Slyvia Moy, Who Co-Wrote Hits With Stevie Wonder

On Recording “My Cherie Amour” – Watch on YouTube

Remember the Stevie Wonder hit “Oh My Marcia”? Of course, you don’t. But you’ve heard it by the name Stevie’s producer Sylvia Moy gave it – “My Cherie Amour.” The first female producer at Motown, Moy is credited with keeping Wonder at the label when it was unsure of how to adjust to the young prodigy’s changing voice. Working with Wonder and frequent song collaborator Hank Crosby, she discovered a new avenue for Wonder’s talent.

If you check out her page on Discogs, you’ll discover that Moy has 926 writing and arrangement credits. In that list (it runs for 38 pages) are included hits like “Uptight (Everything’s Alright),” “I Was Made To Love Her” and “Never Had A Dream Come True.” The list includes songs that earned 20 BMIs and 6 Grammy nominations.

She and Crosby were inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame in 2006.

Sylvia Moy, September 15, 1938-April 15, 2017

“Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” on Spotify

Follow the LGMR Soul/R&B/Funk 2017 Playlist here.

 

Misha Mengelberg, Jazz Pianist and Co-Founder of ICP Orchestra

Jazz in Haarlem (1960) – Watch on YouTube

Misha Mengelberg was an avant-garde jazz pianist whose influences included Thelonious Monk and Herbie Nichols. He recorded his own interpretations of both artists, but was also a prolific composer on his own. Along with Willem Breuker (reeds) and Han Bennink (drums), Mengelberg started the ICP (Instant Composers Pool) Orchestra in the 1960s. Performers would come and go from that group, but Mengelberg and Bennink were often at the core.

Born in Ukraine, Mengelberg spent most of his life in the Netherlands, where he attended the Royal Conservatory in The Hague. In the early 1960s, his trio (with Bennink) backed Johnny Griffin, Eric Dolphy and Cecil Taylor and performed at the 1966 Newport Jazz Festival.

To hear how Mengelberg and the ICP Orchestra interpreted Monk, here are a few takes of  “Four In One,” including one by Monk himself.

Thelonious Monk (Genius of Modern Music: Vol. 2 (Rudy Van Gelder Edition))

Misha Mengelberg Quartet (Four In One)

ICP Orchestra (Herbie Nichols/Thelonious Monk)

“If Thelonious Monk had been born 20 years later in Europe, he may indeed have been Misha Mengelberg.” – Thom Jurek, All Music Guide to Jazz

Misha Mengelberg, June 5, 1935-March 3, 2017

“Hypochristmutreefuzz” 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

Bob Belden, Jazz Saxophonist, Arranger and Diplomat

“New Song No. 2,” with Animation at the Jazz Standard

Music and musicians have often played a role in soothing relationships between nations. Louis Armstrong penetrated the Iron Curtain at a concert in East Berlin in 1965. Recently, the Minnesota Orchestra contributed to the thawing of relations between the US and Cuba through a series of concerts and workshops in Havana.

Perhaps less known is a concert that took place this year, when New York saxophonist Bob Belden performed with his group Animation in Tehran, the first US group to do so since 1979.

As testimony to the diplomatic power of music, Belden (October 31, 1956-May 20, 2015) told The New York Times: “Everybody is nice to us here…a guy comes up to me, an Iranian, asks me where I’m from. I say,  ‘America!’ He says, ‘I love you!’ I tell him I’m a jazz musician. He says, ‘I love jazz!'”

Recording of “Black Dahlia” by the Bob Belden Orchestra

In addition to Animation, Belden was known as a prodigious arranger, often reinterpreting rock and jazz classics in new ways. He was well-known for an album of Sting’s music. He brought together Indian musicians to do a new take on the music of Miles Davis, using sitar and tabla. The album was nominated for a GRAMMY in 2009 for Best Contemporary Jazz Album.

“All Blues” on “Miles from India”