Tag Archives: Resonance

Dennis Coffey: Hot Coffey in the D – Burnin’ at Morey Baker’s Showplace Lounge

A Motown funk brother plays out live in 1968

Guitarist Dennis Coffey may be most familiar from his 1971 instrumental hit “Scorpio” and its follow-up “Taurus.” But astute liner note readers will recognize Coffey as one of Motown’s Funk Brothers, and the player who introduced harder-edged guitar sounds into Norman Whitfield’s productions, including “Ball of Confusion” and “Psychedelic Shack.” Like many of his Motown colleagues, Coffey also played out live in Detroit clubs, and this 1968 date from Morey Baker’s Showplace Lounge finds him in a trio with Lyman Woodard on Hammond B3 and Melvin Davis on drums. The group played under Woodard’s name, but Coffey’s guitar took most of the leads.

The group’s repertoire included soul, pop and jazz covers, as well as original material, the latter including Coffey’s opening showcase, “Fuzz.” The sounds encompass soul, rock, funk and jazz in equal parts, as Woodard vamped deep and low, Davis provided the groove, and Coffey took the lead lines. Coffey’s guitar is edgy even when he’s picking an upbeat take on the MOR classic “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” or playing slinky lines on “The Look of Love.” The band played from chord charts without rehearsal, fueling their performances with lively, jazz-styled improvisations. Herbie Hancock’s “Maiden Voyage” and Ramsey Lewis’ “Wade in the Water” remain close to their roots, but even here, the trio finds original ground to jam.

Professionally recorded on a half-inch four-track (courtesy of the then-nearby Tera Shirma studio at which Coffey worked with his partner Mike Theodore), the tapes are a world away from the hobbyist recordings one often hears from club settings. The performances are lively, and the results were good enough to score the trio a contract, which resulted in 1969’s Hair and Thangs. Woodard continued on as music director for Martha Reeves and as a jazz leader, Coffey and Davis eventually found their studio gigs drying up and signed on to day jobs. Now retired from the Ford Motor Company, Coffey is gigging weekly at the Northern Lights Lounge, and Davis has released albums on his own Rock Mill label.

In addition to the music, this archival find sheds light on the symbioses that formed between Detroit’s clubs and record labels. The clubs provided a second income stream to the musicians, but also space for players to fully express themselves. What you hear in this performance are some of the musical hearts and souls that fed Motown and other Detroit labels. The 56-page booklet includes archival photos, liner notes from producers Kevin Goins and Zev Feldman, cover art by illustrator Bill Morrison, and interviews with Coffey, Davis, Theodore and Detroit legends Bettye LaVette and Clarence Avant. There are several excellent albums of Coffey’s material, including an out-of-print Best Of, but this previously unreleased live set adds a funky new dimension to his catalog. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

Dennis Coffey’s Home Page

Stan Getz: Moments in Time

StanGetz_MomentsInTimeStan Getz live in San Francisco in 1976

Recorded at San Francisco’s late Keystone Korner during the same week that Getz and his quartet backed Joao Gilberto, this selection of eight tracks offers a deeper sampling of Getz’s saxophone and a more balanced hearing of his group. Where the Gilberto sets, documented on the companion release Getz/Gilberto ‘76, focused primarily on the Brazilian artist’s vocals and guitar, these tracks give time to Getz’s accompanists, pianist Joanne Brackeen, bassist Clint Houston and drummer Billy Hart. The mood is a great deal more lively here, and you can almost hear Getz working to distinguish his solo work from the bossa nova collaborations that had fueled his popular success. His backing trio is sophisticated and outgoing, with Brackeen, in particular, offering up melodically complex solos. The song selections range from the 1930’s standard “Summer Night,” to then-contemporary jazz pieces by Wayne Shorter and Horace Silver, and the Antonio Carlos Jobim samba “O Grande Amor.” Resonance offers the CD with typically thoughtful packaging, including a 28-page booklet stuffed with full-panel photos, extensive liner notes, and interviews with Billy Hart and Joanne Brackeen. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

Stan Getz’s Home Page

Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto: Getz/Gilberto ‘76

StanGetzJoaoGilberto_GetzGilberto76A rare and previously unreleased teaming of Getz and Gilberto

Recorded at San Francisco’s long-gone Keystone Korner in May, 1976, this collection of live performances adds to the slim, but highly influential catalog of Getz-Gilberto pairings. The duo had initially teamed for an album in 1964 and a live outing in 1966, and came back together is 1976 for The Best of Two Worlds. The latter album prompted a tour with Getz’s quartet of Joanne Brackeen (p), Clint Houston (b) and Billy Hart (d), whose San Francisco stand is captured here. The recordings focus primarily on Gilberto’s vocals, which are superb, his guitar and Getz’s sax. The band is mostly relegated to supporting Getz’s solos, and even then they’re mixed (or they played) very low, with only Hart’s cymbals making much of an impact. None of which distracts from the pleasures of the music, but one might wish there’d been more conversation with the band, as heard on the parallel Getz release Moments in Time. Resonance has augmented this CD with a 32-page booklet filled with superb full-panel photos and detailed notes and interviews, including Q&As with Hart and Brackeen. They’ve also included a new cover painting by Olga Albizu, whose work was featured on the covers of the first two Getz/Gilberto albums. A great find for fans of Gilberto and Getz & Gilberto. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

