Wednesday, April 25, 2007

About Ennio Morricone

From when the first re-pressings started in mid 90's , thanks to a few Italian labels such as Dagored and Cinevox, there has been a rebirth of passion for the cinematic soundtracks from the 60’s! Of all the composers the most imitated, cited, compiled and remixed is, without a doubt, the Maestro Ennio Morricone. It was way back in 1976 when my mother listened to the soundtrack to Anonimo Veneziano (Stelvio Cipriani) and Metti Una Sera A Cena (Ennio Morricone) on the re-pressing of the 70’s ‘targeted’ Cinevox (a white label) whilst the original went back to 1969. Maybe it was then that inside me was born, without knowing, my passion for the ‘melancholic affectionate tense beat’ (is how I define it) of Morricone, even if it has only been the past few years that I have been hunting down his original albums, amongst other things very rare and very expensive (for a change). I came across a 45 sung in Italian by Astrud Gilberto a very famous Brazilian singer; the song was called “Argomenti” and it was the vocal version (as I mentioned) that wasn’t present on the album, of the principal theme to “Le Casse”… with that piece my passion was ignited! Those who know Morricone (I am now talking about, as always, the 60’s and 70’s period) will agree with me that his style is unmistakable… of course, it is his style! I find that in his soundtracks there are some very common timings, rather ‘bossa like’, with some simple basslines and strings that very often are repeated, almost like ‘proto loops’. One thing that, in my opinion, makes him the most compiled and sampled, is the fact that his musical score is never very complex, no, they are very linear where the principal theme, just like it should be, shines through and it is never excessively constructed, if you can say that, and that is what makes it sample worthy! Mine is not an ‘academic’ musical culture, even so I believe that I can understand, more or less, the construction and articulation of a piece, I therefore feel that I can state that his style is evident through his genial and great simplicity! I hope that I haven’t run down the Maestro, I don’t think so seeing as he is one of my idols… I will open up a section to say that, just like nearly all composers, Morricone also created many post scorings for Cam, especially those where he could allow himself to include more hazardous material without being tied down by the commercial side of things or even by the directors (even if this is something that happened very rarely). There are many soundtracks by Morricone and some of them contain also some dance pieces that are still nowadays objects of desire by many DJ/Producers. Some of these songs can be found on “Le Foto Proibite Di Una Signora Per Bene”, “Gli Intoccabili”, “La Donna Dalla Pelle Di Lucertola”, “Metti Una Sera A Cena”, “Revolver” and “Menage All’Italiana”… naturally dance pieces in my kind of way, those of the SoulBeat! There are also many faces, as you might say, of “Ennio”: from jazz, beat, bossanova to music of orchestral tension, to pop rock, even pure camera music (which is one of his passions). There is also a lot of instrumentation used for the so called Groovy: from the Hammond organ, electric Harpsichord, Indian Sitar played by another Maestro, Alessandro Alessandrini, already a component of I Cantori Moderni that, thanks to their unmistakable scat, even today their musical executions are characteristic and actual! Morricone even today is helped out by some fantastic singers, ‘tenors’ and non, but the names of the past like Edda Dell’Orso or Nora Orlandi are nowadays musts, on par with Astrud Gilberto, Joan Baez or Florinda Bolkan who sang for him on a version of “Metti Una Sera A Cena” that can be found on a very rare 45. Getting back to today and the theme for this months column I would also like to talk to you about a label called Compost (one of my favourites in the electronic music ambient) that has taken to heart many pieces of Morricone and has had them remixed creating some great quality compilations. The result is a mixture of electronic, scat, groove and electronic effects that, for those who don’t know the original pieces, could pass easily as nu jazz records or something similar but in reality these CD’s represent an intelligent way of re-visiting a ‘genial orchestral’ sound from thirty years ago, maintaining fresh and creative like in its origins! To note, and appreciate, the hard work that many DJ’s do when trying to make 4/4 pieces that were born 3/4 or even 7/8… incredible! Raw Deal, Needs, Butti 49, Alex Attias and International Pony are just some of the names on the new ‘Morricone remix’ panorama of Compost! “Psycho Morricone”, “Erotico Morricone”, “Mood Morricone”, “Mondo Morricone”, “Assoluto Morricone” etc… are just some of the compilations, with original songs, that can now be found in circulation whilst “Metti Una Sera A Cena”, “Oceano”, “L’assoluto Naturale”, “Verushka”, “Menage All’Italiana”, “Le Foto Proibite Di Una Signora Per Bene”, “Le Casse”, “Il Poliziotto Della Brigata Criminale”, “La Donna Dalla Pelle Di Lucertola” and “Indagine Su Un Cittadino Al Di Sopra Di Ogni Sospetto” are just some of the must haves recommended by me! Peace pretty soon all over the land!

