As the 1960s came to a close, popular music was exploding with creativity on both sides of the Atlantic. Lost amid the counter-culture chaos was a little 35-minute album by Count Basie And His Orchestra called “Basic Basie.” Kudos to MPS in Germany for re-releasing this almost-forgotten gem. William James Basie, who died at 79 in 1984, practically had to be cajoled into soloing longer than the iconic three-note passages he was so fond of. Back then, tenor sax man Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis and guitarist Freddie Green were the stars of the band. From “Moonglow” and “M-Squad” to “Sweet Lorraine” and “”Ain’t Misbehavin’,” this orchestra kicks hard. What a delight!
In 1977, Alphonse Mouzon, at 29, was one of the pioneers of jazz-rock. His propulsive fury on drums kick-started a burgeoning fusion appreciation and, in his illustrious career, he put that fury to good use with Weather Report, McCoy Tyner, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Larry Coryell, Miles Davis, Carlos Santana, Jeff Beck and on his own 25 albums. When Robert Plant was inducted into the Rock’n’Roll Hall Of Fame, he mentioned Mouzon in his induction speech as one of the inspirations for his post-Zep career. (Mouzon now owns Tenacious Records.) On his “In Search Of A Dream” (MPS), he practically sets off thunder and lightning as he pushes the sound towards the edge of eternity on nine furious original tracks featuring bassist Miroslav Vitous, keyboardists Joachim Kuhn/Stu Goldberg, guitarist Philip Catherine and tenor sax man Bob Malik. I worked up a sweat just listening to it!
Pianist Hank Jones [1918-2010] was the eldest of three jazz-legend brothers (trumpeter Thad Jones [1923-1986] and drummer Elvis Jones [1927-2004]). Hank pioneered bebop with Charlie Parker [1920-1955] and pioneered swing when he accompanied Ella Fitzgerald [1917-1996]. He was on stage at Madison Square Garden in 1962 with Marilyn Monroe [1926-1962] when she sang “Happy Birthday” to President John F. Kennedy [1917-1963]. On “Have You Met This Jones” (MPS) by The Hank Jones Trio, originally released abroad in 1977, Jones taps a Swiss bassist and a German drummer to fill the roles of his successful 1950s trio and the results are a leisurely swing through pieces by Bird, Duke, Thad, Rodgers/Hart and himself. His was a light touch, with notes cascading up and down the 88s like the fluttering of butterfly wings.
Just in time for the induction of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble into The Rock’n’Roll Hall Of Fame comes this magnificent new boxed set, “The Complete Epic Recordings Collection” (Epic/Legacy). SRV would’ve been 60 in 2014. The amount of great music he never made since the August 27, 1990 helicopter crash that took his life at the age of 27 is staggeringly sad.
These 12 CDs say it all. Since he never played the same song in the same way, it doesn’t matter that there’s 60+ songs each done twice for a 120+ track box. His star turn came at Toronto’s El Mocambo in 1983. Perfectly titled “A Legend In The Making,” the electricity emanating from the stage–with former Johnny Winter bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Chris Layton–made the whole night electric. And you can feel it as he pounds the songs he’d become internationally famous for in years to come. In a career that lasted all of seven years, his influence is wide-ranging, his appeal universal.
From star to superstar: his set at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1985 Switzerland was another milestone. Here, songs like “Pride And Joy,” “”Texas Food” and “Couldn’t Stand The Weather” found their audience in elongated versions that hit the kind of heights only true greats could achieve.
All four studio albums are represented.
The eight live sides are testament to his joy, be it at the radio broadcast he did in his hometown Austin in 1980 (“In The Beginning”) or “Live At Carnegie Hall” in 1984. Two of the CDs are “Archives” with early versions of “Look At Little Sister” and “The Sky Is Crying.” Plus, his Hendrix moves are superb (I with Jimi could’ve heard him). From “Little Wing” and “Third Stone From The Sun” (which he melds together) to “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return),” SRV nails it.
“Love Struck Baby” is my favorite but discovering anew songs like “Give Me Back My Wig” and “Slip Slidin’ Slim” cannot be over-estimated.
SRV’s loss just might be, for me, one of the worst.