Last week, in the wake of my post on Solar, I received quite a few emails on what Miles Davis wrote and didn't write—or half-wrote. Regarding Walkin', which has long been credited to Richard Carpenter, a manager and music publisher who had nothing to do with the song, here's part of the liner notes written by jazz musician and historian Bill Kirchner for the 2002 re-issue of Sonny Stitt and Gene Ammons' Boss Tenors in Orbit, from 1962 (Verve):
"Pianist Junior Mance had been working with Ammons' group since 1947. As Mance described it: 'Sonny [Stitt] was stranded without a gig in Chicago, and he used to sit in with us all the time in a little joint called the Congo Lounge on the South Side. So they played together a hell of a lot before they ever recorded.' Ammons and Stitt made their first recordings in March 1950 in New York for the Prestige label; the session produced their first hit, Blues Up and Down.
"In April, they returned to a New York studio with a four-horns-and-rhythm septet and recorded a blues called Gravy. The tune later became much better known as Walkin', with Ammons' manager credited as composer; it was a staple in the repertoire of trumpeter Miles Davis and many others.
"However, Mance states unequivocally that the piece was composed by the veteran composer-arranger Jimmy Mundy, who was writing for the Ammons septet. 'I stayed at his house with [Mundy] and his wife,' says Mance, 'and we talked a lot about music, and he wrote this thing called Gravy.
"He wrote the original tune, the melody; I was there when he was doing it. That's the last time I noticed it was Gravy; next time it came out as Walkin' with Richard Carpenter's name on it.' No one is sure why or how this happened."
Bobby Watson. Bret Primack, the Jazz Video Guy, sent along a video he taped of alto saxophonist Bobby Watson playing Benny Carter's beautiful ballad Blue Star...
Jason Crane, on the road. In the true spirit of journalists who crisscrossed the country in the 1930s in search of human-interest stories, The Jazz Session's Jason Crane is traveling the country's back roads collecting jazz tales. Keep up with Jason's activities by going here.
World history in two minutes. Record promoter Dick LaPalm sent along this video from a high school student, proving that it's possible to tell a long story quickly...
CD discoveries of the week. Some of the best World music comes out of West Africa, and one of the most exciting artists of this form is Ba Cissoko. Originally from Guinea, Cissoko now performs in France, and the European influence helps lift his music out of a pure rhythmic play and into melodies and textures that are a little closer to the Western ear. On Nimissa (Cristal), Cissoko plays the 21-string bridge harp and provides the lead vocals. He's joined by a host of other musicians on horns, rock guitar, electric bass, an accordion of some kind, vocals, percussion and samba drums. Sample Loumo and Kéléfaba. Think reggae meets Rio with plenty of folk and soul blended in.
At age 77, trombonist and hard-bop legend Curtis Fuller is still going strong. On Down Home (Capri), Fuller shows he still has what it takes to jump into the front line with extended solos on hard bop tunes and standards. Fuller has always been about flavor, a cushiony tone and a staccato attack, and this album is no exception. Keith Oxman is on tenor sax, Al Hood on trumpet and flugelhorn, Chip Stephens on piano, Ken Walker on bass and Todd Reid on drums. Dig Mr. L and Sadness and Soul.
Charles Compo plays flute, tenor sax, guitar and 12-string guitar on Foolish Pleasure (Chaos Music), an album that rekindles the '70s sound—complete with Fender Rhodes, wah-wah pedal and horns. This is a fabulous album in every regard—a big feel, superb and confident playing, and just enough of a retro feel to get you going. Best of all, there isn't a bad track among the bunch. Sample Six Was Eight and Arctic Spring. To top it off, all of the compositions have Compo's name on them, and the arrangements are his as well.
Ric and Ron Records—two different labels—were started in New Orleans in 1958 by Joe Ruffino, who named them for his sons. Both were set up to capture the city's special blend of Zydeco and honky-tonk. Artists like Al Johnson, Lenny Capello, Martha Nelson and Joe Jones (who had a hit with You Talk Too Much) recorded for the labels. Now, New Rounder Records has released The Complete Ric & Ron Recordings (1958-1965), Vols. 1-7. Or you can dig the "best of" single discs here. This is fragrant Crescent City gumbo with funky party-time sensibilities.
Aguabella is a Latin band named for Francisco Aguabella, the Afro-Cuban percussionist who died in May 2010. The musicians on the album backed up the late musician, and their love for him is apparent. On Nuestra Era (Our Time), the band preserves Aguabella's legacy with a variety of peppery tribute tracks. They include Mambo for Puente, Mysterioso and my favorite, John Coltrane's Like Sonny, which moves slowly and features a chunky, cha-cha-cha beat. Dig pianist Bryan Velasco and flutist Benn Clatworthy on Blues for Nengeuh. A Latin band that's soaked in pride, soul and skilled musicianship.
Honest, rough-hewn folk-blues music is rare today. Most roots artitsts are serious fellows but many miss the fun of the music. On Hundred Dollar Valentine, the kind of music pioneered by Leon Redbone lives on in Chris Smither, who is credited as playing "vocals, guitar and feet." This album carries with it the smell of fresh cut grass and the sound of tires swinging on a rope. Drums, cello, harmonica, slide guitar, xylophone and violin make for an intoxicating rural blend. Now add the causal vocals of Smither and Anita Suhanin and you have one ripe peach of an album. Sample What They Say and Place in Line.
Ron Nagle and Scott Matthews were San Francisco-area musicians who, between them, could play virtually every instrument imaginable. In 1977 they paired up to form The Durocs, named after a breed of pig. In 1979, they recorded Durocs, using a 48-track studio to layer and layer and layer their faux psychedelic, New Wave material. Nagel called the result the "Wall of Mud" sound, which, like Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound," was thick with overlayered instrumentation. But there also were humorous lyrics here, and what we have is an album with plenty to listen to. Real Gone Music has just reissued Durocs, and the material holds up quite well. It's loaded with music of all stripes, but there are coherent melodies and clear vocals to carry you through the adventure. Still fascinating after all these years.
Oddball album cover of the week. Actually, Woody Herman: 1964 isn't an oddball cover as much as it is a historical document. Sent along by Rick Dobrydney, host of the radio show Jazz Attitude (Thursdays from 6 to 8 p.m., EST, here), the band recorded on November 20, 22 and 23, 1963—with much of the session occurring on the day of President Kennedy's assassination and the day after. While it's impossible to determine if the photos on the cover were taken before or in the wake of the terrible event, they are likely from the 23rd—the tail end of the session, when most of the music was in the can. That’s Carmen Leggio on tenor sax, Chuck Andruss on bass and Phil Wilson on trombone. Rick says someone in the band told him that they were halfway into A Taste of Honey when they heard the news.