Clyde Stubblefield, Drummer With “Most Sampled Groove In The World”

Talking About “Cold Sweat” and “Funky Drummer” with Drummerworld–Watch on YouTube

Clyde Stubblefield was a hard-working, prolific drummer whose most famous work was done with James Brown. He and fellow drummer John “Jabo” Starks supplied the beats to most of Brown’s 1960s hits. The break he created for Brown’s “Funky Drummer” became the most-sampled drum beat of all time.

Stubblefield ( April 18, 1943-February 18, 2017) is listed as a “Top 500” drummer in Drummerworld. In addition to Brown, he performed with Otis Redding, John Scofield, Bootsy Collins, fellow-Madisonian Ben Sidran* and a host of others in the R&B and jazz worlds. If you’ve been a listener to the public radio show Whad ‘ Ya Know? you’ve heard Stubblefield with the house band.

Stubblefield’s drumsticks are in the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame and he was inducted into the WAMI (Wisconsin Area Music Industry) Hall of Fame in 2000.

*Stubblefield grew up in Tennessee, but lived for the latter part of his life in Madison, WI.

Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, Minnesota Maestro

Bruckner Symphony No. 9 with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony–Watch on YouTube

During the 60s and 70s Stanislaw Skrowaczewski was kind of a musical version of Harmon Killebrew of the Minnesota Twins: he helped the Minnesota Orchestra increase its standing in the big leagues.

During his tenure  (1960-79), he oversaw the change in name from the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra to the more state-embracing Minnesota Orchestra (1968). He facilitated the move from rented quarters (Northrup Auditorium on the University of Minnesota campus) to Orchestra Hall, an architecturally and acoustically noteworthy home of its own (1974).* He expanded the Orchestra’s membership and season to 50 weeks a year. He conducted a concert at the U.N. on Human Rights Day (1965) and hosted a guest appearance of Stravinsky (1966).

Unlike the current music director, Osmo Vänskä, however, he does not appear to have had quite as distinguished a recording career. In my research of a number of classical guides, I only found one mention of a Skrowaczewski recording. It was as an “Additional Recommendation” in the Gramophone Classics Music Guide 2012 for Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9 in D MinorThe Guide’s recommendation was for a version with the Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra, not the Minnesota Orchestra’s recording, which I reference below. The Minnesota Orchestra uses the original 1894 version and the Nowak edition, which came out in 1951.

*Tonally it is one of the most remarkable concert halls in the world.”–New York Times, October 23, 1974

Symphony No. 9 in D Minor: I. Feirerlich, misterioso with Minnesota Orchestra on Spotify

Larry Coryell, The “Godfather of Fusion”

Larry Coryell and Eleventh House Live in Oslo (1975)–Watch on YouTube

Music genres get named and walls go up. Jazz lives in one room; rock ‘n roll in another. Purists don’t like intruders. Then along comes a musician like Larry Coryell and he doesn’t just knock on the door, he kicks it down. As a jazz-rock guitarist, he helped launch a new genre himself, fusion.

Coryell (April 2, 1943-February 19, 2017) came of age in the rock era, but he was a guitarist who had a healthy respect for jazz forbears like Wes Montgomery. For some listening suggestions, check out Mark Myers’ excellent blog JazzWax. His February 21st and 22nd posts provide a helpful survey of Coryell’s career, as well as memories from artists that Coryell collaborated with or inspired–Gary Burton, Randy Brecker, Steve Khan and John Scofield.*

“If music has something to say to you, whether it’s jazz, country-and-western, Indian music or Asian folk music, go ahead and use it.” Larry Coryell

I started this blog because I’m endlessly curious about different music styles. When someone asks, “What do you like to listen to?” I have a hard time coming up with a single answer. Like Coryell, I want to walk into different rooms. Thanks to artists like him, we can.

*Scofield, who just won two Grammys for his genre-mixing Country For Old Men, will be at the Dakota in Minneapolis on Saturday, February 25.

“General Mojo’s Well-Laid Plan” with the Gary Burton Quartet on Spotify

Junie Morrison, Funkadelic Hall Of Famer and Ohio Player

Suzie Supergroupie–Listen on YouTube

Walter “Junie” Morrison was one of those guys, like Prince, who could hear the music in his head and then pick up all the instruments, push all the buttons and turn all the knobs and come out with a one-man-band, fully-formed hit. He apprenticed with the Ohio Players, leading them to their first #1 R&B hit, “Funky Worm,” which he gets most of the credit for, as a writer, producer, arranger and keyboardist.