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Monday, April 23, 2007

RIGHT ON ! The Last Poets

Everything started when two Poets and a percussionist decided to become spiritually and artistically responsible for the beginning of a movement born for continuing the African oral traditions but above all for becoming reason bringers to the Afro-American population. David Nelson, Gylan Kain, Charles Davis aka Abiodun, Raymond Hurrey aka Nilija Obabi, Felipe Luciano, Umar Bin Hassan, Sulieman El-Hadi and Jalaluddin Mansur Nurridin (Jalal) are the most famous pf those who would go on to become ‘The Last Poets’. It all started in New York in 1969 when Nelson and Davis, whilst celebrating the birthday of Malcolm X in a park, decided to form a collective for reading poetry continuing the African verbal method, used this time though for putting in evidence the situation of the black social classes in America during that period. The first idea was that of creating some musical bases over which you could read writings, even if not all of the Poets managed to sing in the same way, thus it was decided to make up a neutral base of percussion bongos as a background. “Are You Ready Nigger? You Got To Be Ready” was the first ‘message’ from the trio that was made up of Nelson, Kain and Oyewole and that is how the legend started. The ‘Last Poets’ was chosen as the name through an inspiration from a poem by K. William Kgostile from South Africa: “This wind you hear is the birth of memory. When the moment hatches in times womb, there is no more art talk. The only poem you’ll hear will be the spear point pivoted in the punctured marrow of the villain, the timeless native son dancing like crazy to the retrieved rhythms of desire fading into memory” to which Nelson added: “Therefore, we are the Last Poets of the World”. At that point the ‘Last Poets’ were officially born. The formation was, and still is today, very elastic and interchangeable, Jalal for example entered on the second album after being in prison for refusing to take part in the Vietnam war. The first recordings were on the Douglas label of the jazz producer Alan Douglas. The first album “The Last Poets” was a manifestation against the white oppression as well as the passiveness and lack of wanting to create and fight back by the blacks… “The Last Poets” Douglas 1970, “This Is Madness” Douglas 1971, “Chastisement” Douglas 1972, “Hustlers Convention” (with Jalal Nuriddin recording as ‘lightning rod’ Douglas 1973, “At Last” Blue Thumb 1974, “Delights Of The Garden” Celluloid 1975, “Jazzoetry” Celluloid 1975, “Oh My People” Celluloid 1985, “Freedom Express” Celluloid 1991, “Be Bop Or Be Dead” (Umar Bin Hassan with Abiodun Oyewole) Axiom/Island 1993, “25 Years” (Abiodun Oyewole with Umar Bin Hassan) Rykodisc 1994, “Holy Terror” Rykodisc 1995 and “Time Has Come” Mouth Almighty/Mercury 1997 are just a few of their records from the 70’s onwards. As the years passed the sound of the Last Poets became ever more structured and the support band changed regularly characterising every time their sound which was always different. In 1971 “This Is Madness” got the Last Poets added to the ‘Counter Intelligence Programming lists’ of Nixon… some of them were put under surveillance and were also interrogated regularly by the FBI. In 1972 Jalal added the jazz drummer Sulieman El-Hadi to the band who introduced a jazzy sound, thus “Jazzoetry” was born, poetry over a jazz base. In 1973 Jalal, under the ‘Lighting Rod’ pseudonym (already used in 1969 for recording with Jimmy Hendrix and Buddy Miles “Doriella Du Fontaine”) recorded an album entitled “Hustlers Convention” that, supported by bands like Kool And The Gang, Buddy Miles and many other musicians of the Funk/Blues scene consecrated definitely that which today we call RAP. The Last Poets carried on, as they still are today, even in smaller numbers or also as solo artists like Jalal who has recorded for other lesser known labels… Today Umar Bin Hassan and Abiodun Oyewole continue on their own whist Jalal has moved to England in the 80’s where he keeps his career going at coming out some time ago with the album “Science Friction” for the English label Subtonix as the singer Bernard Alexandre. These so called precursors of modern day RAP have had their albums sampled by many rappers and hip hop bands: “Run Nigger” from their very first self titled album was sampled by NWA, Hurricane and Paris, “Niggers Are Afraid Of Revolution” by Brand Nubian and Third Eye, “When The Revolution Comes” was used by Notorius BIG in his “Party And Bullshit”. Galliano, the first Acid Jazz rapper was clearly inspired by Jalal who also contributed on the recording of “Acid Jazz And Other Illicit Grooves” in 1988, a manifestation of the first English scene of this genre. Today these Poets of civil rights, black and non, are considered guru’s and their albums are collected by lovers of rap, jazz and also be-bop! To finish off I would like to leave you with a couple of lines from a letter that Jalal wrote to me some time ago: “The people require affection, protection and direction and there are eight points on a compass, the east and the west are only two”. Peace all over the land.

