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Tower of Power Celebrate 40TH Anniversary

TOWER OF POWER CELEBRATE ITS 40TH ANNIVERSARY WITH ALBUM, DVD AND REUNION.   New Collection Features TOP alumni like Lenny Pickett and Chester Thompson; Special Guests Include Soul Legend Sam Moore.

It’s spring! As we celebrate the start of the baseball season, the end of the basketball season and the release of Tower of Power’s 40th Anniversary album, the operative phrase in everyone’s ears is “We Came To Play.” But then, Tower of Power has “come to play,” every single time they take to the stage over the last 42 years.  The horn driven soul and funk machine has toured consistently playing to so(u)ld out crowds around the world.  And after 40 years, four of the original musicians still play with the band.

Similar to sports teams, however, Tower of Power has had numerous players take free agency with other musical prospects. So the 40th Anniversary show gave the band an opportunity to stage their version of “Old Timer’s Day,” bringing 20 former members to work with the ongoing ten player line-up.

“When we were young and we’d lose somebody, it seemed like the end of the world,” TOP founder Emilio Castillo told Gary Graff.  “But it started happening at such an early age in our career, and we always overcame it and always got great people to come in.”

Captured live at the Legendary Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco in 2008, this extraordinary show welcomed such former members as Greg Adams, TOP’s trumpeter and arranger for 20 years and subsequently one of the architects of the “smooth Jazz” sound; Chester Thompson, who moved on to play keys for Santana and Elton John; and chart topping “smooth jazz” sax player and first call session guy Richard Elliott.

At a show recorded on the band’s actual anniversary, former TOP member Lenny Pickett, long time sax player for the Saturday Night Live band, joined in. He’s in the bonus footage and is interviewed.   Legendary vocalist Sam Moore, of Sam and Dave, added to the funkified festivities with “I Thank You,” and Otis Redding’s “Mr. Pitiful.”  The DVD is dedicated to Steve “Skip” Mesquite, long time alto player for TOP, who made the show and passed on shortly afterward.

The CD and DVD package is a slam dunk of soulful funk, with such great Tower of Power hits as “What is Hip?” “You’re Still A Young Man,” the ever timely “Only So Much Oil In The Ground,” and “This Time It’s Real.” After 40 years, this band can clearly still hit it out of the ballpark.

“It was probably the most special night of our entire career,” said Castillo. “Getting together and playing again with those guys we’d spent so much time with on the road. It was magic.”

Tony Adamo's What Is Hip

The recording of the song "What is Hip" on singer/songwriter, Tony Adamo's new CD (entitled WHAT IS HIP) came from a suggestion made by the legendary horn player and Tower of Power co-founder, Stephen "Doc" Kupka. During a recording session with Adamo and his producer/guitarist, Jerry Stucker, "Doc" suggested several TOP songs Adamo might want to cover. Adamo choose "What is Hip" and "This Time it's Real." Kupka, along with jazz great, Eddie Henderson hold up the horn section on "Hip." In the re-grooved "This Time It's Real," Mic Gillette, funk icon in his own right, wrote the horn arrangement and plays (trumpet & trombone) along with TOP horn member, Tom E. Poltzer (tenor sax). Poltzer plays lead solo with "Doc" Kupka on bari sax.

Talk about a kool struttin' and soul funkin' sound. Adamo is deep in the groove on these two Tower of Power hits. Producer/guitarist, Jerry Stucker loaded up the WHAT IS HIP CD with big city cool. Some of these great players include: Mike Clark (drums), Steve Gadd (drums), James Gadson (drums), Reggie McBride (bass), Richie Goods (bass), Freddie Washington (bass), Bill Summers (percussion), Robert Quintana (percussion), Blackbyrd McNight (guitar), Jerry Stucker (guitar), Neil Larsen (organ/piano), Rodney Franklin (piano), Melecio Magdaluyo (tenor sax/flute), Henry Hung (trumpet/trombone), and Sandy Griffith (background vocals).

Can you dig Adamo's new conception of voice n' funk with an infectious slice of soul? Get hip to WHAT IS HIP and be "souled" on the thirteen songs on his new CD.

WHAT IS HIP MP3's are now available on CDBABY and hard copies will be available at www.strokeland.com and CDBABY soon.
www.horndrivenradio.com will add songs into radio play

Legendary Soul Singer Bonnie Bramlett Joins Lubriphonic On Stage

A cosmic meet up of musical powers joined forces in Macon, Georgia Wednesday night. Legendary soul singer Bonnie Bramlett (of Delaney & Bonnie, Eric Clapton, Stephen Stills), in town to record with Little Richard, stopped by the Cox Capitol Theatre joining the Chicago funk and soul outfit Lubriphonic on stage for a scorching version of “Whatever You Do Don’t Stop.” Bonnie offered her trademark vocal howls and scat singing while encouraging the Lube horn and rhythm section to take it higher.

