wilson becomes one of the top jazz vocalists of the era. Revered for her understated elegance, and rich expressive vocal style, it earns her the nicknames “Fancy Miss Nancy” and “The Girl With the Honey-Coated Voice” among them. In early 1964, she records her tenth album with Capitol staff producer Dave Cavanaugh. A mixture of jazz, pop and broadway standards like “People”, “Don’t Rain On My Parade” and “Quiet Nights” (aka “Corcovado”), one other song in particular stands out. Written by songwriters Jimmy Williams and Larry Harrison, “(You Don’t Know) How Glad I Am”, is given a svelte and silky arrangement, that perfectly compliments Nancy’s vocals. Released as a single in the Summer of 1964, “(You Don’t Know) How Glad I Am” (#11 Pop, #2 Pop Standard Singles) becomes a pop crossover smash. It propels the album into the top five on the pop album album chart, peaking at #4 and becomes her biggest selling album. “How Glad I Am” also wins Nancy Wilson a Grammy Award for Best Rhythm & Blues Recording in 1965. The singer edges out formidable competition from The Supremes, Sam Cooke, The Impressions, Dionne Warwick, and Joe Tex. In the wake of Nancy Wilson’s career defining rendition, “(You Don’t Know) How Glad I Am” is widely covered by other vocalists, including Aretha Franklin, Brenda Lee, Kiki Dee, Olivia Newton-John, Sandie Shaw, Bonnie Bramlett and Maria McKee. Out of print in any form for decades, “How Glad I Am” (stereo version) is remastered and reissued on vinyl by Capitol/UMe in 2017. It is reissued as part of the label’s 75th anniversary celebration. “How Glad I Am” peaks at number four on the Billboard Top 200.

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Born on this day: August 4, 1901 – Jazz music …

Born on this day: August 4, 1901 – Jazz music icon Louis Armstrong (born in New Orleans, LA). Happy Birthday to one of the greatest musicians that ever lived. Love you, Pops!!!

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Born on this day: August 3, 1926 – Pop and Jaz…

Born on this day: August 3, 1926 – Pop and Jazz vocal legend Tony Bennett (born Anthony Dominick Benedetto in Astoria, Queens, NY). Happy 93rd Birthday, Tony!!!

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On this day in music history: July 31, 1981 – …

On this day in music history: July 31, 1981 – “Breakin’ Away”, the fifth studio album by Al Jarreau is released. Produced by Jay Graydon, it is recorded at Dawnbreaker Studios in San Fernando, CA, Garden Rake Studios in Studio City, CA, Sunset Sound and Pasha Music in Hollywood, CA in Early 1981. After recording several acclaimed albums which brings him a solid and loyal following, jazz vocal virtuoso Al Jarreau sets his sights on reaching a wider audience. Exploring the genres of R&B and pop, while maintaining his jazz and vocalese roots. Having worked with ace session guitarist and producer Jay Graydon (The Manhattan Transfer) on his previous album “This Time”, the pair work together again. The album features instrumental support from top notch studio musicians such as Steve Lukather and Jeff Porcaro of Toto, George Duke, Steve Gadd, Dean Parks, and Jerry Hey. “Breakin’ Away” brings Jarreau his first taste of mainstream pop success, spinning off three singles including “We’re In This Love Together” (#6 R&B, #15 Pop, #6 AC) and the title track (#25 R&B, #43 Pop, #30 AC). It wins two Grammy Awards including Best Male Pop Vocal Performance and Best Male Jazz Vocal Performance in 1982. Originally released on CD in the early 80’s, it is remastered and reissued in Japan by Warner Music Group in 2012, and by Big Break Records (BBR) in the UK in 2015. It is also reissued as a 180 gram vinyl LP by Music On Vinyl in 2015, making the album available in that format for the first time in over twenty five years. “Breakin’ Away” spends two weeks at number one on the Billboard R&B album chart, also topping the Jazz album chart, peaking at number nine on the Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: July 31, 1976 – …