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Interview to John Manuel of Ramp

Everything started about 1964 when you met Lady Shores and you formed the Regals, Tell me about those times? What inspired you?

Just performing for people was a high interest, a feeling inside that would never go away, like something I was meant to do. Inspiration was James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Wes Montgomery even. Those times were fun when you were able to play and maybe get paid for it! There were many
bands, called Band and show back then, and most were pretty good. It was fun, but
the greatest inspiration was seeing or hearing pros and wanting to be one also one day.

Then in 1969 you won the “Battle of Bands” and a whole lot of instruments and a recording contract. Everything went well and then the Spinners took over your rhythm and horn section and a new era was born.

Right. What a rush.

After the Spinners joined Atlantic, you left the Band and returned to Cincinnati and with the experienced gained you formed the “Saturday Night Special” who were the archetypes of the Ramps.

Right, wanting to form a group that blended jazz with soul and funk. Classy music.

How much influence did Bernard Pretty Purdie have on your drummer style?

Quite a bit. He was a legend, and showed interest in me. He always allowed me to play his drums and I learned from how he tuned them, played them, and was such a precise drummer and bandleader after King Curtis died.

You then met Roy Ayers who gave his contribution to the birth of the Ramps.

Right, we opened a show for him and he really dug us.

How did “Come into Knowledge” come about? Is it true that ABC didn’t much promote that record contributing thus to the break-up of the Ramps?

Roy signed us to his production company, as we must have had a sound, vibe, look and the personnel he wanted. He produced us for ABC/Blue Thumb Records. We were on a label with after a new President took the label over, Steve Deiner. We were devastated, not understanding how such work was not being promoted.

I am a big fan of Roy Ayers and you can hear his influence on your album. What was his contribution to that record?

Roy is a Master. It is no secret that I loved his sound before ever meeting him. His influence was reflected in our music when we opened for him that night, and I believe he felt it. My bandmates were absolutely the right people for what we were doing, and he knew it too I believe. For it to come together was not only a dream, it was surreal, divine, and I realized the power of our Creator when it happened. I do not speak on this feeling much associated with hooking up
with Roy, but I tell you it was awesome to see it unfold. We felt, and still feel, very special, and meant to deliver a sound and style of message to all who will listen.

What do you think to the fact that thanks to those styles (Hip Hop/Acid Jazz) which began at the end of the 80’s, many bands have been rediscovered and bought back to their well earned fame?

I think it is fantastic, and testament to all that good music that came before. It is said that there is really nothing new, just a re-work of what was laid down before. We really appreciate being brought back.

I too discovered the Ramps thanks to the A Tribe Called Quest single and thanks to a few white label compilations that I played during my first DJ sets in the long gone
early 90’s…Now, after so many years, it’s even possible to find reprints of your album. What do you think of this rediscovery?

Great, great great. Now there is a cd.

And Lp reissue too ( I say ) ....

I know that you recently reformed and played at London’s Jazz Café. What effect did
it have playing for a whole new generation of listeners that very much appreciates
your style?