Lubriphonic’s weekend of sit-ins continues with two shows at the Bear Creek Music Festival in Northern Florida where confirmed guests for their Friday night set include JB Horn alums Fred Wesley and Alfred “Pee Wee” Ellis along with funk sax master Sam Kininger.  The band continues its Fall Tour throughout the Southeast in support of their new CD “The Gig Is On”; additionally, to give folks a taster spoon of the new disc, Lubriphonic is currently offering a free download from the new disc: the scorching Curtis Mayfield track “If There’s A Hell Below (We’re All Gonna Go)” here.

Complete Lubriphonic information can be found at www.lubriphonic.com.

Check out some previous Lubriphonic coverage on The Grateful Web.

THE BLACK BUTTERFLIES Tuesday, September 7th 9 PM at NUBLU

While this is just the debut release from The Black Butterflies, a group led by 27-year-old saxophonist Mercedes Figueras, veterans would do well to prick up their ears and take note. The Butterflies deftly blend the Latin rhythms of Figueras' native Argentina with free and post-bop noodling and tantalizing natural-world percussive elements, into full, invigorating music that sprouts, twines and flourishes over the 63-minute span of this entirely satisfying album.

The title track kicks off the record. It is a relaxed, comfortably humid piece that sways from a melodic opening into more forceful strains on the wind of Figueras' sax and swingingly persistent conga thumps. The piece never reaches--nor even strives for--the anthemic quality the title might suggest. Instead, the labor sweats happily, singingly under the sun. Appropriately, the tune--and, thus, the album--takes flight on the crystalline wings of Dan Tepfer's echoing, solo keyboard statement. It's appropriate not only for fashioning a sly musical equivalence to the band's moniker, but by spotlighting in Tepfer one of the group's, well, keys. Tepfer's polished electric tones lace the Latin rhythms and strings them up on a brightly modern line that still never smoothes the crisp, pulsing edges of the traditional beats. As mentioned, it's this facile navigation of divergent musical fields and the ability to rake loose from the passage a lively new hybrid that makes listening to The Black Butterflies so palpably intriguing. Ears laugh at their good fortune.

"Afro Blue," with its inevitable rekindling of saxophonist John Coltrane's spirit, also sparks the ghost of Albert Ayler, the twining sax statements of Figueras and her (even more?) experimental mate, Tony Larokko, rendering the Coltrane vehicle as a mighty, squealing, squawking, melodically impassioned conversation between the lost giants of the avant-garde. The saxophonists pause for a breather midway through, revealing front and center the rolling-thunder percussion the listener's body already knew was there. Tepfer contributes another light yet zinging solo over the drums before backing off to give conga man Bopa "King" Carre, percussionist Fred Berryhill and drummer Kenny Wollesen even more space to break loose and rumble.

The first of Figueras' two original pieces on the album, "Pipi's Blues," follows "Afro Blue" with the type of jumping cadence saxophonist Joe Henderson might have favored with the mid 1960s support of pianists McCoy Tyner or Andrew Hill. Only here Tepfer remains electric, adding the swirling bluesy punch of organist Jimmy Smith, while also not refusing to jut off on Larry Young-like angular departures.

Larokko contributes the next two numbers, "Spiritual Travels" and "Yah-Yah," the first a jolting, percussion-heavy piece full of strong repeated sax figures that again recall the journeys of Ayler. The latter, the album's most experimental piece, evolves from whistles and an array of percussion instruments that erupt into a cacophony of insect and animal noises--nature's nighttime rhythm section--that in turn give way to the African chants that supply the song's title and the singing of Figueras. Her voice is strong yet slightly coarse and splintered like the timbre of her sax, relating in insistent, desperate Spanish the tragic tale of "Los Ojos Azules," a Bolivian song popularized by the late Argentine singer Mercedes Sosa, while accompanied by an increasingly complex and urgent layering of rhythmic human voices and drums. The whole ultimately explodes into a screeching battle of horns--the saxophones' cries themselves sounding almost human at times--that burns out through extended, passionate playing, leaving only the snaps and twangs of nature and the soft, compelling "Yah-yah, Yah-yah" chants of dancers or workers.

Yet, lest it be thought the band has gone irrevocably, unrestrainably tribal, it closes on the infectious Figueras piece, "Music Heals All Wounds," a soulful "Auld Lang Syne" with Caribbean accents. (To belabor the Ayler connection--or to kill it, finally--this most certainly is not "Music Is the Healing Force of the Universe.") Figueras' tune delivers as advertised--a warming salve that demands multiple healing doses on the spot, then lingers, replaying itself for hours in the listener's brain to pleasant, calming effect.

