Melting Pot

Archive for the ‘Dig Deep’ category


Little Richard – The Rill Thing
Little Richard – Freedom Blues
Little Richard – Greenwood, Mississippi

Ran into this recently at Amoeba and instantly remembered how it has one of my all-time favorite drum breaks on ‘The Rill Thing.” I’d run into this album a couple of times before but the price was never right, until now. I can’t remember where I originally picked up this album, but I remember the first time I heard that drum break, it was on a mix tape (still made on a tape!) that I bought from DJ Riddm in Berkeley around 1999. Hearing a short routine using that break on the tape was all I needed to obsess over finding out what it was and where I could find it. Riddm was pretty forthcoming with the information and not too long after that I tracked it down. I remember originally not being all that enthused with the rest of the record and essentially thought of the album as a “one-tracker.”

Getting a second listen these many years later, I’m actually more impressed with some of the other tracks. I’ve always been a fan of Little Richard’s early Rock’n'Roll, with it’s wild rhythm and wilder shouts and screams. He’s toned things down by 1970, but he’s clearly still in good form. Interestingly enough, several of the tracks share credit with Esquerita, spelled Esqrita on the back cover. I’d always heard that Little Richard essentially copied Esquerita’s style, but I never heard of the two working together. It’s possible that it could refer to someone else, who just happened to have the last name “Esqrita” (Esquerita’s real last name of Reeder isn’t used either), but that’s just too much of a coincidence, right? I also hadn’t paid enough attention the first time I had this to the fact that it was cut down at Muscle Shoals, which explains quite a lot of the enduring quality of these songs.




Johnny Frigo Sextet – Scorpio
Johnny Frigo Sextet – Dawn
Johnny Frigo Sextet – Gardens Of The Moon

Exercise and dance records are the bain of many a beat collecting DJ. In theory you’d think they would have more than a few great songs, but collectable, or even listenable, records in these genres are few and far between. This record, with music from the Johnny Frigo Sextet and dance by Gus Giordano and his company (who are only pictured on the back, you would have had to write and likely pay more for the actual routines), is one of the few that is worth tracking down.

I can’t remember where I heard it first, but as soon as I heard this version of “Scorpio” I wanted it. Took me more than a few years to finally track it down and when I did I was completely expecting the rest of the album to be forgettable. After all, almost all of these jazz dance records are really pretty cheesy, mostly consisting of crap versions of “big” tunes by lesser players. Most of the record could be classified in that fashion. Thankfully, for whatever reason, Frigo and his un-named group decide to cover not just “Scorpio” but also Coffey’s “Gardens Of The Moon.” Frigo’s original “Dawn” also has a nice sound that deserves to be heard. Part of me wishes that the jazz dance routines associated with these songs were included with the record, but those I’m sure are lost to time at this point, thankfully this music is not.




Wool – Love, Love, Love, Love, Love
Wool – To Kingdom Come
Wool – Funky Walk

Picked this up via trade on a recent trip to Avalon Vintage, which is more or less in the same space as Strictly Grooves was a little while ago in Highland Park, with Rodney still responsible for the records and the addition of a bunch vintage clothing and what not. I’m always on the lookout for psychedelic stuff that I haven’t heard about and that was certainly the case with this record.

Wool was so titled not because of the band’s affinity for the sheep based fluffy, but because it was the last name of the group’s leader Ed Wool. Wool brought his sister along for the ride and she adds a bit of grit to her contributions, though “To Kingdom Come” is the best of her tracks. “Funky Walk” shows the band was a fan of James Brown styled soul sounds,but unfortunately despite its length it’s quite a long tease without any clean drums. Things get nice and fuzzy on the lead track (also to be found on a 45) “Love, Love, Love, Love, Love.” You might think the title is bit long, but if they’d been more true to the song they’re missing at least 2 based on the chorus. I can’t say that I love, love, love, love, love this record, but it’s a solid addition and likely to get more than a few spins over the years.




Aorta – Heart Attack/What’s In My Mind’s Eye
Aorta – Strange
Aorta – Main Vein II/Sleep Tight/Catalyptic

I’ve been sitting on this record for years. Every know and again I’ll give it a spin and flip out over it all over again and promise myself to post it up here. But clearly I hadn’t done it. After playing it on this past Sunday’s all-vinyl edition of Melting Pot I just had to make sure I put it up here.