It was heavenly, and we loved experiencing young fans singing our lyrics,
as well as seeing our generation come out to support us. Many times we are told that
we need new music for fans to want to see us. At the same time, our experience in London and the e-mails I get daily from all over the world from young and older, suggests that fans want to see us perform even the 1977 music because they have not seen us do it before. It is magical to perform those songs, and fans beat on the floor and walls screaming for us to stop the song and start over. Wow!

interview by Alessio Berto
Pictures curtesy of John Manuel

introducing the Ramp

In 1964 RAMP's guitarist Landy Shores was at Hughes High, while RAMP's drummer and bandleader, John Manuel was a sophomore at nearby Walnut Hills. 
At that time they formed the Ragals , rehearsing in Manuel’s basement.
After some years they came into contact with the Spinners and became their Rhythm section.
In 1975 John Manuel formed the Saturday Night Special who were the Ramp archetype. Now all the group needed was some vocalists .
Sibel Thrasher and Sharon Matthews were the right ones for his band .
Now the group was complete and they launched their signature for the version of "Sweet Thing" by Rufus & Chaka Khan.
After that, one night in 1976 they came across Roy Ayers who after seeing them play live said "They had a togetherness about them that just worked,"

They changed their name into RAMP and started doing a lot of gigs in New York and other places together with Roy Ayers’ Ubiquity and experienced a pretty good period of fame.
A Ramp lp was due and people were waiting for it...
After a contract with ABC Records Ayers produced their album called "Come into Knowledge" but ABC records didn’t promoted it very well because of some kind of internal problem.
After a year of concerts everybody went their separate ways and the story finished...
In 1989 a Hip Hop Band called “A Tribe Called Quest " sampled the intro from a " Come into Knowledge" song called " Daylight " and the rest is history.

Today everybody is looking for the RAMP Lp and songs like "Daylight ", the Roy Ayers’ Ubiquity version of “Everybody Loves The Sunshine " or " I Just Love You " are more than ever considered worthy .
Their sound is very fresh and cool !
Now “ Everybody loves the Ramp!”

.....And they are still performing today ...

The Ramp are:

John Manuel (Drums and Percussion)

Sharon Matthews (Lead Vocals)

Sibel Thrasher (Lead Vocals)

Nate White (Bass)

and Landy Shores (Guitar

Friday, April 13, 2007

Let's get a Spiritual change !