Yes, this is the debut release from a new band whose young leader has issued only one other record under her name, Elefante (2007), a free-improv set from Figueras and drummer Martín Visconti. But make no mistake, 1 de Mayo also happens to be one of the best overall records of 2010.

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THE BLACK BUTTERFLIES

when: Tuesday September 7th
Time: 9 PM
Where: NUBLU (62 Av C New York, NY 10009)
http://www.nublu.net/

My Morning Jacket's Carl Broemel to Release Solo Album

“It takes a lot of time to know your mind.”  Its a simple statement, yet earnest and profound in its offering.  Sometimes it’s the spaces in between, the subtleties and ambiguities that provide us with the most meaning.
 All Birds Say (ATO Records) is an intimate collection of musings on life from My Morning Jacket guitarist, Carl Broemel.

 Broemel reflects on things as they are with Zen-like contentment, making no judgment on how they should be...he gives pause for introspection but stops short of preaching. The songs are firmly planted between past and present.  It’s in these little fractured moments that the listener bears witness to thoughtful contemplation that give rise to epiphanies on larger themes.

Broemel could’ve taken the easy road and penned a lyrical triptych to the remarkable journey he’s experienced over the past several years, but instead All Birds Say is an incredibly honest and sincere insight into the artist’s inner-most thoughts as he attempts to reconcile his role in life.
 “Where do you start?  Or where do you stop?  And how do you reconcile the things you do versus the things you don’t?  It’s something I’m constantly thinking about.  I think there’s a lot of trying to be aware of what you’re doing now versus dwelling on things or worrying about what’s gonna happen later.  A lot of the songs are really just me talking to myself, trying to make sense of things in my head.”

Deft in its presentation, the songs on the album unfold in a dream-like stream of consciousness with lush and elegant arrangements.  The album’s brilliance is displayed in Broemel’s effortless delivery.  It’s the perfect amalgamation of lazy sophistication…whimsical poise and grace.  The instrumentation serves as the ideal complement to Broemel’s well crafted set of modern-folk standards; complete with pedal steel, dobro, strings, autoharp, clarinet, bassoon, vibraphone, and baritone sax, among others.  Think Ron Sexsmith, Neko Case, Neal Casal, Andrew Bird, Mose Allison, and early Boz Scaggs singing an orchestrated chorus of breezy ballads and waltzes.

The guitar figure of the instrumental title track that opens the album serves as a natural introduction to “Life Leftover,” an introspective meditation on the importance of being more present in life that’s at the heart of All Birds Say.  The album also afforded him the chance to collaborate with his own father, a former member of the Indianapolis Symphony who provides rich color and depth to the music with clarinet, baritone sax, and bassoon.

“To me, making records is like alchemy.  It’s something that no one can ever perfect, but you have an insatiable desire to keep doing it and get better at it.  I really believe that everything we experience contributes to what we do next, so this album is really a result of all the records and tours I’ve done so far.“

The best records always seem to be the ones that slowly reveal themselves like a pleasant surprise and allow the listener to peel through deeper layers upon repeated listen…the kind of records that you grow with and can go back to months later and hear something then that resonates with you in a way that wouldn’t have otherwise.  It’s an interactive process between the listener and the artist, and one to be thankful for.  This is the kind of album that epitomizes the vinyl experience; an instant classic that is sure to stand the test of time.

Listen to Bromel's 'Heaven Knows'

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Dedication to Afro-Cuban Jazz: Art Blakey and Dizzy Gillespie

Creole Restaurant and Music Supper Club, located at 2167 Third Avenue (NE corner 118th St.), known for its great food according to ZAGAT, ambiance, and for bringing Jazz and R&B back uptown, proudly presents a Dedication to Art Blakey and Dizzy Gillispie for the inspiration of Afro-Cuban Jazz in America on Friday, April 9 and Saturday, April 10, 2010, respectively.  

Art Blakey (1919 – 1990) was a drummer, leader, composer and teacher, and co-founder the Jazz Messengers for 35 years. Blakey introduced congas to the sound of jazz in 1949, blending Afro-Cuban rhythms with straight ahead jazz.  After six decades of influencing Jazz around the world, Art died at the age of 71.

Dizzy Gillespie (1917 –1993) was a significant developer of the American jazz art form of bebop and modern jazz, and he was instrumental in founding Afro-Cuban jazz the infusion of Spanish rhythms.  He was a jazz trumpet player, bandleader, singer, and composer.  In the late 1940s, Gillespie was also involved in the movement called Afro-Cuban music, bringing Latin and African elements to great prominence and in the late 1940’s recorded with Chano Pozo and Mario Bauza.  Dizzy died at 75 leaving his legacy in Jazz and leaving Americans dancing to Afro Cuban jazz rhythms.