Aorta were a psych group from the Chicago area. In the years before they became Aorta and cut this record, perhaps surprisingly (or not surprisingly depending on your perspective I suppose) they originally had Peter Cetera in the band before he left for the ultimately greener pastures of the Chicago Transit Authority. That’s definitely for the best cause I can’t imagine his falsetto with this group, would have wrecked their whole vibe. Instead what we have here is a nice bit of fuzzy psych loosely built around a bunch of heart related themes. Virtually all of the songs run into each other, many feature either heart sounds or heart references (such as “Main Vein”). I’m so fond of how the songs are mixed together that it just didn’t seem right to break them up. So I’ve kept a few of them together, along with the interesting sound effects that work as bridges between the songs. The sonic trickery that leads off “Strange” is particularly interesting, because to my post-Hip-Hop ears it sounds like a turntablist got transported back to 1969 just to cut up a little routine before this track. There’s some real talent on display here, one of those instances you rarely get anymore, an imaginative group given free reign in the studio with the chance to do whatever they wanted. It’s a shame the band didn’t really go anywhere (if you believe what you read on Wikipedia apparently someone slipped them some bad acid just before a major industry showcase at the Fillmore East and their reputation never recovered). They were able to release a second album in 1970, simply titled Aorta 2, but I’ve never heard anything from it and it seems even more obscure than this one. If I run into it, I promise I won’t take years and years to post that one up.




H.P. Riot – Gotta Go (The Chant)
H.P. Riot – I Have Changed
H.P. Riot – Blame It On The Sun

School recently started at Long Beach (which is the main reason I’ve been M.I.A. once again) and I got a big surprise on the first day. As I was checking my mail, which because of the winter break, often includes a textbook or two, I noticed an LP sized box with my name on it. My first inclination was that someone had sent me a textbook in a record box. Granted, there is no reason anyone would send me a textbook in a record box, but it seemed more likely that someone sending me a record at school. When I got back to my office I opened it up to find this record. Shock gave way to the certainty that someone had sent me a record by mistake. After all, records don’t just materialize out of the blue, and especially not at school. Turns out an old friend of mine from Berkeley, Cesar “El Che” Rodriguez had sent it as a thank you gift for an academic related assist from me. It’s a tough thing to do, buying DJs records, but he chose a record that I dug and didn’t own and that was mighty cool in and of itself.

Turns out the record was pretty damn good. This was actually a record I remember seeing at Groove Merchant years ago and for whatever reason I didn’t pick it up then. It’s not something that you generally just run into. The “H.P.” in H.P. Riot stood for Hunter’s Point, a neighborhood in San Francisco where the band came from. Strangely they were signed to a Canadian record label, likely a by product of their touring and probably being “big” in Canada. H.P. Riot had a lot of Bay Area flavor to their sound, with pretty clear influences from Sly & the Family Stone. Just the kind of funk I needed here at the start of 2014. Best first day of classes ever!




Jimmy Smith – Root Down (And Get It)
Jimmy Smith – After Hours
Jimmy Smith – Slow Down Sagg

Just saw a list of Hip-Hop records that are going to be celebrating a 20th anniversary here in 2014 (which strangely now I can’t seem to find again) and saw the cover for the Beastie Boys Ill Communication. 1994 was a formative period of time for me. I’d just finished my first year in college and first year at Album 88. Like most of the Beastie Boys records, Ill Communication featured some fantastic production work. At some point in 1994 I started making the transition away from CDs and into digging for vinyl. Searching out the samples on that album and others from that Golden Era of Sampling fundamentally changed my tastes and habits connected to music.

I first ran into “Root Down” at the Atlanta Record Swap. I can distinctly remember thumbing through the crates of a dealer by the name of Bill Wolfe, who I’d never seen there before, and there was just gem after gem after gem. Running into this album took my breath away. In those pre-google, pre-Discogs, pre-Ebay days, you didn’t get records over the internet and you couldn’t find information about out-of-print records. You either found them, someome told you about them or someone gave them to you. I just remember being in disbelief that I actually ran into this record and that so much of the original song was in the sample for the Beastie Boys “Root Down.” It was a prized possession until the big sell-off in 2004. It’s only fitting (since I sold him my copy) that I ran into this album again at Groove Merchant via trades with Cool Chris. “Root Down” is the funkiest thing Jimmy Smith ever laid down, “Slow Down Sagg” is almost a more upbeat version of “Root Down” and just as funky. This version of “After Hours” is still bluesy, but it’s a funky blues, though not in the way we generally use the term. So classic, and still takes my breath away every time I drop the needle on it.