It has been said that we have been in the age of Aquarius since the 70’s but the spirituality of which there has been much talk of so far has been from the music, especially from that period! This opening has served me as a spring board because this month I want to tell you about ‘Spiritual Jazz’ and ‘Cosmic Jazz’… One of the first to take spiritualism forward in jazz was definitely John Coltrane, this started with “A Love Supreme” in the 60’s. One of his saxophone players, Pharoah Sanders, dug deeper into the argument up until the 70’s and over, together with pianist Lonnie Smith and the poet Leon Thomas. Many others, amongst whom the wife of Coltrane Alice and another great pianist Lonnie Liston Smith with the Cosmic Echoes, took part in this movement of universal pacifist inspiration. Those mentioned are surely the most significant exponents of Cosmic Jazz, we must also underline that many of them were clearly inspired by religion from the Middle East and the Hindu philosophy (which can also be seen in the titles of some of the songs) and the principal themes still remained peace and spirituality. The most frequent theme, in fact, regarded peace of mind or subjects about general peace that also included the Gods. Very often they cited African populations as the centre of the world as well as all those populations who were sacrificed in those lands! “The Creator Has A Masterplan” by Leon Thomas and “Prince Of Peace Hum Allah Hum Allah” by Pharoah Sanders, Thomas and Lonnie Smith, are the clearest manifestations of this Jazz that was later retaken by some greats during the beginning of the nineties such as the Galliano Project who made it more danceable and famous! I will open a small section now by saying that the theme of that period ‘Peace, Love, Unity, Respect, etc..’ was the basis of the Acid Jazz philosophy and even I done some gigs to try and gain support and back up for Amnesty International… for me, however, it has still remained the same! The characteristic of this Cosmic Jazz is, in particular, that of the so called jazz musicians, the use of very open sounds with African percussion up front, poetic verses that involuntarily created the bases of rap, piano solos or hypnotic Rhodes and riffs of astral saxes. All this lasted up until the 80’s and the song “Upper Egypt” by Sanders demonstrates such! Lonnie Liston Smith and the Cosmic Echoes came very close to cosmic funky-jazz by using a highly effected Fender Rhodes with Wah Wah and Echoes and funky grooves to create a sound that to say the least is very astral! “Expansions” is their better known song, that which has the bassline intro which was also taken by the Dream Warriors (a noted Hip Hop group from the 90’s) to put together their hit “Talkin’ All That Jazz”. Now though let’s go back to the end of the sixties, a period when Alice Coltrane made an album on Impulse that, for me, remains a masterpiece of Cosmic Jazz with Hindu flavours: “Journey In Sachananda”, a record that is a true and proper journey into the most astral India where Indian drums, accompanied by the typical Tabla percussion, make up the base for the hypnotic harp of Alice and sax of Sanders… a true interior trip that all of us should make! After this introduction to the theme, as is usual I will now go through my archives to suggest some pieces of vinyl that are necessary when going on such a trip! Starting with Pharoah Sanders I will point out “Village Of The Pharoahs”, “Elevation” and “Summun Bukmun Umyun” whilst for the discography of Lonnie Liston Smith head straight for “Vision Of A New World”, “Expansions” and “Cosmic Funk”. I will also tell you about a lovely album by Alice Coltrane that has been inspired by the sound of John (Coltrane): we are talking about “Ptah, The El Daoud”. The cosmic poetry of Leon Thomas finds its maximum expression in “Spirits Known And Unknown”, “New Vocal Frontiers”, “The Leon Thomas Album” and “Full Circle” on the Flying Dutchman label. To finish off I cannot leave out an album that for me remains a masterpiece of modern Jazz, a record that is and will remain always on a superior level, “In Pursuit Of The 13th Note” by Galliano that came out on Talkin Loud in 1991. Many artists, however, have tinted cosmically their records and amongst these I will mention names such as Bob James, Gabor Zsabor, Pat Martino, Roy Ayers, Cannonball Adderley, Last Poets, Jalal and many others. Time to close again, as always but even more than ever, we need peace all over the land!

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Monday, April 09, 2007


Nowadays organic products can be found in all shops that are biological and non but just as out bodies need to be nourished by genuine products of quality our minds are also ever more in need of sound culture. Many times in the past I have spoken to you about an instrument that made history in the music of Soul, Jazz, Blues, R’n’B and never like today has it been used, sampled and sought after. Many times I have talked about who used it, who sought it out and who sampled it but I have only slightly mentioned who made it indispensable, innovative and a cult object. Jimmy Smith, born in December 1928 and sadly passed away just a few months ago started to play the Piano with his father in the 1940’s. In 1947, after leaving school early, he decided to enlist at the Ornstein School Of Music where he learned Bass and studied deeper the Piano. Smith was noticed through his knack of playing pieces by Brahms, Minuet’s and small Waltzes just through his hearing as he had never learned to read sheet music, this carried on until the teachers became very surprised indeed. After leaving the school and playing Bump Piano in an orchestra of Philadelphia, in 1951 he united with Don Gardner’s Sonotones playing R’n’B Piano. In this situation Jimmy didn’t feel completely at home and it was after he heard at the Harlem Club the great Wild Bill Davies known as ‘the king of the Hammond’ in that period that he decided to start experimenting with this new instrument… Smith borrowed heavily from the style of Bill Doggett from whom he had understood that it was better to use the Organ pedals with your heal because using the front of the foot would tire you very quickly whilst the heal offered more duration and resistance. After closing himself for a long time in his basement Smith came out with a new sound, ready to experiment. A new Jazz story was about to begin. On his new B3 model Smith used the first three drawbars and the percussion, cutting the tremolo, starting to play horn lines with the right hand after being inspired by musicians such as Coleman Hawkins, Arnett Cobb and Don Byas, it was 1955. Smith constructed his Organ solos through inspirations of horn solos: the first and last four drawbars and tremolo on! Jimmy Smith created his first Organ Jazz Trio and completely changed the sound of the moment. In 1956 he began recording for Blue Note until almost 1963 with a total of almost 30 LP’s, he then moved over to Verve until 1972 when he moved onto Elektra, Decca, Mercury, Milestone, Somethin’ Else, Mojo, Metro, Polygram right up to 2004 when he came out with his very last album “Blues Dot Com” that he recorded for Verve Blue Thumb in Los Angeles with the help of musicians of the calibre of BB King, Taj Mahal, Etta James, Dr John, Harvey Mason and others. Getting back to his sound we could say that it wandered greatly amongst the Jazz ambient, fro orchestral trio right up to Funky Jazz in the mid seventies whilst still maintaining his unmistakable sound that even today inspires many organ players. To get a good idea of his sound there are not enough pages in this magazine, I will however try and break down to the minimum some serious indications without having you go out and get some of those usual compilations. From the Blue Note period I recommend “Groovin’ At Small’Paradise” from 1957, “Home Cookin’” from 1958 and “Crazy Baby” from 1960. Then on Verve, probably the label that made him most famous, I would recommend the classic “The Cat” from 1964, “Got My Mojo Working” from 1965, “Organ Grinder Swing” also from 1965 and “Root Down” from 1972 where you can hear that typical Starsky & Hutch type Funky Jazz Organ. A great album that you will rarely see amongst the official discography of Smith and one that I would very strongly recommend is “Unfinished Business” from 1978 on Mercury. I hope that I have pleased and ‘organ-ized’ you for a new search for good vinyl. Jimmy , rest in peace.

