Hey there everybody
Please don’t romp or roam
We’re a little nervous
’Cause we’re so far from home
So this is what we do
Sit back and let us groove
And let us work on you
We’ve all spent years preparing
Before this band was born
With heaven’s help it blended
And we do thank the Lord.
Now we put you through the changes
And turned around the mood
We hope it’s struck you different
And hope you feel moved
So forget about your troubles
As we search for something new
And we play for you
Around the end of the 1960s, I was living in Buffalo and I put an album I had just purchased onto my turntable. It was Chicago Transit Authority by the musicians of the same name – the first and last record by the group with that moniker. As you can guess, the group was from Chicago and it wasn’t long before the band changed their name to simply, Chicago. This was due to possible legal action from the actual Chicago Transit Authority of that city.
The first cut on the album was the title at the top of this page and really rocked – this was quite a while before the advent of compact discs (CDs). From what I heard, I had a feeling this group was going to the top and that’s what they did. It wasn’t many years before they released the album, Chicago XXXIII, which most Romans know was their thirty-third offering. They didn’t stop there.
I loved this album, which I no longer own – I do have it on CD. It was a breakthrough because it blended rock music and jazz, with blues, highlighted by the sound of the horns. One song on the record – actually it was a two-record release – was a song, Free Form Guitar, which I usually skip since it’s nothing more that guitar feedback. Was it music? People will debate that and this book will talk a little about it as well.
I had an idea for a book about music some time ago with joy in the title. The work was to have two parts, each about brave people facing tough medical challenges. Half of the book would be about people I knew or heard about, while the other part would concern itself with musicians. That book never happened, but in late 2012, I still wanted to write a book about music, so late in the year I started on it.
Since every book has a beginning, mine would tell how I came about to have such a great love of music, including a few circumstances that were important as well as two influential people who weren’t making a living in that field. I start with my childhood – that’s where it all began – but continue with the years that followed in other chapters. I mentioned my first move away from Buffalo and the fact that I left with my stereo, but no television – another very significant detail.
I also had to talk briefly about the giants of the music industry: those who performed as well as those without which the music scene wouldn’t be what it is today, even if they were disc jockeys, also known as DJs. The term disc jockey appeared in print in Variety Magazine in 1941. The list of people who could be discussed was so extensive that I couldn’t include them all so I settled on a handful. Since music is such a vast subject, I narrowed the book down to music thirty or forty years on either side of the year 1950. I’m not a fan of all types of song, so those were left out. I only estimated when music began, but had a few words to say about just what music is.
Being a famous musician had its down sides. If the person or her parents experienced the Great Depression, it certainly had a great effect on both generations. Getting from one gig to the next was hazardous – including the boredom of being on the road. Many performers died in airplane or automobile crashes. The characters that an artist met were unhealthy as alcohol, drugs and deprivation were always close by. Racism, anti-Semitism and discrimination closed in on many musicians as they tried to make the big time. Once reaching those heights, riches and power led to the downfall of many. Nervous breakdowns arose. Throw in the paparazzi, crazy fans, stalkers and the stew is almost unfit for human consumption.
In the time period considered for the book, I noticed three things in music: revolution, evolution and fusion. These are not limited to the twentieth century, either, since the first days of music way back, it encompassed at least one of these three. Evolution occurred when honky tonk turned into jazz or blues became rock and roll, although each of these probably should be also considered fusion. The songs of Phil Ochs, Joe Hill and countless others gave us revolution, but fusion, too. When different types of music blend together, creating different sounds, the result is fusion. Jazz-fusion was only one type. What musicians have created for a long time exhibits evolution, fusion and revolution. It is obvious that this has continued even today.
From reading the book, you’ll have a good idea of my favorite artists and my favorite kind of music. Throughout the narrative, I mention people I’ve seen perform and there’s even a list of the others who I was fortunate to see and hear. As far as a favorite song, I could never limit it to just one. In fact giving my top fifty tunes wouldn’t be any easier. With regards to the songs I hated the most, I have a few but on hearing different artists perform them, I realized it wasn’t the song, but the musicians doing it.
The appendix has a few related movies that might strike your fancy, even if you don’t listen to a great deal of music. For further information on some of the musicians I talked about, there’s a list of books that might interest you. In researching this book, not only did I obtain facts and anecdotes, but also learned a great deal in this project, which was thoroughly a joy for me.
As far as the cover of the book goes, despite my troubles with using the word joy in the title of the second edition of my cookbook, I decided on having it as part of the title here. You can read more about these adventures at my web site, bobcooks.com by clicking on information under my cookbook. Covering happiness and the power of music can also be found in Joyful, Joyful!
The song, Joyful, Joyful from the soundtrack of the movie, Sister Act II starring Whoopi Goldberg, really rocks. The St. Francis Choir helps out and you can experience classical music, gospel, pop, rap, rock and music from a soundtrack all at the same time. Henry van Dyke wrote the poem, Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee in 1907, which is identified as Ode to Joy of the last movement of Symphony Number Nine by Ludwig van Beethoven.
When I kiss you, I feel a thousand different feelings.
I’m covered with chills all over my body. And while I feel them, I quickly try to decide which one
I should try to put into words, oh no,
Try to put into words.
Mostly I’m silent.
Only the beginning of what I want to feel forever.
I have to blame my love of music on my parents – they forced me to take violin lessons and dance ballet, which I hated. No, actually I did neither, and they weren’t into that scene, but there was music in the homes in which my brothers and sister were raised. My mom and dad grew up during the Depression and they didn’t have it easy, especially my father. Nonetheless, we always had food on the table, even liver – yuk – and warmth in those houses, even if we weren’t part of the one percent.
We had a few radios wherever where we resided, and every Sunday we were treated to a few hours of Stan Jasinski’s Polka Beehive. That may be where I developed my taste for rock music as well as the appreciation of the sound of saxes, trumpets and other brass. There was a bit of big band music, or at least some jazz in the songs of the times, which could be heard on radio and later on TV in a show called Your Hit Parade. The radio version was on the radio from 1935 to 1955, while that on the boob tube aired during the decade of the 1950s. You could hear the popular songs of the day at the top of the charts on either version. The tunes on the television program were performed by Dorothy Collins, Snooky Lanson, Gisele MacKenzie and Russell Arms – I don’t quite remember him.
Since Your Hit Parade could be heard or seen for almost a quarter century, the types of music covered included big band, rhythm and blues, doo-wop, soul, jazz, pop and even rock and roll since Elvis was already involving his pelvis. We started to hear from the Everly Brothers, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bill Haley and the Comets, Chubby Checker, James Brown, Jackie Wilson, the Platters, the Mills Brothers, Buddy Holly, Chuck Barry, Sarah Vaughn and Dinah Washington. There were plenty of others whom we listened to and cherished.