Breakdown: Top 5 Finds Of 2013

January 9th, 2014


All this week I’m taking a look back at 2013, beginning with a look at the top 5 vinyl records I dug up in 2013. Truth be told, about the only positive thing in 2013 was tracking down a whole lot of nice records, online, at record swaps and stores. This might have been the most records I’ve bought in a calendar year in a while, but even with three straight strong years of digging, it’s clear I’ll never have as many records as I used to. I’m totally cool with that. This year I spent a fair amount of time buying quality records, that I either used to own or that I’ve always wanted. As with previous years, this list only includes records I tracked down in physical locations, and not any of the records I bought online. As always I’d love to hear what vinyl you tracked down in 2013. Here are my top 5 finds for the past year.

***Honorable mentions: Max Park – Al Tocar Diana [Atomic Records, Burbank], Shogun Assassin: Original Soundtrack [Amoeba Music, Hollywood], V/A – O Primeiro Amor: Original Soundtrack [Beat Swap Meet, Chinatown], Ray Barretto – Acid [Gimme Gimme Records, Highland Park], The Latinaires – Camel Walk [Pasadena Record Swap, Pasadena]

5. Linda Jones – Hypnotized – Loma [Amoeba Music, Hollywood]


Linda Jones – The Things I’ve Been Through (Loving You)

Linda Jones’ “Hypnotized” is an all-timer for me, and for almost a year I’ve been staring at this record, far up on the wall of Atomic records, and thinking to myself, “I really need to get that record.” The record was so high up the wall that I couldn’t even see the price, but generally nothing gets on the wall at Atomic unless it’s $25 or more. Most times I’d be there I just didn’t have the money. On those instances where I had it, and I would think to myself, “today’s the day, I’m getting that Linda Jones record,” I’d get there and there would be something that was even rarer that I couldn’t say no to. Sometime in December while I was looking for a Yusef Lateef album just after his passing, I happened upon this copy at Amoeba, for an imminently affordable price of $9. I know lots of DJs who refuse to buy records that are priced over $10, because they believe that eventually they’ll track down a copy for less. I don’t dig enough to subscribe to that mentality (mine is more, “if I have the money, I’m getting that record now), but it is always nice to have it happen nonetheless.

4. Mongo Santamaria – Live At Yankee Stadium – Vaya [Beat Swap Meet, Chinatown]


Mongo Santamaria – Coyulde

The December Beat Swap Meet was one of the only ones I’ve been able to spend quality time at. Generally the BSM is on Sundays which is when I do my radio show at KPFK. If I’m able to go, it’s often for only an hour or so before I have to leave to go to the station. This one happened to be on a day where I didn’t have my show and so I was able to dig and dig and dig through almost all of the vendors, right up until closing time. I found this one almost literally at the end of the event, with a number of other vendors packing up and the dealer talking about leaving after I was done. I’d been looking for this particular Mongo Santamaria record ever since I’d heard Matthew Africa play it on his radio show, recognizing it immediately as a track used on DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist’s sequel to Brain Freeze, Product Placement. Pretty much everytime I’d start buzzing through Mongo records at a spot, I’d hope that it would be there, but it never happened. I actually was thinking to myself as I looked through this final box of records, “Damn you Matthew Africa, I’m never gonna find that record,” and not three records later, there it was, as if Matthew and the record Gods decided I’d been through enough. Aside from “Coyulde” this is a really boss record from Mongo, heavy and funky through and through. Well worth the wait tracking this down.