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This time, as cold as it is, we cannot do anything less that warm ourselves up with the heat of the JAZZMOTEL… and what could be a Sound that is capable of heating us all? The JAZZMOTEL Latin Explosion! In 1970 Fania Records decided to make a film about Caribbean music, it recorded at the Yankee Stadium live exhibitions from the Fania All Stars, Tipica 70, Gran Combo and Mongo Santamaria… Practically a nuclear bomb went off when the people, who were in many and also very excited, seeing such ‘congheros’ playing together of the calibre of Mongo Santamaria and Ray Baretto in the opening piece “Conga Bongo”, invaded the stage and forced the police to intervene and shut it down there and then! In the end the film was realised by mixing this explosive start with other pieces of film taken earlier in Puerto Rico regarding the Fania All Stars and other artists from the label: there was also released the ‘Salsa soundtrack’ of 1970! Jerry Masucci, the mythical Fania producer, produced it all and, as far as the legend goes, it appears that the term Salsa was born there and then by taking point that these bands mixed Caribbean and Afro-Cuban rhythms along with a New York style culture! Nowadays Latin music has invaded the world, there are Salsa schools everywhere and we can also see a great response from the public to this music, if however we had to do a Latin party by using our Soul Beat records which would be the right ones for the floor and, above all, would Jerry Masucci, Ray Barretto, Eddie Cano and company still be capable of driving the crowd wild? In my opinion yes! Well, let us try and enter into our archive to scribe out a list of Latin Explosives on vinyl! We shall start with Fania itself with that “Acid” by Ray Barretto that was already mentioned in the Soul Beat number entitled ‘Boogaloo Baby’, even if in this case we won’t examine the Boogaloo pieces but just those much more Salsa like “El Nuevo Barretto” and “Espiritu Libre”. Another album that should not be missing in a fiery party would be “El Exigente” by Orchestra Harlow in which there stands out pieces such as “Bee Free”, “Groovin’ The Afro Twist” and “That Groovy Shingaling” without forgetting “Our Latin Thing” by the Fania All Stars that is another monumental soundtrack to a documentary about Spanish Harlem from the 70’s which features “Ponte Duro”, “Estrellas De Fania” and “Descarga Fania”. We could say that all of the albums by the Fania All Stars, starting from “Delicate And Jumpy”, “Latin Soul Rock”, “Live At Cheetah” (Vol. 1 and Vol. 2) right up to the mythical “Salsa” from 1970 (the soundtrack to that cinematic event that I mentioned at the beginning) have all signalled the birth and fuelled the fame of Salsa music! Apart from the vinyl already mentioned I cannot miss out some by Joe Bataan (“Mr. New York & The East Side Kids”, “Riot”, “Subway Joe” and “Gipsy Woman”) that I would definitely include amongst the big floor songs, other authors also, singers and orchestras to point out are surely Justo Betancourt, Willie Colon, George Guzman, Latinaires, Monguito Santamaria, Mongo Santamaria, Johnny Pacheco, Ralfi Pagan and many more! The labels that, apart from Fania, have taken part in the Latin Explosion and that have published songs that are very handy for an explosive Latin party are Speed, Prestige, Palladium, Tico, Time, Capitol / Liberty, Contique and lots of others. In parallel to the Italian Salsa scene, we you mainly hear CD’s of contemporary Salsa music, there are a few DJ’s, especially in England and Japan, who create ‘authentic’ situations with original pieces of vinyl and typically New York 70’s Latin sounds: one of these is Snowboy, already noted for being one of the most requested percussionists in London as well as an excellent Latin DJ! For some time now we have also seen record companies, like Universal Sounds or Vampi Soul, who are, in a high quality way, re-pressing impossible to find vinyl as well as frighteningly good Compilations like “Newyorika” and others. It is now time to say farewell and to remind you that it is now your turn to go into the record shops, or markets, to search for those pieces of vinyl that will help you with your ‘Latin explosion party’, maybe taking some advice from the above mentioned articles by yours truly and JAZZMOTEL! Peace all over the land!