In many instances, the featured artist didn’t limit his or her performance to a single type of music, but crossed over. The song, This is My Beloved, may not have been on Your Hit Parade, but Mario Lanza made it popular in 1956. It was from the 1953 musical, Kismet, but the tune was more or less stolen from Borodin’s String Quartet in D. In this case, listeners received a taste of Broadway, classical as well as pop. Billy Vaughn’s version of Sail Along Silvery Moon in the late 1950s showcased both pop and jazz. This was something that was repeated over the years and it continues today. This was a fusion of music, even though it would be a few years before the public knew it as such. I’ll have more to say on this later.
In grade school, I sang in the church choir – thank the Lord I didn’t have any solos – but that was my musical involvement in that school, which was associated with Resurrection Roman Catholic Church. We didn’t do a performance of Hair for a few reasons: we had no musical director; I doubt that Pastor Jim would have been too happy with that play; it didn’t come out until more than a decade later; the students may not have had to wear uniforms, but they were too well dressed. I also joined the Boy Scouts of America: Troop 161. We did a lot of singing at meetings and campouts.
I haven’t ever watched the television show, Glee, but in St. Mary’s High School – it wasn’t on any hill and we didn’t do drugs so the high part of the name may have been a bit off – I sang in the glee club. For one Christmas production, we sang, An Old Fashioned Christmas as well as The Night Before Christmas. There were a few other selections but I can’t recall what they were. Those two songs I liked but I rarely hear them on the radio today during yuletide. I guess I have to head over to Amazon.com. The high school also put on musical productions of The King and I and Finian’s Rainbow, but on the recommendation of the director, I was only on the stage crew. I played a very small part in The Merchant of Venice, but that may have been written before music came on the scene since it didn’t have any singing or dancing.
Every so often, the school had Friday night dances so we had a chance to impress the girls with our Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly impersonations, and of course we heard plenty of music. That may have been an exaggeration but at least we got out on the dance floor and did The Stroll. At that time, I can’t remember doing The Charlestown and certainly not the Bump or the Chicken Dance.
I was very fortunate to be growing up in Buffalo, New York, even though we receive over 300 inches of snow per year – more an anywhere else on the planet. Usually it isn’t all melted until August. Actually the snow has usually melted by April and ski country south of the city receives the brunt of the snow, but certainly not the amount I mentioned above. The first statement about fortune is a fact because Western New York has and still is at the front of the music scene. It certainly was at the time of my years in school before college as music came to us by way of programson the radio, such as the Hi-Teen showwith Bob Wells. His program on WEBR radio was somewhat similar to the television show, American Bandstand with Dick Clark and was the model for it. We were also blessed with quite a few DJs such Tom Shannon, Joey Reynolds, Dick Biondi, Fred Klestine, Lucky Pierre – I don’t think he was really from France since he wasn’t a Conehead – Russ The Moose Syracuse, Perry Allen, Dan Neaverth and Tom Clay. These pioneers spun the hits and they introduced us to many of artists we had never heard of – some made it big, while others may only have had a single hit, if they were lucky.
Besides, WEBR, some of the other AM giants of the airways in Buffalo at the time were WBNY, WXRA, WJJL, WWOL, WINE – it’s not what you might imagine – and WYSL. I remember this last station playing a cross between classical and hit instrumentals of the day – music I appreciated. Between songs, some suave DJ would say something like, as the sun sets on the inner harbor, WYSL presentscandlelight and gold. I thought a good parody night have been, as the sun sets on a drunk downtown, WYSL presents moonshine and the blues.
George The Hound Lorenz
Maybe the leader of all these stations was WKBW, with 52,000 watts of power. Known to us as KB, it was heard in twenty states and Canada, our close neighbor. WYSL did try to take this powerhouse on, but never succeeded. You probably heard about Wolfman Jack, but not a DJ who could have been a cousin, George Lorenz. Listeners knew him as The Hound or Hound Dog. Born in Buffalo in 1919, he was six months short of a high school diploma, but sickness prevented that from happening.
Lorenz began his music days on the air at WXRA but didn’t last long because of the hits he spun. He then joined WJJL and played the music he wanted, developing a devoted audience. Being a big fan of Hank Williams, Sr., he simultaneously promoted a show in nearby Tonawanda. While at WJJL in 1951, he became known as Hound Dog, a name that came from the expression, doggin’ around. As the Saturday, February 20, 1971 issue of the Buffalo Evening News relates in George’s own words,
“One of the jive expressions at the time was if you were hangin’ around the corner, you were doggin’ around. So I’d come on and say ‘Here I am to dog around for another hour.’ That’s how they got to call me the hound dog.”
While at WJJL, Hound Dog was also on the air in Cleveland, Ohio from 1953 to 1955. In 1955, Lorenz became a part of WKBW and soon his show was syndicated. He eventually went to station WINE until 1960. After that he started World Wide Programming, where he continued to syndicate the Hound DogShow. In December 1964, when WBLK 93.7 FM started broadcasting, Hound Dog had his own house in which to rock, into which he put his heart and soul for about eight years. He had planned to return to school to finish and get that diploma, but that never happened as he passed away in his sleep on May 29, 1972. He died much too young.
I’ve already mentioned the influence of Stan Jasinski, and his polka music, but Ramblin’ Lou Schriver made his mark as one of the North’s best-known country-western stars. If I’m not mistaken, his wife attended the same grade school in Cheektowaga that I did. Station WUFO was a leader of the nation in black-oriented music, hosted by Eddie O’Jay, Sunny Jim Kelsey and Frankie Crocker. For a history of traditional rhythm and blues and early rock and roll in Buffalo, check out the book, Don’t Bother Knockin’ – This Town’s A Rockin’by Patti Meyer Lee and Gary Lee.
As you can see, by this time, I had been introduced to many different types of music. We didn’t have MP3 players – not even MP1 types – nor the ability to download music from the Internet, but there was a small personal device called the transistor radio, which we could carry in our pockets, coming in handy if you wanted to listen to a World Series baseball game. At one time those games were played while the sun was still shining. The transistor radio foreshadowed many ways of listening to music in years to come. At the time, the only boom box we may have been familiar with was the one found in the 1955 movie, Kiss Me Deadly, which starred Ralph Meeker and introduced us to Cloris Leachman and Maxine Cooper.
As you may have noticed, I played no piano or guitar, nor any other musical instrument. Mine was my voice, even if I didn’t do any soloing. I’ve always felt comfortable within the shelter of a group. That way there you could always blame someone else for your wrong notes. It wasn’t that hard to do. I enjoyed singing as well as listening to various types of music. The hits of the day were on single records that played at 45 revolutions per minutes (rpm) – each disk had one song per side with a hit side and another selection on the flip side, which may have also sold quite a few copies, sometimes bigger than the featured song. The long-playing microgroove 78 rpm record was introduced by Columbia Records in 1948, mostly featuring classical music. This led the way for 33⅓ rpm vinyl records, which were in monaural at first and then in stereo – quite an improvement.