After a few years helping to send the Ohio Players on an upward trajectory, he moved to George Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic. Clinton admired the young sideman, noting that Junie “could do it all, and if you weren’t careful, he would.” It was for his work with Parliament-Funkadelic that Junie earned his Rock & Roll Hall of Fame honor. Junie (1954-January 21, 2017) would move on to produce a number of solo albums.

“Funk is an excellent platform for moving or removing the ills that may be present in our lives.” –Junie Morrison

My last post was on David Axelrod, a producer/arranger whose heyday was in the 60s and 70s, and who would become a go-to source for hip-hop samples. So was Junie. Many artists dug into his catalog for sounds. “Funky Worm” alone was sampled by N.W.A., Ice Cube, Kris Kross, DJ Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince and De La Soul. Solange recorded a tribute to Junie on her Grammy Award-winning project A Seat At The Table.

I get much of my news on musicians from Google Alerts, The New York Times, Rolling Stone and other mainstream sources. But I do like to branch out for information from other sources. For Junie, I turned to Okayplayer, a site started by ?uestlove of The Roots in 1999. It bills itself as “the original progressive urban music site.”

“Funky Worm” on Spotify

“Junie,” a tribute to Morrison by Solange–on Spotify

David Axelrod, Blending Jazz, Soul, William Blake & Hip-Hop

“The Edge” Live at Royal Festival Hall–Watch on YouTube

David Axelrod (April 17, 1931-February 5, 2017) was a composer/arranger/producer who came out of the LA jazz scene in the late 50s. He was a prolific producer in the 60s. Among his notable projects were a Lou Rawls cover of the Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” and an album with Man from U.N.C.L.E. star David McCallum. (The above live performance features the title track from that album.)

Axelrod began putting out albums under his own name in the late 60s, beginning with Song of Innocence, an album inspired by the poems of William Blake.* The album featured notable LA-based musicans, such as Carol Kaye, the bassist you may remember from the documentary The Wrecking Crew. Kaye was among a group of super talented session musicians (Leon Russell, Glen Campbell, Hal Blaine, etc.) who were behind the sounds of our favorite hits. Were it not for Kaye, we wouldn’t have the memorable opening to “The Beat Goes On” or the sophisticated bass lines in The Beach Boys “Good Vibrations.”

Axelrod’s albums have become a go-to resource for an impressive lineup of hip-hop artists in search of samples. Lauryn Hill, Dr. Dre, De La Soul and Mos Def (Yasiin Bey) are among the artists who have sampled Axelrod. In the above video, Axelrod expresses his conflicted views of this aspect of his career: he hates sampling for putting musicians out of work, but is grateful for how it’s personally benefited him.

*Not to be confused with U2’s Songs of Innocence, which was forced on millions by the band and Apple.

“Holy Thursday” on Spotify

Bobby Freeman, Wrote And Sang “Do You Wanna Dance”

“Do You Wanna Dance” on Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show (1958)–Watch on YouTube*

I read Bobby Freeman’s obituary right after this year’s Grammy Awards. It made me wonder: would any of the songs that were up for 2017’s “Song of the Year” endure in the way that Freeman’s 1958 classic “Do You Want To Dance?” has?

Freeman’s song, written and recorded while he was still a teenager, would go on to be covered by The Beach Boys, The Mamas & The Papas, John Lennon, The Ramones and Bette Midler. You can accuse me of Baby Boomer fuddy-duddyism, but it’s hard to imagine Adele, Beyoncé and all the pop machine behind them producing a tune still worth humming 60 years from now.

“Do You Want To Dance” didn’t win at the 1st Annual Grammy Award Show in 1959, the year it would have been eligible. It wasn’t even nominated. The honor that year went to “Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu (Volare)” by Domenico Modugno.

Freeman (June 13, 1940-January 23, 2017) is considered San Francisco’s first rock-and-roll star. His 1964 hit “C’Mon and Swim” was written and produced by then-19-year-old Sylvester Stewart (aka Sly Stone).

*This rather strange video begins with host Dick Clark talking to actor Tony Randall, apparently on leave from the Navy.

“Do You Wanna Dance” Original & Covers–Listen on Spotify


Al Jarreau, Won Grammys In 3 Categories

“Spain” at Live Under the Sky, 1990–Watch on YouTube

Al Jarreau is the only vocalist to win a Grammy in the Jazz, R&B and Pop categories. He won Best Jazz Vocal Performance in 1977 and 1978; Best Pop and Jazz Vocal Performance, Male, in 1982; and Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male, in 1993; and Best Traditional Vocal R&B Vocal Performance in 2007. (Oh, and add a Best Recording for Children Grammy in 1981 for work he did with other artists on a Sesame Street album.)