On this day in music history: July 31, 1976 – “Breezin’” by George Benson hits #1 on the Billboard Top 200 for 2 weeks, also topping the R&B album chart for 6 weeks (non-consecutive) on May 22, 1976. Produced by Tommy LiPuma, it is recorded at Capitol Studios in Hollywood, CA on January 6, 7, and 8, 1976. After a series of acclaimed albums for several record labels including Columbia, Prestige, Verve, A&M, CTI, and Polydor Records, guitarist George Benson signs with Warner Bros Records in late 1975. Working with producer Tommy LiPuma (Blue Thumb Records) and engineer Al Schmitt, they begin work on Benson’s first album for his new label in January of 1976. Assembling a team of top flight support musicians that include Phil Upchurch (rhythm guitar), Ronnie Foster and Jorge Dalto (keyboards), Ralph MacDonald (percussion), Stanley Banks (bass) and Harvey Mason (drums), it marks the beginning of the most successful period of the veteran jazz guitarists’ career. An artistic tour de force, “Breezin’” has unprecedented commercial success for a jazz album, by crossing over to a mainstream pop and R&B audience. It spins off two hit singles including “This Masquerade” (#3 R&B, #10 Pop, #6 AC) and the title track (#55 R&B, #63 Pop). The album wins three Grammy Awards (nominated for six) including Record Of The Year (for “This Masquerade”), Best Pop Instrumental Performance and Best Engineered Recording, Non-Classical in 1977. “Breezin’” is certified 3x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: July 30, 1969 – …

On this day in music history: July 30, 1969 – “In A Silent Way”, the thirty third studio album by Miles Davis is released. Produced by Teo Macero, it is recorded at CBS 30th Street Studios, Studio B in New York City on February 18, 1969. Recorded in one session, it is an important turning point in Davis’ career as it marks the beginning of his “Electric Period”. Moving forward from his previous two albums “Miles In The Sky” and “Filles De Kilimanjaro” which are the first to incorporate electric instruments into his sound, even more emphasis is placed on the electric guitar and electric piano on “Silent”. Broken up into two side long suites (edited and sequenced by Davis’ producer Teo Macero), the album features support from several of Miles’ regular sidemen including Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, John McLaughlin, Wayne Shorter, Dave Holland, Joe Zawinul and Tony Williams. The decision to make such a dramatic musical shift proves to be very controversial at the time, among many jazz purist fans and critics who feel “betrayed” by the change. At the same time, it earns praise from more open minded jazz and rock critics, winning Davis a new generation of fans, paving the way for his next release, the landmark “Bitches Brew” the following year. Originally released on CD in the early 80’s, it is remastered and reissued in 2002 with one alternate takes as a bonus track. It is also reissued as an SACD, featuring both the original stereo mix and a 5.1 surround multi-channel mix. Sony Legacy also reissues the album as a 180 gram LP in 2008. “In A Silent Way” peaks at number three on the Billboard Jazz Album chart, number forty on the R&B album chart, and number one hundred thirty four on the Top 200.

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On this day in music history: July 20, 1979 – …