Before the small disks and the long-playing record, you could listen to music on cylinders, provided you had the hardware to do that. If so, the sound wasn’t very good. It wouldn’t have mattered to people who were hard of hearing or if you didn’t mind the scratching feature. What was to follow became the standard over time. Besides stereo records, you could also buy records in quadraphonic sound. I had a record that was either of that type or something similar, but since I didn’t have the special technology to play it, it didn’t sound any different to me.
By the time I got to college, I didn’t own any long-playing (LP) 33⅓ records although I may have had a few single 45s, but I’m not sure on what I played them. Around this time my parents bought a stereophonic console, so I had an excuse to buy some LPs. This was either at the time I was in college or later at the university. I only bought two or three to start and added little by little to the collection. One of the albums was by the 101 Strings titled, Exodus And Other Great Movie Themes. Besides the main theme from the movie Exodus, also featured were Karen from that same movie as well as the themes from The Sundowners, The Apartment and Dangerous Moonlight, which many might recognize as the Warsaw Concerto. Another one of my first record purchases was on Time Records, which also featured songs from flicks. I believe that Doc Severinsen played on that one. My initial records featured some classical, music from the movies, a taste of jazz and pop. Blues and rock would follow.
I vividly remember putting on a record late at night at my parents’ house – low volume of course – and truly enjoying hearing all three channels of stereo, left, right and the middle. That third channel was a bonus created from the other two. You can imagine how many channels you could hear listening to a record in quadraphonic.
At Canisius College, I joined the glee club, which rehearsed every Tuesday night. On the initial day of practice, the first song we rehearsed – for some of us it was learned – was Let There Be Music, an absolutely beautiful and harmonic work. This song was not the same one that Orleans recorded – they came up with theirs way after we sang it. Quite a few years after that rehearsal, I sang this glee club song with our singing group in a joint concert of men’s choruses. Even without practice, I recalled the harmonies as well as all the words. Some things you just don’t forget.
My college glee club was one of the few breaks I had at that time. I went to school full-time and worked part-time in a supermarket. Since my grades weren’t that outstanding – I did get my degree, though – maybe I should have skipped joining that musical group. But as they say, “All work and no play certainly isn’t the way,” so I’m glad I didn’t quit the glee club. Our group sang at old folks homes, high schools and colleges – for women, of course – and for the underprivileged in different homes. Each spring we put on a concert. During my first three years it was at the renowned Kleinhans’ Music Hall in the city. During my senior year we performed it in the student union, which had just been completed.
Through the glee club I saw New York City for the first time in the spring of my freshman year. As a sophomore the group traveled to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania followed by two more jaunts to Sin City. During the first three trips, we were in competition with other glee clubs and I remember that we sang at a temple in Pennsylvania. The last college trip to New York enabled us to sing at the World’s Fair in Flushing, New York. We sang outdoors – it was really wide open – and it was cold and I wonder how anyone heard us because of how we were standing in such an open space. We could barely hear ourselves. Nonetheless, those years were a great time of camaraderie and harmony. The songs we sang included religious selections, such as Wade in De Water and Soon Ah Will Be Done. Certain members of our group sang popular songs with their own words. We couldn’t very well perform these in church, or even in concert. A few years after graduation I attended a Peter Nero concert at Kleinhans Music Hall. The great musician mentioned that he’d like to do a semi-religious tune. He then played Mrs. Robinson, the song from the movie, The Graduate, made famous by Simon and Garfunkel.
During those undergraduate years, three other guys and I sang in a barbershop group, The Uncalled Fo(u)r. I recall two of the selections the quartet sang were East Side, West Side and Aura Lee. The latter was a Civil War tune and a huge hit by Elvis Presley – at least the melody was the same – which he released as Love Me Tender, shortly before he performed it on the Ed Sullivan Show on September 9, 1956. Not long after, a movie of the same name hit the silver screen. Our quartet sang a few times with the glee club because at least once, our director introduced us as The Unnamed Four – not quite the name we choose, but close.
This was the beginning of my experience with the world of music. The title of the chapter is also the third song on the double-record set of the Chicago Transit Authority, with some of the words from that song at the top. Specifically, it’s the last cut on side one of the first of two disks. There’s only one CD since one of those devices can handle almost eighty minutes of music. The song ends with an extended percussion solo.
Tooling down the highway doing 79
I’m a twin pipe papa and I’m feelin’ fine
Hey man dig that was that a red stop sign
[Screech, bang, tinkle]
I’m just a solid mess of contusions
Never, never, never gonna speed again
Slip the blood to me, Bud
I jump in my rod about a quarter to nine
I gotta make a date with that chick of mine
I cross the center line man you gotta make time
[Screech, bang, tinkle]
In 1956, Nervous Norvus released a song whose lyrics you see above – with special verbal effects in brackets. After reading these lyrics, you can see that it’s a very happy tune. The last six letters of the title of the chapter and this really disgusting song describes a type of music, specifically, fusion, which can be described as a blending of two or more styles of music. The rock group Chicago was one set of musicians that combined rock and jazz, but you’ll also see some more of the same as musical groups combine classical and folk as well. Chicago was only one of the many musical artists that featured the horn section. Others include Blood, Sweat and Tears, The Flock, Chase, Dreams, featuring the Brecker Brothers – Mike on Sax and Randy on trumpet – The Ides of March and Tower of Power.
I saw Blood, Sweat and Tears(BS&T) perform on Long Island with lead singer Jerry Fisher in the 1970s as well as at the Syracuse State Fair a decade later. David Clayton-Thomas sang lead at the fair. The number of musicians who at one time played in BS&T seems never ending, including Al Kooper, Randy Brecker, Joe Henderson, Patti Austin, Eric Gale, Hugh McKracken, Jaco Pastorius, Steve Khan and Don Alias. Today, the group is still going strong with different personnel, including David Aldo on vocals. In my music collection I have a half-dozen CDs of the group.
As the 1960s were fading into 1970, I saw a few favorable words about a Chicago band in Stereo Review. I decided to buy the album, The Flock, which also happened to be the name of the group. They really rocked and featured Fred Glickstein on lead vocals with two saxophones and a trumpet. Three others also harmonized with him, including Jerry Goodman, who played some guitar but mostly stood out on violin. He had a fine musical career afterwards. The group released their second record, Dinosaur Swamps, which I also bought. The first LP had a great version of The Kinks’ 1965 hit, Tired of Waiting For You. I have neither record as I replaced them with their CD, Flock Rock – The Best of The Flock which has many of the selections from both LPs. Unfortunately, a fifteen-minute blues tune, Truth, is not included on the CD.