3. J.J. Julian – 100 Lbs. Of Pain (In My Heart) – Eleventh Hour [Gimme Gimme Records, Highland Park]


J.J. Julian – 100 Pounds Of Pain (In My Heart)

I first heard this in a guest DJ set from Cultures Of Soul head honcho Deano Sounds. There were plenty of choice cuts in the set, but this one in particular stood out to me, with those hard, driving, tough as nails horns and the fuzzy guitars. Deano mentioned that he had found it at what used to be his favorite store in NYC, Gimme Gimme Records, which relocated to Highland Park in the last year. It didn’t even occur to me at the time to immediately go to the store and see if there were more copies. Maybe a month later I was able to go to the store, located the meager collection of 45s that were there (which I hadn’t even noticed on the 3 or 4 trips I’d made there before) and maybe 4 or 5 records into the box, there it was all sitting pretty and just waiting for me. There are so many times where I feel like I’ve missed records. Where I walk into a store and some Japanese collector has a stack of 60 records at the register or some random dude walks in just after me and goes to the section I was going to next and pulls a super rare record that I’ve desired for ever. It’s a much nicer feeling when you run into a record exactly where it should be, even though you didn’t expect it to be there.

2. Gabor Szabo – Dreams – Skye [Beat Swap Meet, Chinatown]


Gabor Szabo – Song Of Injured Love

Original Post

On a personal level this was probably the most satisfying buy of the year. As I mentioned previously, of all the records I sold back in 2004, this might be the one that’s haunted my dreams the most. Not because it’s a particularly rare record (at the writing of this, there are three copies currently up on Ebay), but instead simply because it’s a very beautiful record. As soon as I saw it sticking out of a crate at one of the Beat Swap Meet’s dealers, I was just overjoyed. Few records fill me with as much peace and tranquility as this one, these were things I was sorely in need of in 2013 and it was a blessing to be able to pick this one up.

1. Hopeton Lewis – Take It Easy – Merritone [Gimme Gimme Records, Highland Park]


Hopeton Lewis – This Poor Boy

While the Gabor Szabo record might have been my most satisfying find of 2013, there’s no doubt that this record was the rarest and most incredible find of the year. I was at Gimme Gimme with a fair amount of money in my pocket after not having bought any records for months and months. As expected there were a bevy of fine records to choose from, but all of my plans were changed as soon as the dude working there (not the owner) dropped the needle on “Take It Easy.” Everything just stopped. I had to really think for a moment, I knew Prince Buster’s version of the song, but couldn’t recall anyone else’s version. I was intrigued, but after the initial shock, I continued to browse through the jazz section. In hindsight, I should have immediately asked about the record, because I could have lost it right then, if any of the other 4 people in the store (including Logan from this blog, I think some people might not have believed she was a real person or a real collector, but she is on both counts) had recognized it and asked about it they would have beaten me to the punch and I would have been kicking myself for the rest of my life. Then “Sounds & Pressure” came on, my single favorite Rock Steady song of all time. I knew then that this was a Hopeton Lewis record and that it would be mine. I immediately asked the dude behind the counter what Lewis record it was, and how much it was. Turned out it was from a pile that the owner had brought to the store, but hadn’t priced. This was the second time this had happened to me at Gimme Gimme this past year. The first time around, it was a gold label copy of Ray Baretto’s Acid that was just sitting by the register, also without a pricetag on it. The owner was there that day to give me a price. This time around, they had to call the owner, who wasn’t immediately available and so a message was left. Thankfully he called back, set the price a bit over $100, which is pricey, but copies of this same record have gone for over $300 and the chances of just running into another copy would be next to impossible, so I couldn’t let it go. Not a single regret on my part and definitely the top find of 2013.

Happy Hunting for 2014,



Willie Colon – Che Che Cole
Willie Colon – Eso Se Baila Asi
Willie Colon – Juana Pena

As part of what has become a tradition here on Melting Pot, here’s the last record that I picked up in 2013. I was over at Gimme Gimme Records hoping I’d run into the Jim Hall Bill Evans record Undercurrent. Instead I ran into this LP, a collection of some of the best sides from Willie Colon’s first several albums for Fania, from 1967-1970. Fania records are fairly hard to pick up over here on the West Coast, so anytime I run into any of them it’s hard to pass them up. In this case, knowing most of these songs, without having owned any of these records, there wasn’t a chance I was gonna let this one go. “Che Che Cole” and “Juana Pena” both come from 1970’s Cosa Nuestra, “Eso Se Baile Asi” is from 1968’s The Hustler, every single one of the other tracks is just as classic as these, all with that big beautiful trombone from Colon. I can’t think of a better way to close out a banner year of vinyl archeology.