My friend Mark, a saxophonist, credits Jarreau with teaching him the value of circular breathing, a technique used to produce a continuous tone without interruption. Mark’s memories of Jarreau include a concert at Minneapolis’s State Theater in which Jarreau picked out then-Minneapolitan Bobby McFerrin in the crowd. He invited McFerrin on stage and gave him a mic; the two then entered into a “battle of the scat.”

I was amused to learn that Jarreau was a graduate of Ripon College in small Ripon, WI, birthplace of the Republican Party. Seems like an unlikely place for a jazz and R&B artist. Apparently, Jarreau’s singing career really didn’t take off until he’d relocated to California.

“[Round, Round, Round] Blue Rondo a la Turk–on Spotify

Svend Asmussen, “The Fiddling Viking”

“Hallelujah! I’m A Bum”–Watch on YouTube

He may have played second fiddle to his contemporary Stéphane Grappelli. But it wasn’t because Svend Asmussen was a lesser talent. He played with jazz  greats, too,  like Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington and Fats Waller.

Critics admired Asmussen for his classical proficiency as well as his jazz chops. In a review cited in an obituary in The Washington Post, critic Will Friedlander called his performance of a baroque chamber work by Telemann “completely straight and breathtakingly moving.” He was also admired for his performance on a Duke Ellington’s Jazz Violin Session, recorded in Paris in 1963. The session featured Asmussen playing dueling violins with Grappelli and Ellington-regular Ray Nance.

Danish-born Asmussen was often compared to countryman Victor Borge for his whimsical stage presence. Music and humor obviously agreed with Asmussen (February 28, 1916-February 7, 2017): he lived to be 100.

“Take The A Train” with Stéphane Grappelli and Ray Nance–On Spotify

Gervase de Peyer, Considered “World’s Greatest Clarinetist”

French Music for Clarinet and Piano, Gervase de Peyer and Gwenneth Pryor–Listen on YouTube

When he was performing Gervase de Peyer (April 11, 1926-February 4, 2017) was considered “the greatest living clarinetist” by many critics. He had a long association as Principal Clarinetist for the London Symphony Orchestra (1956-1973). He performed as a soloist and touring performer with many internationally acclaimed maestri, including Sir Thomas Beecham, Herbert von Karajan and Otto Klemperer. Composers Paul Hindemith and Aaron Copland preferred him as a soloist, and he premiered a number of clarinet concerti, including works by Alun Hoddinott, Arnold Cook and Berthold Goldschmidt.

De Peyer was a founding member of the Melos Ensemble of London (1950), which later, due to its international reputation, was shortened to Melos Ensemble. The group was a variable ensemble that included a string quartet, wind quartet, harpist and pianist. Their mission was to perform larger chamber works, such as Schubert and Mendelssohn quartets.

While in the U.S., de Peyer formed the Melos Sinfonia of Washington and was a founding member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. He also befriended Benny Goodman, who, like de Peyer frequented Oscar, a seafood restaurant in the Upper East Side.

“Clarinet Sonata in E-Flat Major, Op. 120, No. 2: Allegro amabile” by Johannes Brahms–Listen on Spotify

John Wetton, Bassist for King Crimson and Asia

“Easy Money” King Crimson Live at Wollman Memorial Rink (1973)–Watch on YouTube

Sadly, I’ve written a lot of posts in the past 12 months for progressive rockers. Greg Lake and Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Chris Squire of Yes. Now, add to the list John Wetton of King Crimson. He joined the band in 1972 and contributed to the albums Larks’ Tongues in Aspic (great title!), Starless and Bible Black and Red. 

When founder Robert Fripp* pulled the plug on the band in 1974, Wetton played with British rockers Wishbone Ash, Brian Eno, Roxy Music, Bryan Ferry, Uriah Heep and U.K. He formed the supergroup Asia with  EL&Per Carl Palmer. While King Crimson never quite hit its stride commercially, Asia came out of the gates strong with its self-titled debut. Powered by the hit “Heat of the Moment,” the album stayed on top of the charts for nine weeks. But it was slowly downhill from there as ensuing albums failed to keep pace.

Wetton (June 12, 1949-January 31, 2017) pursued solo work in the 90s, but reunited with Asia in 2006. He had planned to tour with the group as late as last fall until illness forced him to cancel his plans.

*Robert Fripp was mentioned in a post on Maggie Roche last week, but, alas, the post was lost in a switch to a new web hosting company. Fripp helped the Roches go with their organic, authentic style, which would define their sound for the duration of their career.

“Heat of the Moment”–Watch on YouTube