Category: jazz

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On this day in music history: December 9, 1965 – “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, the tenth album by the Vince Guaraldi Trio is released. Produced by Vince Guaraldi and Lee Mendelson, it is recorded at Whitney Studios in Glendale, CA and Fantasy Recording Studios in San Francisco, CA in October 1964 and November 1965. Beginning modestly, in only nine newspapers around the US on October 2, 1950, cartoonist Charles M. Schulz’s comic strip “Peanuts” grows into a worldwide phenomenon. By the 1960’s, the strip hits its stride and expands beyond the news page. That expansion begins in 1960, when The Peanuts Gang appear in a series of print ads and commercials for the Ford Falcon automobile. In 1963, Schulz is approached about a documentary about Peanuts. Titled “A Boy Named Charlie Brown” it is never aired, but spins off an album titled “Jazz Impressions Of A Boy Named Charlie Brown” by San Francisco based jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi in 1964. TV comes calling again when executives from Coca Cola, ask Schulz and commercial producer Lee Mendelson to create a half hour animated Christmas special, after Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Schroeder and Snoopy appear on the cover of Time Magazine on April 9, 1965. Schulz agrees to the special, writing it over the course of a weekend. It immediately goes into production with Mendelson and animator Bill Melendez at the helm. Vince Guaraldi is hired to compose the music. Though Guaraldi is credited with musicians Colin Bailey (drums) and Monty Budwig (bass), other uncredited musicians including Jerry Granelli (drums) and Fred Marshall (bass), also perform on the tracks. A children’s chorus from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in San Rafael, CA, perform on three songs. The track “Christmas Time Is Here” features lyrics written by Lee Mendelson, when Guaraldi is unable to come up with any himself. The soundtrack is recorded over three sessions, and is completed shortly before the TV special is scheduled to air. When screened by executives at CBS, they initially hate it and Guaraldi’s jazzy score. Fate has other plans when “A Charlie Brown Christmas” airs on December 9, 1965. The special is a ratings blockbuster, coming in at #2 in the ratings for the week behind “Bonanza”. The music also becomes instantly iconic, turning into one of the best selling holiday albums of all time, as the special has become a Christmas staple. Reissued multiple times, Fantasy Records alters the original cover artwork in 1978, but is restored in the early 2000’s as it is remastered and reissued on CD, vinyl, DVD-A and SACD. It is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2002, and is added to the National Recording Registry by the Library Of Congress in 2012. “A Charlie Brown Christmas” peaks at number twenty three on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 4x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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Born on this day: November 29, 1940 – Jazz musician Chuck Mangione (born Charles Frank Mangione in Rochester, NY). Happy 79th Birthday, Chuck!!!

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On this day in music history: November 26, 1971 – “Inner City Blues”, the debut album by Grover Washington, Jr. is released. Produced by Creed Taylor, it is recorded at Van Gelder Studios in Englewood Cliffs, NJ in September 1971. Born in Buffalo, NY, Grover Washington, Jr. begins pursuing a music career after graduating high school at sixteen. Performing with The Four Clefs and the Mark III Trio, Washington finds his musical ambitions deferred for a time, when he’s drafted into the army. While in the service, Grover meets drummer Billy Cobham. After being discharged from the army, Washington reconnects with Cobham, who introduces him to the thriving jazz music scene in New York City. Working as a side man for various artists, Grover makes his recording debut, playing on organist Leon Spencer’s first two albums in 1970 and 1971. In the Fall of 1971, Washington gets his big break, when he’s booked to play a session with saxophonist Hank Crawford. When Crawford fails to show up for the scheduled session at engineer Rudy Van Gelder’s studio, producer Creed Taylor has the young musician take the lead. Normally a tenor sax player, Washington hasn’t played an alto saxophone since his time in the army. Taylor has Grover overdub alto sax over the existing tracks. Completing the songs in short order, Creed Taylor signs Grover Washington, Jr. to his newly established Kudu Records, distributed by Motown Records. Featuring covers of Marvin Gaye’s recent hits “Inner City Blues” and “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” and standards like “I Loves You Porgy” and “Georgia On My Mind”, it is only the third release for the fledlging Kudu Records, sister label to Taylor’s CTI Records (then distributed by CBS Records). Washington’s tasteful playing along with the funky jazz grooves, supported by players like Bob James, Richard Tee (keyboards), Ron Carter (double bass, electric bass), Eric Gale (guitar) and Idris Muhummad (drums), it quickly finds an enthusiastic and devoted audience. The album not only enters the jazz album charts, but also the R&B and pop charts. It establishes Grover Washington, Jr. as one of the leaders of the jazz-funk movement, and sets the pace for the major success he’ll enjoy throughout the 70’s and beyond. Reissued on Motown after the collapse of Kudu and CTI in 1978, “Inner City Blues” makes its CD debut in 1995, on Motown’s MoJazz imprint. It’s remastered and reissued in 2008, as part of Verve Records’ “Originals” series, in a digi-pak. “Inner City Blues” peaks at number four on the Billboard Jazz album chart, number eight on the R&B album chart, and number sixty two on the Top 200.