Gabor Szabo – Galatea’s Guitar
Gabor Szabo – Fire Dance
Gabor Szabo – Lady In The Moon

Of the many records I sold back in 2004, this is the one that has haunted me the most. I can’t remember now where I first bought this, likely at the Atlanta Record Show, but I’m not totally sure. I had started digging on the music of Gabor Szabo back when I still bought CDs and I was getting deeper into jazz. I was working through the Impulse catalog and I got a copy of his album Sorcerer, recorded live in 1967 at the Jazz Workshop. I was particularly entranced by Szabo’s measured use of feedback, a rare thing for a jazz guitarist, but Szabo was so much more than “just” a jazz guitarist. Of all of the albums I’ve heard of his (and at one time I owned 11 albums from Szabo) Dreams remains my favorite. When I ran into this copy at the December Beat Swap Meet, I just had to pause for a moment and breeze a deep sigh of relief.

“Galatea’s Guitar” leads off the album and it showcases everything that was beautiful about the way Szabo played and the way he was able to deftly mix together multiple genres into a unique mix. For me, it’s the single best thing he ever recorded and one of my all-time favorite compositions. Every single thing about the song is beautiful, every single thing. It sounds like nothing else under the sun and it transports you away from everything that is going on around you into a pure state of bliss. Some of the other tracks on the album are a bit hit and miss, with pop elements sometimes featuring too prominently, but when the band hits their stride, as they do on “Galatea,” “Firedance” and “Lady In The Moon,” it is something glorious to hear. Truly beautiful and so glad that I ran into this record, seemingly right when I needed this music in my life most.




Clifford Coulter – Yodelin’ In A Whatchamaname Thang
Clifford Coulter – Ridin’ On Empty
Clifford Coulter – Mr. Peabody/JVC

As with past years, I spent quite a bit of 2013 getting reacquainted with records that I used to own. I’m surprised that I hadn’t run into this Clifford Coulter record sooner, but I was more than happy to run into it at Atomic records a few months ago. “Do It Now” is part of a couple handfuls of seriously funky records on Impulse, which is best known as the house that Coltrane built, but by the 1970s had a very diverse roster.

Though I’m not certain, I’m pretty sure that Clifford Coulter came out of the Bay Area, aside from his debut being called “East Side San Jose” there’s just something greasy about the way he plays his funk that seems emblematic of that Bay Area sound. This album features one of my all-time favorite instrumentals, the absolutely atrociously titled, “Yodelin’ In A Whatchamaname Thang.” Part of my problem with the title is that while there is some wordless singing in the song, there isn’t any actual Yodeling. Additionally, the length and silliness in the title takes away from what is a really scintillating funky track. It’s not I can offer a better title, but damn near anything would be an improvement, even if it was just a description of what the song is, like “Breezy Funk.” The vibe of the song is certainly something that sticks in your mind and stays there for a long long time.

I’ve also included one of two full-on vocal performances from Coulter, “Ridin’ On Empty” as well as the party funk of “Mr. Peabody,” which in some ways I kind of wish didn’t have the chatter but kept the soul clap. Since “Peabody” and “JVC” run right together on the record and they’re both some dern funky, I didn’t see any reason to break-up a good thing. Not sure why it took me so long to dig this one up, I likely could have gotten a copy online any day of the week, but some records you only remember how much you loved them once you run into them again after being away for a long time.




Mike Nock – Blackout
Mike Nock – Magic Mansions
Mike Nock – Mambucaba

Sometimes it really is all about the cover of a record. Something about the way the graphics were put together on this one just screamed “There will be jazzy breaks on this LP.” It took me a minute or two to remember the name Mike Nock, but once I did that sealed the deal. Nock was a member of the fusion group the Fourth Way, along with Michael White, Eddie Marshall and Ron McClure. McClure is featured on this record, so it’s kind of a 1/2 of the 4th Way (which I guess would be the 2nd way?) but added into the mix is the always alluring saxophone of Charlie Mariano, who like Nock, started off playing straight-ahead hard-bop but made a turn towards fusion styles in the late sixties and early seventies. Aside from those three, there’s also some rather breaktastic drum work from Al Foster, who cut his teeth with Miles in the early 1970s and certainly lays the voodoo down on “Blackout” and the title cut. Quality jazz fusion is often hard to come by once we get into the late 1970s, so this was a welcome find and is worth digging up on your own.