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JAZZMOTEL will be ‘boiling with Soul’ and I will take you into that hot but very fresh sound called Boogaloo than Latin Soul. In America this sound was famous between 1966 and 1969 and was the first contemporary Latin form that got the attention of a vast public that were a bit tired of the usual Cuban, Mambo and Cha Cha rhythms. Boogaloo, thanks to its Funky sound, was liked above all by the Afro-Americans, it was a highly successful fusion because it also ‘involved’ people that, in the past, never knew Latin music. It is said that the genre in question was born out of the interaction of the Afro-American dancers with the Latin musicians of New York who played in the clubs and night clubs of that period. People such as Joe Cuba say that this sound had a very explosive and stinging tone, to the point that pieces like “Bang Bang!” were created to shake up the dancers and, above all, stimulate them because they were no longer responding to the more classic Latin sounds, no, they were looking for something innovative. Many Latin musicians were also influenced by R’n’B and Jazz, and they therefore created a sound that, quoting various critics and musical historians, became a true milestone of Latin music, also because it came up during the high point of the Charanga popularity and just before the Salsa explosion! It was probably Joe Cuba who at the time gave the input (followed by all those who were playing Latin music in New York like Ricardo Ray, Ray Barretto, Pete Rodriguez, Joey Pastrana, Eddie Palmieri, etc.) and that, with this music, managed to create a meeting point between Puerto Ricans and blacks. Boogaloo didn’t have its own specific dance but like other genres of the 60’s it gave the opportunity for you to move freely and, seeing that all the ballroom floors were made of wood, pirouettes and jumps were the nights attraction. When reading your mail I have understood that you are interested in knowing also the names of the musicians (and relative titles) who started off the various sounds, I will get straight onto it by citing the classic “Bang Bang Push Push Push!” by the Joe Cuba Sextet (quite possibly the inventor of Boogaloo?). Instead, my favourite is “Hard Hands” by Ray Barretto (where you can hear the wonderful “Love Beads”), then there is “Acid”, another Barretto, that contains the classic “Soul Drummer” or “Mercy Mercy Baby” (distinguishable by the bassline riff that was sampled by Mighty Bop during the trip hop era). For those who really want to flip out I would recommend two masterpieces that are very close to R’n’B: I am talking about “Land Of Love” by Moon People and “Take A Trip Pussycat” by the Latin Blues Band (a pseudonym of the same Moon People), albums (recorded in 69 on the obscure Speed label) that are really fantastic and indispensable in any respectable collection! Another great interpreter of this genre (and also classic Latin soul) is Joe Bataan who, thanks to his “Subway Joe”, “St. Latin’s Day Massacre” and “Afrofilipino”, became known all over the world. Not to be missed also is “Let’s Get Down To The Nitty Gritty” by Riccardo Ray because it re-produces pop pieces like “Sookie Sookie” and “Mony Mony” (here in a Boogaloo version that is very rhythmic and danceable). Now I will mention some labels on which have been recorded some splendid Boogaloo albums: probably the biggest of them all (as far as New York Latin music is concerned) is Fania, I will also mention Tico, Allegre, Nike, Speed, Mardi Gras, Double Shot, Omega, Polydor and, also, King of James Brown… yes because also some of the Funk and R’n’B stars have been taken over by their rhythms that later came back revisited by or has influenced artists who in turn were contaminated! The James Brown piece most influenced by Boogaloo is “Shhhhhh For A Little While” where the author, something very rare, doesn’t shout out and sing but instead plays the Hammond… Well, if you come across it buy it because in my opinion it is one of the nicest pieces from Brown… maybe even the best! It is now time to say goodbye and invite you to write to me, especially if you have any questions or would like to have further info about the very vast groovy world of JAZZMOTEL.