Tower of Power might be classified as soul, funk, R&B, jazz and jazz-funk. They seem to have been around forever – still performing after forty-four years. Their 1972 song, So Very Hard to Go made it to number eleven on the R&B chart and on the pop chart, it did very well, too. It’s probably the song you know them by and has nothing top do with constipation. I have four of their CDs. The group Chase was formed in 1970 by Bill Chase, Alan Ware, Jerry Van Blair and Ted Piercefield, all veteran masters of the trumpet. Their debut album – which I have on CD – was Chase, which featured four trumpets and included their most popular song, Get It On.Popular with high school and college bands, it’s heard at numerous football games. Sadly, Bill Chase died at the age of 39, with three other members of the band, in a plane crash on the way to a concert in Minnesota.
Jim Peterik, who wrote the song, Boys and Girls Together found on that CD, was also a member of the funk, rock, jazz-fusion group,The Ides of March. He wrote a few songs including the title song from the album, Vehicle, which soon became the fastest selling song in Warner’s history. Peterik also co-wrote Eye of the Tiger, which was featured in the movie, Rocky III. In addition, he has also written songs for the Beach Boys, 38-Special and Lynyrd Skynyrd. I think this group without a vowel in its name has to be classified as a fusion group.
Living in Buffalo has another advantage being so close to Canada. It wasn’t a long drive to Toronto so we managed to see a few good musical performers there. You could also hear music on the radio from our neighbor to the north. When I first heard a song by Lighthouse, I was really impressed – what a sound! The reason for the beautiful notes and harmonies was because this Canadian group had thirteen participants – a brass quartet, a string quartet and a rock quintet. That tells you that at least classical, jazz and rock music made up their repertoire. It didn’t stop there, either. I saw the band at the Strawberry Fields Festival in Bowmanville, Ontario in 1970. Soon after that they appeared at the Isle of Wight Festival, where they were the only act – other than Jimi Hendrix – asked to perform a second night. Lighthouse made its debut a year earlier at the Rock Pile in Toronto and were introduced by Duke Ellington, who said, “I’m beginning to see the Light. . .house.” I owned a few of their records but they were replaced with CDs of Lightouse over the years.
Decades ago, I called one of the Buffalo radio stations and answered some music question correctly. I must have had a good knowledge of music then – today, that’s no longer true. For being correct, they sent an album by the group, Chosen Few. Years later, I still have one of their songs on cassette. They were another jazz-rock group and I don’t think they were very successful. There were other similar groups that utilized the horns, such as Little John, Seven, Puzzle, Uncle Chapin, Gas Mask, featuring Enrico Rava, the Crusaders, Archie Whitewater, Lucifer’s Friend, Electric Flag and Sons of Champlin. For each of these I have at least a song or two on CD or cassette – perhaps a complete CD. Pacific Gas and Electric was another fusion group but I have no music of that group in my collection. The same is true of the group, Ambergris, which is reputed to be a great horn group that just didn’t make it. I wonder if the rooster on the cover of their album had something to do with that.
I thought about classifying, in some degree, a few of the other fusion efforts, but that may not be wise or easy to do. I’ll try anyway. Maynard Ferguson played an awesome trumpet – today a few approach the way he hit those high notes, but they don’t quite match him. The people who come to mind are Wayne Bergeron, Doc Severinsen and Cuban born Arturo Sandoval. Ferguson played in the big bands, but then successfully merged pop, rock, disco, and music from soundtracks such as Star Wars, Rocky and the TV series Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek with his jazz. The Woody Herman Band in the 1930s and 1940s did a lot of blues and followed that with jazz and later was heavily influenced by rock and roll, as the name The Thundering Herd pointed out. At one time, Bill Chase played with the Herd.
Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers was a fusion group that along with jazz, featured bebop, bluesy and funky hard bop. Some of the graduates from Art’s bands include on piano, Keith Jarrett, Mulgrew Miller and Horace Silver; on reeds, Kenny Garrett, Lou Donaldson, Branford Marsalis, Hank Mobley, Donald Harrison and Wayne Shorter; on trumpet, Terrence Blanchard, Clifford Brown, Donald Byrd, Freddie Hubbard, Wynton Marsalis, Brian Lynch and Chuck Mangione. Blakely was really quite influential.
Born and raised in Rochester, New York, Chuck Mangione played a great deal of jazz before his joint effort with the Rochester Philharmonic in May of 1970. The venture was called The Friends in Love Concert. He followed that up a year later with a repeat of that, a performance known as Together. It was around this time that his music became better known. Those two concerts were an amalgamation of jazz, pop, classical and folk. His later releases included such hits as Chase the Clouds Away, Bellavia, Hill where the Lord Hides, Children of Sanchez, The Land of Make Believe, Give it All you Got – which he wrote for the Olympics – and Feels so Good. Appropriately enough, he created feel-good music.
Another musician from the Art Blakey school was Wayne Shorter, who led the group, Weather Report. His band brought sunny skies and progressive jazz, very similar to the direction in which the great trumpet player Miles Davis was headed. If there was a person at that time who was cool, it was Miles. Keyboardist Horace Silver was another alumni of Blakey’s class, who assembled some fine musicians in a similar fusion mode. Other ensembles in the Weather Report vein were The Mahavishnu Orchestra, pianist Herbie Hancock and Return to Forever. The Mahavishnu Orchestra was led by John McLaughlin and there were two versions of the group. Some of the musicians participating over the years were Jerry Goodman, Jan Hammer, Billy Cobham, Jean-Luc Ponty, Narada Michael Walden and Danny Gottlieb. Return to Forever, led by Chick Corea, had some outstanding artists as well, such as Stanley Clarke – one of the greatest bass players ever – drummer Lenny White, guitarist extraordinaire, Al Di Meola and violinist Jean-Luc Ponty.
In 1967, The Bob Crewe Generation released the smash it, Music to Watch Girls By. Standing on the Corner from the Broadway musical, The Most Happy Fella byThe Four Lads in 1956 (number three on various charts at the time) and I’m a Girl Watcher by The O’Kaysions in 1968, which reached number five on the pop charts and number six on the R&B charts, dealt with the same male hobby. Besides being a dancer, singer, record producer, and manager, Crewe is a renowned songwriter. He wrote numerous top ten singles for The Four Seasons, and for others as well including Silhouettes, Lucky Ladybug, Jean, Lady Marmalade, A Lover’s Concerto, Devil with a Blue Dress On and Good Morning, Starshine. As of this date, he has written thirteen top ten songs.
I own the CD by The Bob Crewe Generation and from the album cover it appears that there are more horns in the group that a herd of Arles Merino sheep. Actually there are not even two-dozen musicians on the cover and not quite a dozen brass performers – but what a sound! The kinds of music on that CD include pop, jazz, the song, Brother Dan, which most of you know as Danny Boy, andmusic from the movies – including from that easily forgettable 1968 flick Barbarella, though I liked the title song.Music there is also credited to theGlitterhouse, a group whose LP I owned at one time.
