Waxing & musings. Amid the Michael Jackson media circus last week, Fayette Pinkney died at age 61. An original member of The Three Degrees, Pinkney's voice helped define the female satin-soul sound identified with Philadelphia in the early 1970s. As Philadelphia's answer to Detroit's Supremes, The Three Degrees' first big hit was TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia) in early 1974. It reached #1 on Billboard's Top Pop chart and became the theme of TV's Soul Train. TSOP was followed months later by the more important When Will I See You Again, which hit #2. [Pictured: The Three Degrees in the mid-1960s. From left, Fayette Pinkney, Sheila Ferguson and Valerie Holiday]
When Will I See You Again—along with the Hughes Corporation's Rock the Boat, Barry White's Can't Get Enough of Your Love and George McCrae's Rock Your Baby—were among the earliest in 1974 to employ a soft shuffling beat that would quickly become known as the hustle. The chunky, Latin-flavored tempo emphasized the two and three beats and was popularized in the clubs of Miami and studios of Philadelphia in 1974, emerging as "disco" the following year.
Here's a clip of The Three Degrees in 1974 singing When Will I See You Again. Fayette Pinkney is on the left...
Speaking of Michael Jackson... When I spoke with legendary arranger and composer Johnny Mandel on Friday, I asked him about his string chart for Michael Jackson's She's Out of My Life, from the late singer's Off the Wall album in 1979:
"Oh yeah, I remember that. Quincy [Jones] was great. He didn't do any of the writing then. He had the genius to bring in arrangers who could get the job done. I just took the track and listened for what I thought was missing. That's how I always arranged for strings and still do. I don't know how to write for strings so I just add what I feel is missing. I know this sounds strange, but I don't plan it out. I know what I want the strings to play in the spaces on a song, and then I just write it in."
Bill Evans. Among the many e-mails and comments that arrived in response to my post late last week on Bill Evans' early and late periods, I received the following from Laurie Verchomin, who lived with Evans in 1979 and 1980. Her book on Evans is due later this year:
"Bill often recorded himself in 1979 and 1980. He had this huge JVC cassette boombox that he carried with him everywhere. After a night at the club, he would come home and listen to his new trio, which he claimed was his most inspired to date.
"Bill also mentioned to me that listening to himself play was something he had never done before this trio. In fact, although he had a huge bookshelf full of his LPs, he never listened to any of them. What we did listen to a lot was Warren Bernhardt's Floating album , a solo thing that inspired Bill to move into the idea of a solo career. In the car we listened often to Earth Wind and Fire's I Am album ."
Cameron Crowe was taken to the woodshed by director Raymond De Felitta (Tis Autumn: The Search for Jackie Paris and the soon to be released City Island) at his blog, Movies Til Dawn. Raymond's beef with Crowe [pictured] is Crowe's unashamed distaste for jazz. Writes Raymond:
Album Discovery of the Week. If you dig romantic soul of the 1970s, you'll love Will Downing's latest CD—Classique. On the singer's 19th album, he revives the feel and passion of soul's golden decade with covers of three sophisticated soul standards—Baby, I'm For Real, written by Marvin Gaye in 1969 for The Originals; Barry White's 1973 hit, I'm Gonna Love You Just A Little More Baby; and David Ruffin's 1976 solo Statue of a Fool, which was itself a cover of a 1969 Jack Greene country hit.
On Downing's first record in 1988, Will Downing, the baritone sang an up-tempo dance rendition of John Coltrane's A Love Supreme. His All the Man You Need CD was nominated for a Grammy in 2000. Since 2006, Downing has been suffering from a muscle disorder called polymyositis that has left him unable to walk and confined to a wheel chair.
You'll find Will Downing's Classique as a download at iTunes and Amazon or as a CD here.
Oddball Album Cover of the Week. Recorded in New York in August 1961 and January 1962, the album included pianist Duke Pearson, Thomas Howard (bass) and Lex Humphries (drums) plus Bob Cranshaw (bass) and Walter Perkins (drums). It was released originally as Bags' Groove on Black Lion. Then the Japanese label Jazz Line re-issued the album in the 1970s as Angel Eyes with this fascinating cover.