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On this day in music history: November 19, 1971 – “Black Moses”, the fifth album by Isaac Hayes is released. Produced by Isaac Hayes, it is recorded at Stax Studios in Memphis, TX from March – October 1971. By early 1971, Isaac Hayes is firing on all creative cylinders. In less than two years, he’s released three albums including the landmark soundtrack for “Shaft”. The latter isn’t even in stores yet, before Hayes is back in the studio. Now well established with his own brand of “progressive soul”, the musician follows the credo of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. He is once again backed by The Bar-Kays and The Movement, along with arranger Johnny Allen. Nearly all of the fourteen songs included on the album, are extended reworkings of recent R&B and pop hits, given Ike’s special touch. The lone single released is a cover of The Jackson 5’s “Never Can Say Goodbye” (#5 R&B, #22 Pop, #19 AC) in April of 1971. That single is backed by another cover, a version of Hank Williams’ “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still In Love With You)”, but is not included the full length release. The album title “Black Moses” comes from Stax Records’ executive Dino Woodward’s nickname for Hayes. He compares the musicians’ charismatic hold on his audience to the biblical figure. Being a religious man, Isaac initially eschews the moniker, feeling that “it’s sacrilegious”. However, he has a change of heart when he also sees the term as “a symbol of black pride”. The title also extends to the double LP’s cover artwork. Designed by Larry Shaw and Ron Gordon, the gatefold sleeve features a photo of Isaac (taken by Joel Brodsky), dressed in a flowing robe like the biblical prophet. The sleeve unfolds to reveal the full image, as a giant cross. “Black Moses” hits #1 on the R&B album chart just two weeks after the “Shaft Soundtrack”, drops from the top spot. Some copies of “Moses” feature the standard sequence with sides one and two pressed on one LP, and three and four on the second. Others feature one and four, and two and three, for listeners using a turntable with an automatic changer. Over the years, it becomes a sampler’s favorite, when Portishead uses a portion of “Ike’s Rap II” for their song “Glory Box”, and by Tricky on “Hell Is Round The Corner”. It’s also sampled by Racionais MC’s, and Alessia Cara. Released on CD in 1989, it’s remastered and reissued in 2009. Out of print on vinyl for more over thirty years, it is reissued as a 2 LP 180 gram vinyl set in 2013 by 4 Men With Beards. It’s reissued again by Stax/UMe in 2017, and by Craft Recordings in 2018. The Craft vinyl LP set replicates the original fold out sleeve for the first time since its original release. “Black Moses” spends seven weeks at number one on the Billboard R&B album chart, peaking at number two on the Jazz album chart, and number ten on the Top 200.

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twixnmix:

Nina Simone performing on a TV show filmed at BBC Television Centre in London, 1968.

Photos by David Redfern

On this day in music history: November 17, 1971 – “Live-Evil”, the thirty eighth album by Miles Davis is released. Produced by Teo Macero, it is recorded at The Cellar Door in Washington DC on December 19, 1970, and at Columbia Studio B from February – June 1970. The half live/half in studio recorded double LP set consists of eight extended electric based jams featuring Davis supported by musicians such as Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, John McLaughlin, Michael Henderson, Jack DeJohnette, Billy Cobham, Wayne Shorter, Dave Holland, Airto Moreira, and Keith Jarrett. Originally conceived as a continuation of the landmark “Bitches Brew”, it differs greatly from its predecessor by incorporating more rock and funk elements. It is well received upon its release and is considered a pioneering jazz/funk recording, as well as one of the cornerstones of Davis’ “Electric Period”. The albums’ distinctive cover art was created by artist Mati Klarwein, best known for the cover art on Davis’ “Bitches Brew” and Santana’s “Abraxas”. Davis tells Klarwein that he wants something representing “life” on the front cover, and something representing “evil” on the back". The front features a painting of a pregnant African woman, while the back features a grotesque looking amphibian like creature in a powered wig clutching its belly. The latter painting is inspired by a picture that the artist sees of infamous FBI director J. Edgar Hoover on the cover of Time Magazine. Originally released on CD in the early 80’s, it is remastered and reissued in 1997, issued in a digipak, and eventually standard jewel case configuration. Out of print on vinyl for nearly three decades, it’s remastered and reissued as a 180 gram LP by 4 Men With Beards Records in 2011. It’s reissued again by Music On Vinyl in 2016. “Live-Evil” peaks at number one hundred twenty five on the Billboard Top 200, and number four on the Jazz chart.