Formed in 1990 by Brian Setzer, formerly of Stray Cats, The Brian Setzer Orchestra is known as a swing and jump blues band, but I should add that they do boogie-woogie music – whatever that is – rock, pop and of course, jazz. They even played at the White House on June 29, 2006. On the 1998 CD that I have, The Dirty Boogie, you can find such oldies classics as the Santo and Johnny Farina song, Sleepwalk, as well as Since I Don’t Have You, the Skyliners hit and This Old House – if you remember that one, you’re really old. When I bought the CD, the sales clerk commented that I had good taste. Who would have thought?
The Saturday Night Live Band has changed personnel over the years but they don’t limit their repertoire to rock or jazz only. Another current jazz group that really rocks is Spyra Gyra with Jay Beckenstein, formed in Buffalo in the mid 1970s. If you want to see a smoking band – not what you think – that adds R&B, funk and pop music in fine fashion, don’t miss them when they’re in town. A similar band is guitarist Russ Freeman’s The Rippingtons, who rip up the stage with their notes. Pieces of a Dream is an R&B jazz ensemble that can rock but also be mellow, too. The late Eva Cassidy sang Have a Little Faithand the title track of their 1994 release, Goodbye Manhattan. Another of my favorite groups is the Yellowjackets. Don’t worry about the sting. Originally formed in 1977 as the Robben Ford Group, they took on their current name soon after. Ford wasn’t around very long. Sax men playing for the group have included Richard Elliot, Marc Russo, a former member of Tower of Power and current member Bob Mintzer, along with Russell Ferrante, Will Kennedy and Felix Pastorius.
A few more horn jazz-rock groups I should mention are Royal Crown RevueandBig Bad Voodoo Daddy. The lattergroup is from California and I’m not sure if they do voodoo music, but they come out with cool, swing music. They performed at Super Bowl XXXIII (that’s the thirty-third onefor those not versed in Romance numerals, who haven’t read the Introduction of this book.) In some ways they imitate what the Brian Setzer Orchestra has been doing.
If I’m not mistaken, I was introduced to the group Trinity by way of one of the record clubs I joined over the years. Consisting of Brian Auge Auger, Julie Jools Driscoll, Clive Toli Thacker and David Lobs Ambrose, Trinity released the double album Streetnoise in 1968. It covers jazz, blues, progressive rock and folk. Auger, who toured or played with Jimi Hendrix, Sonny Boy Williamson, Eric Burdon and Led Zeppelin, formed the group, Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express in 1970. Some of that band’s members eventually wound up in Average While Band.
Over the years I have become familiar with quite a few more groups or artists that merged different streams of music. These include: Seatrain – American roots fusion; Steely Dan – R&B, jazz, pop, funk and rock; Kool and the Gang – funk, soul, jazz and R&B; Santana – Latin, jazz, rock and spiritual; Dakila – heavy Latin rock; El Chicano – Chicano rock, soul, funk, jazz, pop and salsa; Pat Metheny – jazz, jazz fusion and world fusion; Passport – jazz fusion; Clark / Duke Project – pop, jazz and funk; Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes – jazz, rock; Earth Wind and Fire – rock, soul, R&B, disco, pop and jazz; King Crimson – jazz, folk, classical, experimental, New Wave, psychedelic, hard rock and heavy metal; Acoustic Alchemy – jazz and pop, Caravan – psychedelic, rock, jazz; Larsen-Feiten Band – pop, jazz, rock and blues; Buddy Miles – funk, jazz and rock; Rossington Collins Band – southern rock; Sanford / Townsend Band – rock and roll and soul; New York Rock and Soul Review – soul, blues, rock and jazz; Wilmer and the Dukes – jazz, rock and R&B; Los Lonely Boys – Chicano rock, Tex-Mex, Latin rock, roots rock and blues rock; War – rock, funk, Latin, jazz, R&B and reggae; Sea Level – jazz-rock, southern rock, progressive rock and blues.
You may not think of Ray Charles in this same category, but he sang blues, jazz, pop and country. As described in Ashley Kahn’s 2006 book, The House That Trane Built: The Story Of Impulse Records, in 1960, Ray Charles released an album called, Genius + Soul = Jazz. From the title it’s clear that this was fusion music and he was told that he could be messing up his career. He could lose a great number of fans, to which he answered, “I may lose a lot of fans, but I think I’ll gain more fans than I lose.” I’m with Ray on that one and I should add that we share the same birthday, except for the year.
We shouldn’t forget Zydeco, which is certainly folk music, but it blends in Creole, Irish Celtic, German, Latin, Appalachian, Cajun, blues and R&B. Another blend is Reggae, which can be a meeting of Calypso, jazz, ska and rhythm and blues. In a tribute to the musician Burt F. Bacharach at the White House on May 9, 2012, Stevie Wonder and Arturo Sandoval collaborated in a reggae version of Bacharach’s Make It Easy on Yourself. They certainly did it justice.
He was born to Calvin Judkins and Lula Mae Hardaway in Detroit, Michigan in May 1950 as Stevland Hardaway Judkins. This musical giant, whose adopted name is quite fitting, is also known as Stevland Hardaway Morris, Little Stevie Wonder and Eivets Rednow – that’s his name spelled backwards. Stevie is an activist, record producer, singer, songwriter who plays keyboards of all sorts, bass guitar, drums, harpejji and harmonica. He mastered the latter instrument on the Burt Bacharach and Hal David song, Alfie, which you can find on the instrumental 1968 album, Eivets Rednow. Besides the already mentioned reggae, Wonder plays jazz, R&B, funk, soul and pop.
Being born six weeks premature resulted in his blindness. Despite his handicap, Wonder has great vision, is gifted, brilliant, creative, possessive of a photographic memory, precocious, conniving and mysterious. As a baby, he was annoying people on the drums – actually he was just banging on surfaces around him – and his music career was slowly being formed. It wasn’t long before he played piano, drums, bass and harmonica. He sang in the choir at church, really stood out and many there felt he was the best thing at those services. In school he challenged the teachers with his arrogance. Wonder said, “People at school told me I would end up making potholders instead of [being a performer].”
At the age of eleven, he signed with Motown Records, although he didn’t have a number one record for a few months. That came when he was 13 in May 1963 with the release of Fingertips Part II, which hit the top spot on both the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B charts. Fingertips Part I was on the flip side of the 45. A year later, he made his film debut in Muscle Beach Party. Within half a dozen years, he had smash hits with Uptight (Everything’s Alright), I Was Made to Love Her, For Once in My Life and Signed, Sealed Delivered, I Am Yours.