John Mayall – Looking At Tomorrow
John Mayall – Prisons On The Road
John Mayall – Travelling

I realized recently that I hadn’t posted this album, which is fairly inexplicable since it’s one of my favorites to listen to, especially in the Fall and Winter. Back To The Roots is an interesting album for a variety of reasons. First, it is a reunion album that features many of the various sidemen that Mayall had been associated, stretching almost all the way back to the original Bluesbreakers in 1963 up to the latest incarnation at the time of this recording in 1971, which featured Larry Taylor “The Mole” and Sugarcane Harris. Mayall had a knack for finding exceptional guitarists and most of them (except for Peter Green) return for a song or two on this double lp set, including Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor and Harvey Mandel.

Another reason to seek this one out is the truly fantastic packaging. In addition to the gatefold, there’s a long booklet that should accompany the album that tells the story of the music, lyrics for the songs, biographies for all of the players and a “family tree” of all the players associated with Mayall over the years. The love and care put into this collection is a very rare thing indeed, but it was a testament to Mayall’s influence that he was allowed to produce an album and package like this.

In terms of the music (the main reason to pick this up), the playing, recorded in Los Angeles and London, is exceptional and wildly eclectic. Mayall’s songwriting at this point was also quite strong, regardless of the subject matter which varies just as much as the sounds, from the deeply personal to the more political and enviornmental. For years (I’m thinking I first came across this record while I was at Album 88 hosting their blues show Crossroads in the mid 1990s) “Travelling” was the first song that came into my head as I was leaving for an airport or once we’d safely made it in the air. The flute and the breezy accompaniment always puts me into a sublimely serene mood. “Prisons On The Road” is a quintessential Los Angeles song, written from the perspective of an outsider who simply can’t abide the traffic and the reliance on automobiles in such a beautiful space. “Looking At Tomorrow” might be one of my favorite tracks from Mayall’s entire career, just a gorgeous arrangement, gorgeous soaring solos from Clapton and lovely sentiments from Mayall.




The Cake – Baby That’s Me
The Cake – World Of Dreams
The Cake – Ooh Poo Pah Doo
The Cake – Rainbow Wood

I’m not sure how I found the music of The Cake. It’s quite possible that it was simply browsing around Amoeba looking something from the 1960s that I hadn’t heard before that I could add to the KCRW library when we moved down to LA and I started working there. At KALX I had been a member of the “Record Acquisition Team” aka The Rat, and bought music to fill gaps in the library. For a period of time I did a somewhat similar thing at KCRW, and I’m pretty sure that’s how I chanced upon the CD collection of the Cake’s music put out by Rev-Ola in 2007. It’s possible also that I was looking around for reissued material to consider for my best of 2007 show, but regardless how I found it, the important thing is that I did and I seriously dug it. For years I’d been hoping to run into the original LPs the band released and so when I saw this on the wall at Atomic, there was no way I was going to let it slip away.

The Cake were a fairly late entry into the “Girl Group” sound, arriving on the scene in 1966. While there is certainly that “classic” Girl Group sound on display, especially on their best track, the absolutely exquisite “Baby That’s Me” with Harold Battiste re-creating Spector’s wall of sound at Gold Star Studios, The Cake were clearly not your average Girl Group. For one thing, they really mixed up their styles. By 1967 you might expect a group like this to include some R&B songs, but “Ooh Poo Pah Doo”‘s straight up New Orleans inspired Funk? Perhaps not, though the inclusion of Mac Rebennack aka Dr. John as a session musician certainly must have helped with that. What is really surprising is when the group all of the sudden includes several decidedly baroque songs on the first side, which is split evenly between classic girl group fare and almost medieval sounding tunes, of which “Rainbow Wood” is my favorite.