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The Indo-Jazz

After hearing Mathar by Dave Pike and other pieces on a compilation by Gilles Peterson, I understood that Indian music had been mixed together, in an excellent way, with pop but also with jazz. That’s when, like always, I began to get to the bottom of things seeing that both Indian music and jazz were favourites of mine. During this period I was in London visiting some friends and as I wandered about the shops I found myself in front of Honest Johns that is by the underpass in Portobello Road. I remembered that once my friend had told me that you could find some good jazz at H. J…. so I decided to go in. I was in the jazz section that was just inside the front door but in the basement (today the entrance is different) and I started to look through the hundreds of pieces of vinyl. After a while I decided to ask one of the assistants, looking after this section, if they had any jazz mixed together with Indian music. The guy thought for a few seconds and then he got out the gatefold LP’s of John Mayer and Joe Harriott called “Indo-Jazz Suite” and “Indo-Jazz Fusions”. The records had that typical smell / perfume of old vinyl and cardboard sleeves, I asked if I could have a listen and seeing that the price was very high the guy put them on the deck and began to play them. They were very different to what I had heard on the compilation, they were a double quintet of Jazz Musicians and Indian Musicians, the sound was fantastic and very early 60’s jazz flavours! There is no point mentioning that those two pieces of vinyl were the first in a long line of Indo-Jazz vinyl in my possession. I want to talk for a second about John Mayer even if Gabor Szabo, Dave Pike, Wolfgand Dauner, Alan Lorber Orchestra and many others have united Jazz and Indian Music together with some excellent results. John Mayer was born in Calcutta in 1930 and began getting a passion for music right from an early age of seven when he used to play the Violin, he then began to study basic Jazz drum rhythms and started getting into this genre. After winning a purse for studying he arrived in London in 1950 we he studied and composed mixtures of Indian music with Western music and then became part of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra up until 1965. One year earlier the EMI producer Dennis Preston asked him if he could create an Idiom in a jazz key to complete an album that he was working on and Mayer accepted. Soon Preston told Mayer that he had played the piece to Atlantic Records in New York and that they had liked it a lot, enough so that they recommended that he created a piece of work that forged together Jazz and Indian Music. For some time Mayer was thinking about making up a quintet formed of Sitar, Tambura, Harpsichord, Tablas and Flute, the idea of Atlantic was to unite this quintet with that of the saxophone player called Joe Harriott. After one month of writing the LP “Indo-Jazz Suite” was recorded in two days and was released in 1966 in both England and America, it was a success straight away and soon after it was followed by the release of “Indo-Jazz Fusions”. This is the story of how John Mayer created this sound called Indojazz that I will now describe to you in more detail. Indojazz is divided into two suites and the first contains “Contrast”, “Raga Megha” and “Raga Gaud-Saranga” that are based around Raga, a scale of Indian Music that is characterised by ascending and descending patterns that never have less than five notes. The second is composed of “Overture” that instead is much more Jazz based over a rhythm of beats extended to ten. In this direct recording by Mayer the Tablas make the rhythm and the Tambura, a kind of 4 chord Sitar offers the tone whilst the Sitar follows the Raga. After intros in pure Indian style Joe Harriott who was noted for his ‘Alto Sax Free Jazz Attitude’ had no problems following the pattern, just like the pianist Pat Smythe, the bass player Coleridge Goode, the drummer Allan Ganley and also the other musicians. There came an album that was highly structured where the pieces started with Sitar and Tambura sequences and then let enter one by one the other instruments that created that avantguard jazz sound where the East is no longer the East and the West is no longer the West! Peace all over the land.

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