Creole Restaurant and Music Supper Club continues its tradition of being true to the American Jazz art form, by not forgetting jazz origins.  On Friday, April 9 and Saturday, April 10, 2010.  Grammy™ award winner Brian Lynch (trumpet), Grammy™ award winner Ian Smith (Alto Sax), Little Johnny Rivero (congas), Joel Forbes (bass), Todd Herbert (tenor sax) and “Killer” Ray Appleton (drums) will deliver an out of this world performance both nights, two sets each night, 7pm and 9pm with a $20 music cover charge. Doors open at 6pm and 8pm. Call 212-876-8838 ext.4 or visit their website for more information and to make reservations.

Ray Charles' 'Genius + Soul = Jazz'

Ray Charles was best known for his work in the idioms of R&B, rock ’n’ roll and even successful forays into country. But he also recorded influential jazz albums, including the groundbreaking Genius + Soul = Jazz originally released in 1961, and continuing into the ’70s with My Kind of Jazz, Jazz Number II and My Kind of Jazz Part 3. On April 6, 2010, Concord Records will release a deluxe edition two-CD set featuring digitally remastered versions of all four albums including encyclopedic liner notes by Will Friedwald, jazz writer for The Wall Street Journal and author of several books on music and popular culture, along with original liner notes by Dick Katz and Quincy Jones.

Genius + Soul = Jazz was recorded at the Van Gelder Studios in Englewood Cliffs, NJ, in late 1960. The producer was Creed Taylor; arrangers, Quincy Jones and Ralph Burns. Ray Charles played the organ with three vocals (“I’ve Got News for You,” “I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town” and “One Mint Julep”) and band members included members of the Count Basie Orchestra: Thad Jones, Joe Newman, Billy Mitchell, Frank Wess, Freddie Green, and Sonny Payne among others. Issued originally on ABC Records’ legendary Impulse jazz label, the record ascended to the #4 spot on Billboard’s pop album chart, and spawned the very first singles on Impulse, heretofore an album label. “I’ve Got News for You,” rose to #8 R&B and #66 on the Hot 100. In addition, Charles’ version of “One Mint Julep” charted #1 R&B and #8 pop, and his rendition of the blues standard “I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town” reached #25 R&B and #84 pop.

As annotator Friedwald states, “Genius + Soul = Jazz . . . was a bold and innovative album, but, at the same time, a direct step forward from his earlier work.” Although Basie himself does not appear on the album, the Count was a major model as Charles assembled a full-scale, working orchestra. Basie also influenced his use of organ in a jazz context, and Charles was happy to record at the Van Gelder studio, where Jimmy Smith had recorded his classic Blue Note albums. Truly, as Dick Katz wrote in his original January 1961 liner notes, “The combination here of rare talent plus uncommon craftsmanship has produced a record that showcases the timeless quality and innate taste that is uniquely that of Ray Charles.”

Some nine years later, Charles recorded another jazz album, My Kind of Jazz. With sessions in Los Angeles this time, Charles surrounded himself with such players as Bobby Bryant and Blue Mitchell, trumpet; Glen Childress, trombone; Andy Ennis, Albert McQueen and Clifford Scott, saxophone; and Ben Martin, guitar. The album contained Charles’ own “Booty-Butt” (which was issued as a single on his own Tangerine label), Lee Morgan’s “Sidewinder,” and Horace Silver’s “Señor Blues.”

In his original liner notes to My Kind of Jazz, Quincy Jones wrote, “This album is the essence of what Ray used to tell us when we were kids: Be true to the soul of the material you’re dealing with.”

Jazz Number II was recorded roughly two years later at Charles’ Tangerine/RPM Studios and issued on Tangerine Records. Charles enlisted an impressive cast of arrangers: Alf Clausen, Teddy Edwards, Jimmy Heath and Roger Neumann.  The tracks included Ray Charles and Roger Neumann’s “Our Suite,” Teddy Edwards’ “Brazilian Skies” and “Going Home,” Thad Jones’ “Kids Are Pretty People” and Jimmy Heath’s “Togetherness.”

Finally, My Kind of Jazz Part 3, which concludes the Genius + Soul = Jazz deluxe package, was recorded in Los Angeles circa 1975, featured the Ray Charles Orchestra including Clifford Solomon, alto sax; Glen Childress, trombone; Johnny Coles, trumpet; Leroy Cooper, baritone sax; and James Clay, tenor sax. Included are compositions by Duke Ellington, Horace Silver, Jimmy Heath and Benny Golson. Issued on Charles’ own Crossover Records, the album reached #55 on the R&B chart in 1976.

The reissue of Genius + Soul = Jazz continues Concord Music Group’s long-term reissuing of the Ray Charles catalog in cooperation with the Ray Charles Foundation. Among the other albums repackaged in the past year are Genius Hits the Road, Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, Message From the People, plus the career compilation titled Genius.