Archive for soul jazz

Best Compliment EVER!!!

Posted in The Jazz Continues... with tags , , , on August 18, 2014 by curtjazz

Lou Rawls - All Things in TimeYesterday my teenage son John (usually known in these posts as “Jazzy John”) and I were hanging out at home. My radio station, Curt’s Cafe Noir was playing softly in the background and John was playing a video game. A recording of the great Lou Rawls singing “You’re The One” came on. John stopped and casually asked me, “Hey Dad, is that you?”

He looked at me with a straight face, which let me know that this was not an attempt at getting a raise in his allowance but an honest inquiry.

Now I haven’t raised my solo voice in any kind of serious attempt at vocalizing since before John was born. All he has ever heard is me around the house and the occasional church solo.

But for John to even for a brief moment to entertain the thought that one of the most singular voices in soul/pop/jazz (and one of my vocal idols) could actually be ME, was one of the best compliments that I have ever received!

Even though I told him the truth, I had an ear to ear grin for the next hour and my son thought that I was nuts even more than he usually does.

Hmmm…maybe Jazzy John’s allowance is a little paltry…

A Birthday Video Tribute to Ray Charles

Posted in In Memoriam, The Jazz Continues..., Video Vault with tags , , , on September 23, 2011 by curtjazz

Though John Coltrane gets most of the birthday ink today, Ray Charles Robinson was also born on this day, in 1930; four years after Trane.

Both were born in the South, both spent seminal portions of their careers recording for Atlantic Records and both were major influences on countless numbers of artists.

Just think; wouldn’t a Coltrane – Ray Charles record date have been something?

Happy 81st birth anniversary to “The Genius”, Ray Charles.

Here are some great video clips of Brother Ray in his prime, “makin’ it do what it do, baby!”

“I Believe to My Soul” – performed live at the 1960 Newport Jazz Festival

“Let The Good Times Roll” – also from Newport 1960

“What’d I Say” – from the mid ’60’s 

Ray blows the alto sax on this clip from a 1963 Brazilian Concert!

“In the Evening, When the Sun Goes Down” –  Ray stretches out a bit on the 88’s…

Melvin Sparks – In Memoriam

Posted in In Memoriam with tags , , , on March 16, 2011 by curtjazz

Melvin Sparks (1946-2011)

I heard earlier today that Melvin Sparks had passed away from heart failure, just days before his 65th birthday. 

Sparks was not well-known, even in jazz circles, so I figured that I would tell y’all a little bit about him.

Sparks was a good guitarist who was most active during the soul-jazz heyday of the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s.  He was on many of the Prestige Records albums of that time and even on few Blue Note dates.  If you dug Lou Donaldson’s Hot Dog, Lonnie Smith’s Think!, Charles Earland’s Black Talk! or Rusty Bryant’s Soul Liberation, then you’ve probably heard Sparks’ bluesy Grant Green influenced playing. 

He dropped a few projects under his own name during the early ‘70’s as well; all very much within the groovy soul-jazz vein of the era. The best of these were his debut Sparks! with Houston Person and Spark Plug, which featured a young Grover Washington, Jr. on tenor. 

Here’s “The Stinker” from Sparks!

In the so-called “Acid Jazz” era of the ‘90’s, Sparks underwent a bit of a career renaissance.  Sparks! and Spark Plug were compiled on one CD as a part of Prestige’s Legends of Acid Jazz series, which got him some new attention.

Sparks then recorded his first sides as a leader in almost two decades (most for Savant Records) and as the work came again for the other old soul-jazz cats, they gave Sparks a call.  During the ‘90’s and early 2000’s he backed Donaldson and Earland again; as well as Jimmy McGriff, Hank Crawford and relative newcomer Joey DeFrancesco.

He was still going strong until recently, bringing joy to multiple generations with his still nimble playing, as you can see in the clip below.  He was a part of an era of jazz that many people unfortunately, try to forget. But Melvin Sparks should be remembered.

Rest in Peace.