On this day in music history: July 20, 1979 – “Future Now”, the fifth album by Pleasure is released. Produced by Pleasure, Marlon McClain and Phil Kaffel, it is recorded at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, CA from Early – Mid 1979. Formed in 1972 in their hometown of Portland, OR., Pleasure consists of band members Bruce Carter (drums), Nathaniel Phillips (bass), Marlon McClain (guitar), Donald Hepburn (keyboards), Dennis Springer (saxophone), Dan Brewster (trombone, guitar), Sherman Davis (vocals) and Bruce Smith (percussion). Originally two local bands named The Franchise and The Soul Masters, the musicians join forces, creating a unique blend of R&B, jazz and funk. Playing around the US and opening for other artists, Pleasure will get a major hand up from a couple of big names in the jazz world. Among their early supporters is saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr. whose own career is taking flight in the early to mid 70’s. In 1974, Washington suggests to the band that they introduce themselves to Crusaders’ trombonist Wayne Henderson. Looking to branch out from his own highly successful band into record producing, Henderson takes Pleasure under his wing. Having formed his own production company At Home Productions, Wayne helps the band secure a contract with Berkeley, CA based Fantasy Records. Henderson produces Pleasure’s first four albums “Dust Yourself Off”, “Accept No Substitutes”, “Joyous” and “Get To The Feeling” released between 1975 and 1978. By the release of their fourth album, the band feel confident to take more creative control and produce themselves, while Wayne Henderson moves on to other projects. With assistance from Fantasy Studios engineer Phil Kaffel, Pleasure produce their fifth album “Future Now”. Donald Hepburn’s younger brother Michael joins the line up as a second keyboardist, and trumpet and flugelhorn player Tony Collins. The band also augment their sound in the studio with other additional musicians, including fellow Portland native keyboardist Jeff Lorber, and The Seawind Horns (Jerry Hey, Bill Reichenbach, Lew McCreary, Larry Williams). Creatively firing on all cylinders, the sessions yield Pleasure’s tightest and most cohesive album to date. Featuring simmering jazz funk cuts like “Nothin’ To It”, “Space Is The Place”, and the title cut which is the lead single. It is the follow up that makes the biggest bang on the public’s consciousness. Released in October of 1979, “Glide” (#10 R&B, #55 Pop) is a stand out from beginning. Penned by Nathaniel Phillips and Bruce Smith, the track is anchored by Phillips’ ultra funky bass line, Carter’s in the pocket drumming and McClain’s equally funky rhythm guitar. Nathaniel Phillips’ performance on “Glide” becomes a benchmark for aspiring funk bassists, with its thumping groove and epic double stops. The song spins off of club dance floors on to R&B radio, becoming Pleasure’s biggest hit. The success of the single propels “Future Now” into the top 30 on the R&B album chart, and the upper half of the pop album chart as well. Adding new lead guitarist Doug Lewis (after Dan Brewster departs), the band release their sixth album “Special Things” in 1980. However, it spins off only one minor hit with “Yearnin’ Burnin’” (#30 R&B) in the Summer of 1980. Pleasure then part ways with Fantasy Records in 1981, with Marlon McClain and Tony Collins leaving the band. Signing with RCA Records in 1982, Pleasure release “Give It Up” the same year, but it yields no major hits. The band break up and remain inactive for more than thirty years, but their music finds a new audience through being sampled in Hip Hop and dance music. Marlon McClain goes on to release solo albums, working with the bands Shock (“Let’s Get Crackin’”, “Electrophonic Phunk”), The Dazz Band and Nu Shooz. Bruce Carter works with various musicians including Kenny G., Vail Johnson and Roy Ayers before his death in 2006. Pleasure reform with Michael Hepburn, Nathaniel Phillips, Douglas Lewis, Dennis Springer, and two new members, releasing a new album titled “Now Is The Time” in early 2019. Out of print for decades, “Future Now” is remastered and reissued on CD by BGP Records in 2013. “Future Now” peaks at number twenty seven on the Billboard R&B album chart, and number sixty seven on the Top 200.

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On this day in music history: July 20, 1968 – …

On this day in music history: July 20, 1968 – “Grazing In The Grass” by Hugh Masekela hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks, also topping the R&B singles chart for 4 weeks on July 13, 1968. Written by Philemon Hou, it is the biggest hit for the South African born trumpeter. Recorded at Gold Star Studios in Hollywood, CA on March 12, 1968, it is a last minute addition to his second Uni Records album “The Promise Of A Future”, the track is completed in less than a half hour. Initially regarded by Masekela as just “a filler track”, Uni President Russ Regan hears the song, declaring it “a smash!” and insists that it be released as a single. Entering the Hot 100 at #83 on June 8, 1968, it leaps to the top of the chart six weeks later. “Grass” receives a Grammy Nomination for Best Contemporary Pop Performance – Instrumental in 1969. The songs’ popularity is such that the song becomes a major hit again several months later. The L.A. based vocal group The Friends Of Distinction record their own version of “Grazing”, with lyrics penned by singer Harry Elston. Released as a single in February of 1969, The Friend’s version rockets to #3 on the Hot 100 and #5 on the R&B singles chart in June of 1969, also becoming a million seller. “Grazing In The Grass” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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