Stan Getz’s Home Page
Joao Gilberto Tribute Page

Sarah Vaughan: Live at Rosy’s

SarahVaughan_LiveAtRosysA vocal legend live in New Orleans in 1978

By 1978, Sarah Vaughan was standing at the confluence of nearly a decade of renewal. Her rebirth began with a shift to the West Coast in 1970, and included new recording contracts, first with Mainstream and later with Pablo, the 1972 introduction of “Send in the Clowns” to her repertoire, orchestral performances of the Gershwin catalog that netted her both an Emmy and a Grammy, and a 1978 documentary, Listen to the Sun. That same year, NPR’s Jazz Alive! caught Vaughan in this New Orleans showcase with her stellar rhythm trio of pianist Carl Schroeder, drummer Jimmy Cobb and bassist Walter Booker.

At 54, Vaughan was at a peak of artistic vision, vocal quality and technical control, and is nearly telepathic is communicating with her well-seasoned band. Her extraordinary vocal range was completely intact, and age had only added new shadings to a voice that was born rich with character. The set list was stocked primarily with the standards that had long been her metier, but her improvisational skills made every rendition fresh and seem extemporaneous. The original multitrack masters of her show at Rosy’s Jazz Club, including previously unbroadcast performances, remained in the collection of the show’s original procuer, Tim Owens, until this first-ever commercial release.

Vaughan is heard here to be uncommonly at ease on stage, joking with the audience and even riffing on Ella Fitzgerald’s “A-Tisket A-Tasket” in response to a wayward request. But when she sings, she’s all business, whether revving up the ballad “I’ll Remember April” into a scat-singing showcase, or stretching out with the band on the side one closer, “Sarah’s Blues.” The dazzling energy of her fast numbers is often paired with ballads whose tempos provide opportunity for exquisitely manicured notes. The control she exerts over pitch and tone is incredible as she annotates the smooth, beautiful core of her voice with vibrato.

There’s never any doubt who’s starring on stage (despite Vaughan’s habit of jokingly introducing herself as Carmen McCrae), but she was generous with her band, offering them spotlights and weaving their musical ideas into her vocals. The trio setting provides a flexible and surprisingly rich setting for Vaughan, allowing her to improvise and have the band follow, instead of weaving herself into a larger ensemble’s charted arrangement. Her voice provides both a lead a a fourth instrument, and pairs beautifully with Booker’s bass for a duet of “East of the Sun (and West of the Moon).”

The set list reaches back to Vaughan’s earliest days for Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne’s “Time After Time,” stretching into high notes that soar with operatic splendor. Disc one peaks with Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns,” stripped of Paul Griffin’s 1974 pop arrangement, and expanded into a tour de force ballad. The song would eventually cap Vaughan’s live sets, but by 1978 it was already a deeply emotional moment for both the singer and her audience. The only thing missing from this recording is the ovation that must have followed. Disc one closes with the instrument jam “Sarah’s Blues,” showing off how high this band could fly.

Disc two includes two pieces from Vaughan’s Gershwin songbook, the signature “The Man I Love” and a take on “Fascinating Rhythm” that somehow manages to break into a minuet. A pair of Rodgers & Hart songs showcase two very different sides of the group: “I Could Write a Book” swings as the band vamps behind Vaughan’s improvised lyrics, while “My Funny Valentine” searches for new layers and shadings in a familiar melody. Continual renewal was key to Vaughan’s stage greatness, and it made her chestnuts tower ever higher, year after year.

The one then-new piece in the set was “If You Went Away,” from Vaughan’s album I Love Brazil!, and while it’s a nice addition, it’s almost as if Vaughan needed to sing it for a decade or two before she’d really start to plumb its depths. Vaughan picked material that stood up to reappraisal and reinterpretation, and it’s fascinating to hear how her own approach to songs changed over decades of exploration. But unlike the Groundhog Day chase of a single perfect day, Vaughan’s perfection was ephemeral and of-the-moment, and captured in uniquely colored performances like this.

The trio disbanded the following year, amid Vaughan’s marriage to Waymond Reed, and Reed’s promotion to bandleader. Vaughan continued to perform and record through the 1980s, but this late-70s date stands at an especially strong point in her career. Resonance’s two disc set is housed in a three-panel digipack, with a 36-page booklet that includes essays from music journalists Will Friedwald and James Gavin, remembrances from Carl Schroeder and club owner Rosalie Wilson, and interviews with Jimmy Cobb and Vaughan’s labelmate Helen Merrill. It’s a rich package, but it’s a swinging trio, their finely selected repertoire and the Divine One that really make this set sing. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

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