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On this day in music history: November 14, 1978 – “Jazz”, the seventh studio album by Queen is released (UK release date is on November 10, 1978). Produced by Queen and Roy Thomas Baker, it is recorded at Mountain Studios in Montreux, Switzerland and Super Bear Studios, Berre-les-Alpes, France from July – October 1978. Looking for a change of scenery after recording almost exclusively in the UK since the beginning of their career, Queen purchase Mountain Studios in Montreux. Musically, Queen branches out further, experimenting with various styles. Those changes are immediately apparent in the double A-sided single “Bicycle Race” and “Fat Bottomed Girls” (#24 Pop). The former written by Freddie Mercury is inspired while watching the Tour De France on TV. The song features multiple key modulations, shifting its time signature back and forth from 4/4 to 6/8 time. The latter song written by Brian May features co-lead vocals by him and Mercury, and is played with the guitar and bass tuned to drop-D tuning. The band film promo clips for both. The one for “Bicycle” features staged race with sixty five nude women riding bicycles around the track at Wimbledon Greyhound Stadium in London. The clip is banned from broadcast in many countries, or significantly edited in those that do show it. The single picture sleeve features a photo of one of the nude bicyclists. A pair of red bikini bottoms are painted on to the woman’s behind to avoid censure. In all, it spins off three singles (four in Europe) including “Don’t Stop Me Now” (#86 Pop) and “Jealousy”. Prior to its release, Queen stages a launch party for “Jazz” in New Orleans on Halloween night of 1978. The party takes place at the Fairmont Hotel, and is attended by more than 400 guests. Estimated to have cost between $200-300K, the decadent soiree features lavish spreads of food and free flowing alcohol. The entertainment includes fire eaters, strippers dressed like nuns, snake charmers, transvestites and dancing girls. One of the most talked about parts of the evening involves a woman performing an X-rated party trick. It goes down in history as one of the most notorious events in rock & roll. Though once released, “Jazz” garners largely mixed reviews, receiving fairly negative jibes from American critics. The album comes packaged with a poster featuring a still shot from the naked bicycle race. In the US, LP’s come with a coupon allowing fans to send in for the poster for free, when Elektra fears that some retailers will refuse to stock the album if the poster is contained inside. Reissued numerous times since the mid 80’s, it is remastered and reissued in 2011 with five additional bonus tracks, correcting the tape glitch at the beginning of “Fat Bottomed Girls” that had appeared on previous CD releases. It is also issued as a 180 gram vinyl LP in 2015. The LP is also pressed on pink vinyl, as part of the box set “Queen – Studio Collection” also in 2015. “Jazz” peaks at number six on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: November 6, 1978 – “Touchdown”, the sixth solo album (eighth overall) by Bob James is released. Produced by Bob James, it is CBS Recording Studios, Soundmixers Studios and A&R Studios in New York City from Early – Mid 1978. Following the release of his album “BJ4” for Creed Taylor’s CTI Records, musician Bob James forms his own label Tappan Zee Records. With CTI experiencing financial problems which lead to their eventual demise, James takes the business end of his career in his hands. Securing a distribution deal with CBS Records, James also is able to buy back the rights to his four CTI albums, and re-releases them under the Tappan Zee label. His first CBS album “Heads” in 1977 performs well, topping the Billboard Jazz album chart and cracking the top fifty on the Top 200. In early 1978, he is commissioned to write the theme song for a new sitcom, co-created by Emmy Award winning writer and producer James L. Brooks. Fresh off the success of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”, Brooks has developed a new show called “Taxi”. Coinciding with the recording of his next album, Bob James writes the theme song for “Taxi”, an instrumental titled “Angela (Theme From Taxi)”. The album in progress features a who’s who of modern day and veteran jazz musicians including Steve Gadd, Idris Muhummad (drums), Hubert Laws (flute), Earl Klugh, Eric Gale, Hiram Bullock (guitars), Ron Carter, Gary King (bass), Mongo Santamaria, Ralph MacDonald (percussion), David Sanborn, Phil Bodner, Jerry Dodgion (saxophones), Randy Brecker, Jon Faddis (trumpet) Dave Bargeron, Wayne Andre (trombones). Anchored by James’ smooth and tasteful touch on the electric, acoustic pianos and synthesizers, the musician creates one of his best loved and best selling albums. Titled “Touchdown”, its five tracks help further the popularity of what comes known as “Smooth Jazz” into the mainstream. Other standouts on the album include, “Sun Runner”, “Caribbean Nights” and the title track. The success of “Angela”, “Touchdown” not only tops the jazz album chart, but crosses over and hits the upper end of the pop album chart, shifting more than a half million copies in the US. Originally released on CD in 1986, it is most recently remastered and reissued as a Japanese import in 2015, containing one additional bonus track. “Touchdown” spends ten weeks at number one on the Billboard Jazz album chart, peaking at number thirty seven on the Top 200, and certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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