The Cake released another record together before parting ways, a couple members Jeanette Jacobs and Eleanor Barooshian, sang back-up in Dr. John’s groups and later on Ginger Baker’s Air Force. It’s a shame that the group didn’t catch on. They seemed to be strangely behind and ahead of their time simultaneously, and I’m sure no one knew exactly what to do with a group with all of these eclectic sounds. I’m thankful for the work of reissue labels like Rev-Ola and thankful that I ran into the music of The Cake so that I could share it here with you.




Billy Harper – Soulfully I Love You/Black Spiritual Of Love
Billy Harper – Capra Black
Billy Harper – Cry Of Hunger

Today would have been Matthew Africa’s 42nd birthday and over the last month or so, from the anniversary of his death to today, he’s been on my mind. As I’ve said before, Matthew had a profound effect on my taste in music and to honor him I’ve chosen to post something on his birthday each year that reminds me of him. This year I’ve chosen this album from Billy Harper. Capra Black is an album that I first encountered in the amazing library at WORT in Madison, WI. WORT had an insane amount of albums from the Strata East label, an artist controlled label in the 1970s that released just incredible spiritual, funky and avant-garde jazz. This album above all the incredible releases on the label remains my favorite. Billy Harper’s tenor saxophone playing, like so many modern players, owes a great debt to Coltrane, but there’s always been something about Harper’s sound, how big and beautiful it is, that sets him apart from others who were clearly touched by Trane.

Harper’s album In Europe was one of the first albums we highlighted here at Melting Pot, and was something that inspired Matthew to post more of Harper’s music on his own blog.  Matthew had this to say about discovering Harper’s music:

Saxophonist Billy Harper is maybe my favorite living jazz player.  I first discovered his music thanks to Ubiquity’s Andrew Jervis, who tipped me to Harper’s Black Saint back in the early 90s. Hearing that album for the first time, I was overwhelmed. It’s incredibly powerful music, forceful in its beauty, kind of like Coltrane’s “Alabama” stretched to album length.

MAtthewAfricaThis album finds him with one of Trane’s legendary sidemen, Elvin Jones, in addition to Reggie Workman, George Cables, Julian Priester, Jimmy Owens and Billy Cobham. The sound, particularly when augmented by a quintet of vocals that featured Gene McDaniels, is simply out of this world.  If you’ve never heard this album, you should expect to be overwhelmed because it’s a rare experience to hear music this engrossing and this exceptional.  When I hear that soaring, searing and soulful saxophone from Harper, it reminds me of Matthew, how much he is missed and how lucky I was to have known him.

Peace be with you,



Jerry Butler feat. Brenda Lee Eager – Ain’t Understanding Mellow
Jerry Butler – Walk Easy My Son
Jerry Butler – The Girl In His Mind

Been meaning to post this up too for quite some time, not just while I’ve been on a bit of hiatus lately, but way way before. I’d mentioned this album back in 2009 when I posted the Lost Generation’s “Sly, Slick & Wicked” 45, and how I’d been surprised the first time I’d heard that record, because I recognized the background music from a song on this album from former Impressions singer Jerry Butler. I’m not sure why they decided to bring that rhythm back, but I’m glad they did. “Ain’t Understanding Mellow” has the arrangement, but it’s clear that the same players from this album have re-recorded the track, which gives it a heavier feeling. I’ve had this in my collection ever since I took on most of the records from our family collection and it’s likely been around in our family since before I got here. It wasn’t until a little while ago that I realized what a sad and depressing record this is. I’d originally thought “Mellow” was two people being thankful for their love, instead it’s actually one of the oddest break-up songs that I’ve ever heard, the sonic equivalent of “I think we both know this isn’t gonna work out, let’s just be friends.” When I was getting ready to post this one here, I noticed how many of the other songs also carry strangely depressing, though poignant messages, “Walk Easy My Son,” is essentially a version of “The Talk” where the father is warning his son about all the dangers of the world, “The Girl In His Mind” should be romantic, but it’s a song where two people are dreaming of each other, but don’t know each other, live in two different cities and don’t get together at the end of the song, so we’re left with the girl still just being in the dude’s mind. Despite the sentiments in the lyrics, its really the production for the album that keeps bringing me back, you’d think Dale Warren and Popcorn Wylie were behind this one just because of the spacing and the darker tones that are brought out, but no, it mostly the usual Chicago suspects involved with Butler. Solid sounds and a worthy addition to any Chicago soul aficionado’s collection.



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