Motown originated through the work of the innovative Barry Gordy, who was responsible for bringing all the great music to the public over the years. He is to be commended but he didn’t always deliver the hits for Wonder, so the youngster took matters into his own hands by doing some of the writing himself – mostly music since he wasn’t that great on the lyrics, at first. You can read about Wonder and Gordy in an insightful 2010 biography by Mark Ribowsky, Signed, Sealed, and Delivered: The Soulful Journey Of Stevie Wonder. If you read the book, remember those two words above that I used to describe Stevie: creative and mysterious.
Wonder avoided drugs, but had another addiction: messing around with the women, even at a very early age. He would grab them in places that women didn’t approve of – all right, some didn’t mind – and then plead that he didn’t see that she was there. I’m sure that convinced many observers. As he matured, a few women claimed that they had his child. One insisted she was pregnant by him and called Lula Mae, who replied, “Honey, if it comes out black, blind and playing the harmonica, then I’ll believe you.” Stevie got his sense of humor from his mom.
Wonder reached the top in many ways but participated in Peace Sunday, an anti-nuclear rally in 1982 at the Rose Bowl. He was on hand for Band Aid in America and on stage for the We Are the Worldproject. The latter event had forty-five artists on stage, including Ray Charles, but because of the number involved, it didn’t always go smoothly. Once when matters seemed out of hand, Wonder tried to restore order and kidded the group that if they didn’t get things together, he or Ray would drive everybody home.
Guitarist, songwriter and producer Michael Sembello – known as the writer of the song Maniac from the 1983 movie, Flashdance – worked with Wonder on a few projects. On a trip to Louisiana in search of a studio location, while the group was crossing the Pontchartrain Bridge, Sembello noticed a sign with three K’s on some building. It was then that Michael realized they were in the heart of Klan country. Sembello continues, “I’m seein’ headlines in my head saying ‘Stevie Wonder and Band – the white Guy, too – lynched in Louisiana.’”
So far, Stevie has a record twenty-two Grammys, thirty-top top ten hits, twenty-five number one hits and twelve top ten albums, including three that reached the top. Songs of his you’ll recognize include I Wish, I Just Called to Say I Love You – for which he won an Academy Ward in 1984 for the movie, The Woman in Red – Superstition and Sir Duke. Albums of note include Talking Book, Songs in the Key of Life and Innervisions. He earned the title of United Nations Messenger of Peace in 2009 and a year earlier, he was number five on Billboard Magazine’s Hot 100 all-time Top Artists. In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked him fifteenth on the 100 Greatest Rock and Roll Artists of All Time. He’s a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Michigan Walk of Fame, and has received the Polar Music Prize, the Gershwin Award, Kennedy Center Honors, the George and Ira Gershwin Lifetime Achievement Award, the Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award, the Billboard Century Award, the Memphis National Civil Rights Museum Lifetime Achievement Award and the Montreal Jazz Festival Spirit Award. At the end of 2012, he was inducted into the Soul Music Hall of Fame.
3. Classical Gas
In the twentieth century, there were at least three Oscar Hammersteins. One was Oscar Andrew Hammerstein (III) who wrote the 2010 book, The Hammersteins: A Musical Theater Family, which I recommend highly. His grandfather’s grandfather was the first, coming to New York City in 1864. He started out working in a cigar factory but then took over the business – why work at a job when you can be boss? He was a prolific inventor, having over seventy-five patents, even working on an invention for an improved plumbing system.
As a child, he studied piano, flute and violin. The cigar business was doing well, but his real interest was opera. In fact, he moonlighted as a theater manager in the downtown theaters. The money from the cigar business provided funds for his real love. He probably smoked a stogie, too. Is it possible that he thought about selling cigars in the lobby of the theatres he would build? With no extra cost, this approach could also lend an aroma to the inside of the building.
The Harlem Opera House on 125th Street was the first theater he constructed and he didn’t stop there. He was responsible for the Olympia Theatre on Longacre Square and Manhattan Opera House, where variety shows and comic operas were presented. Not only did he build the theatres, he wrote the operas. Longacre Square eventually became Times Square, and theatre thrived, thanks to Hammerstein. Oscar built more theatres and his sons, Willie and Arthur, were involved as well. This was a musical family, and that’s only the beginning.
Though Broadway had operas and musicals, without the cigar man, we may not have had the Broadway musical, as we know it. We may not have been introduced to his grandson, also named Oscar. Because of all these three Oscar Hammersteins, I will refer to this big Broadway musical guy as Oscar. He’s the one in the middle and the one we know the most about.
Willie wasn’t a workaholic but was involved with his dad’s work, managing the Victoria Theatre, which featured vaudeville. In 1895 he and his wife Alice became the parents of a son, Oscar Greeley Clendenning Hammerstein II. Sadly, Alice died at the age of 32 and not much later, Willie died. Their son was only 18, and barely old enough to smoke a cigar. Just before Willie died, his son promised he would never do the theatre thing. His uncle Arthur knew of the promise and took the lad under his wing. Despite the theatre vow and after much consideration by Arthur, Oscar became involved with the theatre and millions of people were glad of his decision.
Oscar was a producer and director of theatre. Penning the lyrics, he co-wrote 850 songs, His efforts covered almost forty years, working with composers Sigmund Romberg, Jerome Kern and others, but his most successful collaboration was with Richard Rodgers. Like his grandfather – the cigar / opera guy – he also had many failures. Neither gave up and instead just tried again. For the grandson, Allegro was one of the flops. It’s easy to forget it and the other duds when Showboat, Carousel, Oklahoma!, The King and I, South Pacific and The Sound of Music come to mind. Oscar was a genius.
The grandson was the recipient of two Academy Awards: the song The Last Time I Saw Paris in 1941 in the film, Lady Be Good, and in 1945, It Might as Well Be Spring in State Fair. This award is also known as an Oscar – what else would it be called? Oscar also won eight Tony Awards, six for lyrics or book and two for producing. He probably would have captured more except that the Tony wasn’t awarded until 1947. In 1944 Rodgers and Hammerstein received a Pulitzer Prize for Oklahoma! and a half dozen years later the Gold Medal Award – nothing to do with baking – for their work in the city of New York.
Many revivals on Broadway and in road shows across the country are plays that Oscar had a hand in. Even the ones that aren’t have to give credit to the work of the Hammersteins. In 1981, the family contributed a million dollars for Theatre Studies to establish The Oscar Hammerstein II Center.
Jacob Gershvin was born in September 1898 in Brooklyn of parents Morris Gershowitz and Rosa Bruskin, both Jewish immigrants from the Ukraine. Jacob changed both names to become George Gershwin when he became a professional musician. He was the second of four children, Ira, Arthur and Frances. As a child, he was a thief and skipped school, but was good at roller-skating. His parents figured he’d probably wind up in jail, but once he escaped, he could get away from the police on those skates.
George had great musical talent, even at the age of ten, and had rhythm early on. His first job was as a song plugger for Jerome Remick of Tin Pan Alley. A plugger of this type was a piano player hired by music stores to help increase sales of sheet music. This was after he left school at 15. His first song was published in 1916 and a year later he had commercial success with Rialto Ripples, a novelty rag. In 1919 he had a national hit with Swanee. George had talent and humility wasn’t one of his normal qualities. He never married but had a few duets with the ladies even though the piano needed tuning.
In 1928, he wrote his orchestral composition, An American in Paris. Gershwin created jazz, opera, pop music and classical. His work is amazing, including music for the movies and the stage and countless hit songs. His collaboration with his brother Ira is comparable to the work done by Hammerstein and Rodgers.
Kay Swift, one of Gershwin’s lovers, mentioned that his audience not only listened to his music, but also felt they were writing it with him. At the time when Babe Ruth mentioned that his salary was more than that of President Hoover because he had a better year, Gershwin was earning more than the two combined.
A few years ago I bought a CD featuring pianist Richard Glazier. He was the sole artist on the album, which was entitled, Gershwin: Rememberance and Discovery. There were fifteen selections, including the Rhapsody in Blue. I omitted to mention that this was Volume 2, so there were many other songs that George wrote, some with his brother Ira. Summertime, I Got Rhythm, I Got Plenty of Nuttin’, It Ain’t Necessarily So, The Man I Love, How Long Has This Been Going On, Love Is Hereto Stay and Someone to Watch Over Me were some of the familiar numbers that many artists performed and are still doing today. Gershwin also was responsible for the Concerto in F and the folk opera, Porgy and Bess, based on the novel Porgy by DuBose Heyward, who helped with getting that opera on stage. After Todd Duncan auditioned for the part of Porgy, performing a piece he brought with him, Gershwin asked him to sing it again, but not at the piano, where he had been. George said he would play the music, after only hearing it once. Duncan was impressed, saying, “This is when I knew I was dealing with a real musician.”
George and Ira were not only brothers; they were the best of friends, working on numerous projects together. Some of these weren’t highly successful – many critics panned Porgy and Bess when it opened and its run was a short one. Years later it was recognized as a masterpiece. Music awards in his time weren’t around for music as we have today, but in 2006, he was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame. George Gershwin Junior High School 166 in Brooklyn is named after him as well as the Gershwin Theatre on Broadway. In 1985, The brothers were honored with the Congressional Gold Medal. UCLA established The George and Ira Gershwin Lifetime Achievement Award in 1988. George Gershwin died in 1937 at the age of 38. After that, conductor of the Boston Symphony, Serge Koussevitzky, described him as “this extraordinary being too great to be real.”
In March 2013, I watched the 1951 motion picture, An American in Paris for the second time. It was the recipient of six Academy Awards, including best picture. I had seen it shortly after it originally played in movie theatres. I’m not always in agreement with the Academy on their choices, but in this case, I give the movie a thumbs up. It’s a great story set in romantic Paris – even though it was filmed on various sets – with not too shabby dancing by Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron as well as music by George and Ira Gershwin. Who could ask for anything more?
Hammerstein and Gershwin mixed classical, jazz and pop – as well as Broadway music – into their songs. Oscar’s grandfather began building opera houses, which is classical music. George wrote the Concerto in F, which was largely classical as well. His Rhapsody in Blue embraced jazz as well as pop and classical. Despite the fusion, they weren’t the originators of it. It was happening years before them. Many feel that fusion began in the 1960s with such musical groups as Return to Forever, Soft Machine, Blood, Sweat and Tears and Chicago. That’s only true if you’re talking about jazz fusion.
You’ll notice that there aren’t any lyrics at the beginning of the chapter. That’s because it’s an instrumental. Classical Gas doesn’t refer to a bean casserole that Mozart started brewing in his crockpot and never turned off – it should be ready to eat soon. Remind me to move to another state when the dish is delivered. No, the title is that of a 1968 top ten hit by Mason Williams. In August of that year it hit the number two spot on the charts. The song covers classical music, pop and rock. There are many more examples of fusion music, leaning to the classical aspect. This blending has the advantage of having people listening and appreciating a type of music that they thought they could never enjoy, or of which they may not have been that fond. Stevie Wonder offered, “I feel there is so much through music that can be said, and there’s so many people you can reach by [having them listen] to another kind of music besides what is considered your only kind of music. I say as long as it’s change to widen your horizons, it’s cool.”
In earlier chapters, I mentioned the song, This is My Beloved, which was borrowed from Borodin, then used in a Broadway musical and eventually hit the pop charts and the use of the string quartet in the Canadian group, Lighthouse. In my listening experience, I’ve run across a few more mixing of types. I’m not sure where I first heard the group Ekseption – that’s not a misspelling but the name the group chose. The closest this Dutch group comes to vocalizing is in one song where they use synthesizers to almost sound like human voices – but not really singing, if you know what I mean. I bought two of their LPs (the 1969 and 1972 releases) and transferred many of the songs there to a single CD. I also have their CD of hits from various recordings and I would classify their music as a mixture of classical, jazz and rock. If you listen to their hard-rocking sound of The 5th and compare it to that of the main theme of the Beethoven symphony, you may feel that there’s hardly a difference. At least I didn’t.
Kayak is another set of musicians from the Netherlands that could be considered a fusion group. The difference between them and Ekseption is that the latter is more horn influenced and they covered classical themes whereas Kayak uses vocals in a more progressive rock mode. At one time I had in my collection two of their albums, Royal Bed Bouncer (1975) and Phantom of the Night (1979), with some of the selections from both now on a single CD that I made. In addition, I have the 1981 CD, Eyewitness. Phantom of the Night was their best-selling album.
I probably got the 1969 self-titled album, Renaissance, from either a record grab bag or from my former boss, who I’ll talk about later. Listening to it, I could hear the mix of jazz, classical, pop and rock. I went to their concert in the mid 1970s at the Academy of Music in New York, renamed the Palladium in 1976. I saw the underground group, Caravan play before Renaissancecame on stage – a truly enjoyable concert by both acts. The latter changed personnel numerous times, but in each case – listening to the first Renaissance album or the concert – I enjoyed their music. I no longer own that LP, but it’s replacement on CD with a few extra selections, as well as the 1990 CD, Tales of 1001 Nights, Vol. 1. There’s also a Tales of 1001 Nights, Vol. 2 and each of these two volumes consists of studio and concert performances of the group.
Musicians on that first eponymous album were Jim McCarty, Keith Relf, his sister Jane, Louis Cannamo and John Hawken, the first two coming from the Yardbirds. The performers on Tales of 1001 Nights, Vol 1. were Michael Dunford, Annie Haslam, Terry Sullivan, Jon Camp and John Tout. These last five were probably the musicians I saw in concert. You’ll notice that there’s no one in common to these two groups and I may have been taking a chance by going to the concert. Fortunately, Michael Dunford played on the second Renaissance album, Illusion (1971), and he is the link that kept the group going and actually was instrumental in making it more progressive and successful.
In May 1967, Procol Harum released the single, A Whiter Shade of Pale. Reminiscent of J. S. Bach’s Orchestral Suite Number 3 in D Major, it was a big hit in the United States, reaching number five on the pop charts. It did even better on the United Kingdom singles chart, reaching number one. It also did the same in Canada and Australia. Besides classical music, the music of Procol Harum covers progressive rock, symphonic rock, R&B, soul, blues, and baroque. Their 1973 release, Grand Hotel, is among my collection of CDs.
While staying for a month in January 2010 at my cousin Jim’s Sun City Center town home, I visited my high school clasmate Tom in nearby Riverhead, Florida. There I saw the DVD of the musical group, Barrage, a group created in Calgary, Canada in 1996 that incorporates choreography into their performance. I was so impressed that I bought their 2003 CD, Vagabond Tales: Every Traveler has a Story. As many types of music as Procol Harum mixes into their recordings, Barragemay surpass them. You can be the judge, and here are a few of the familiar song titles on Vagabond Tales: Birdland, Tico Tico, Sweet Georgia Brown, Sally G, Bridge Over Troubled Water, Eleanor Rigby and Front Porch Jam. Barrage consists of at least a half dozen violins, percussion, drums, a guitar or two, bass guitar and acoustic bass. The majority of the group – male and female – also sing on the CD. Barrage is a musical group, but also a performance, and in 2001, a second group based in London, England emerged. The cast of Barrage has over forty performers, including musicians from Canada, Germany, England, New Zealand, the United States, Wales and Scotland.
You may not have heard of the group, Chimo! – until a few years ago, I hadn’t either. They were a rock band of the late 1960s and early 1970s but they didn’t last very long. They did perform at various festivals in Detroit and Toronto in the summer of 1970 with big name stars such as Chicago, The Band, Janis Joplin, Alice Cooper and The Electric Circus. I had their 1970 self-titled record, but I’m not sure where it is today. The entire recording is on a cassette that I made quite a few years ago. I probably should produce a CD of it before it deteriorates and I can’t listen to it anymore.
The British group, The Moody Blues, has been around for quite a while. They started out in 1964 and had a short hiatus in the mid 1970s. After their beginning in pop music, they evolved. Their 1965 single, Go Now was a number 1 hit in England and did well in the United States. Their most notable fusion record – I have it on CD – is Days of Future Past, which embraces classical themes along with rock music. I have some music on cassette by a former member of the group, Michael Pinder, in addition to a CD of The Moody Blues music from different releases. It includes Go Now.
Somewhere I read about a musical group named Absolute Ensemble, including a favorable mention of their CD, Absolution. I thought of buying it but couldn’t find it. However, a few months ago, I checked out another of their CDs from the local library, but I didn’t care for it. Formed by conductor Kristjan Jarvi in 1993, the group became well known as one of New York’s contemporary classical groups. Jarvi wanted more so he soon added jazz, rock, hip-hop, world music and Arab styles. The CD Absolute Zawinul came out in 2010 followed a year later by Arabian Nights. They released a few other CDs that I might like, but then again, maybe not. Some of these they did with other performers, including Paquito D’Rivera.
I mentioned the Brecker Brothers earlier, but they’re not the only musical family. Don’t forget about the Jacksons, Osmonds, the Lennon Sisters, the Everly Brothers and the Bangor Sisters and – that’s only the beginning. Maybe that last duo didn’t sing. With a combination of rock, pop and jazz, Richard and Karen Carpenter created absolutely beautiful music – so rich with harmony that I wondered how they could pull it off. How could a duo produce four or more part harmony? They did it with mirrors. Actually they accomplished the sound by recording over and over what they had first done, overdubbing. I saw them perform in Buffalo in the early 1970s and before the concert I tried to figure out how they would manage since very few singers can cover alto and soprano simultaneously. In practice and in concert, no human can so far. As you can guess, they had a few people on stage to manage this. What a joyful sound it was, especially with Karen’s lovely voice. Sadly, she died at the age of 32 in 1983.
The English progressive band, The Nice, featuring Keith Emerson along with Lee Jackson and Brian Davison, also covered jazz and classical music. I first heard of them by way of their Five Bridges Suite. Eventually I bought the CD, Keith Emerson withThe Nice, which has the suite on it along with works by Sibelius and Tchaikovsky. Three other songs there are Dylan’s My Back Pages, Tim Hardin’s Hang on to a Dream and Bernstein’s America, from West Side Story. Released in 1970, the LP, Five Bridges reached the number two spot on the British album charts. Around this same time Emerson formed the group, Emerson, Lake and Palmer.
I can’t think of a more musical family, jazz-wise, than the Marsalis family from Louisiana. Ellis, Jr., father of the clan and professor of music, is on piano, Brandon on saxophone, Wynton on trumpet, Delfeayo on trombone and Jason on drums. Do you think this band needs a bass and guitar? Jason is in his mid thirties, the youngest of the bunch. He played with his father at twelve and lately has also played the vibraphone. He has played with funk fusion bands, a Celtic group and with Casa Samba, a Brazilian percussion ensemble. Besides his work on trumpet – his CD, Baroque Music For Trumpets was one of his classical ventures – Wynton is also a music educator, composer and Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center. He has won nine Grammys and one of his recordings won a Pulitzer Prize for Music – the first of its kind. Branford was leader of the band in the early 1990s on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He has done classical music and played with Sting, Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Herbie Hancock, Clark Terry, Lionel Hampton, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and Kenny Kirkland. He has reached out to help victims of Katrina and has had Broadway projects in the last decade. Delfeayo founded the Uptown Music Theatre, which trains youth and has performed eight musicals. He is a graduate of Berklee College of Music and has a master’s degree in jazz performance from the University of Louisville.
I should mention that classical rock – the joining together of rock with classical music – and classic rock aren’t the same. The latter, which may also be referred to as rock classics, refers to rock music that has endured over the years and can be heard on corresponding FM stations. There’s probably no reason why these couldn’t also be considered as oldies, since they are songs from the past.
Not long ago in Buffalo, I was at a concert that featured the East Village Opera Company, musicians that combined opera and rock. I’m not a big opera fan – I’ll have more on this later – but I thought the fusion was great. Not everyone in the audience agreed with me. My friend thought he saw the music reviewer leave early, missing some of the performance. The review in the Buffalo News the next day was not very kind – those opera snobs! Anyway, I bought their self-titled CD, which featured the compositions of Georges Bizet – the