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32 Jazz: Yusef Lateef, Roland Kirk, Mose Allison, David "Fathead" Newman and Eddie Harris

By Brian L. Knight

32 Records is the brainchild of two jazz aficionados who took the simple idea of re-releasing rare jazz albums on to CD. What started as a lifelong dream became reality in 1996 when the two perfect minds for the job joined together. Robert Miller hated his job as a lawyer and wanted to follow his love music. Joel Dorn had been involved in the music business and always wanted to own his personal record label. With Miller’s sound business practice and Dorn’s longtime musical experience, the two set out and started 32 Records with subsidiaries of 32 Blues, 32 R&B, 32 Jazz and 32 Pop. The term 32 is taken from the jersey numbers of sport’s greatest athletes: Sandy Koufax, Jim Brown and Magic Johnson. Just as these players were the masters of their respective sports, Dorn and Miller have easily become masters of running an independent record label.

Joel Dorn went to work for Atlantic Records in 1967 as the assistant to producer Nesuhi Ertegun. Together, the two produced ten Gold Albums, five Platinum albums, seven gold singles and won eight Grammy Awards. During his seven years with Atlantic Records, Dorn was exposed to some of the music industry’s best rock, pop, blues and jazz artists. After a few years of conducting freelance work with different record companies, Dorn tamed up with Robert Miller to start 32 Records. Robert Miller has loved music his entire life. During the 1970s, he played bass for various band until he enrolled into St. John University of Law. After graduating, Miller became prominent bankruptcy lawyer who also played bass for various New York City jazz bands on the side. After many years of being associated with the demise of businesses, Miller quit his lawyer job and focussed on creating a business.

The primary mission statement for 32 Records was to re-release classic albums from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. During his tenure with Atlantic Records, where he worked with the great producers Jerry Wexler and Nesuhi Ertegun, Joel Dorn was exposed to some of the greatest recorded music. When Dorn teamed up with Miller, they set out to release those hidden gems on to CD. Dorn’s philosophy on re-releases was stated in his liner notes for Sonny Stitt’s The Best of The Rest: "I’ve been producing records for nearly forty years, mostly as an employee of labels, rarely as an owner. I swore if I ever had a label of my own I’d never put out anything I didn’t think was worthy of release." When you look at the first catalog for 32 Records and listen to the recordings, it is quickly discovered that Dorn lives by his words. Although 32 Records has blues, pop, and R&B in its catalog, it seems that the company puts a strong emphasis on its jazz label.

One of 32 Jazz’s first marketing moves was to release multiple CDs by one artist as a single package. Dorn bought full catalogs from other record companies such as Muse and Atlantic and put together unique 2 CD compilations that consist of four separate original albums. For each set, Dorn used the original recordings and liner notes as well as adding new images and his own personal reflections. As stated before, Dorn only wanted to release quality music so when choosing the artists for these special CD sets, he made sure that he had the artist’s best work. Some of the first artists that Dorn used were David "Fathead" Newman, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Mose Allison Yusef Lateef and Eddie Harris. These musicians were each known for their mastery of their respective instruments and the albums were taken from their creative peaks during the mid 1960s-mid 1970s. It was during this time period that jazz was morphing with other musical forms such as soul, R&B, boogie-woogie, funk, classical, folk and gospel, and each of these musicians used these elements and boldly took their music into new directions.

 

David "Fathead" Newman – It’s Mister Fathead

David "Fathead" Newman was born in Dallas, Texas and spent most of his early playing career throughout Texas. One of Newman’s first music teachers bestowed the nickname upon him and he was never able to shake it. Newman’s earliest gigs were with fellow Texans Lowell Fulson, T Bone Walker and Buster Smith who was Charlie Parker’s mentor. It was through these R&B acts that Newman first caught Ray Charles attention and was eventually asked to join the band. From 1954- 1964, Newman played with Charles with the two of them creating a fine blend of R&B, jazz, soul and rock and roll. During his ten years with Ray Charles, Newman also headed into the studio as a bandleader. It’s Mister Fathead is 32 Jazz’s compilation of Newman’s first four albums on Atlantic Records: Fathead/Ray Charles Presents David Newman, Straight Ahead, Fathead Comes On and House of David.

The first album, Fathead/Ray Charles Presents David Newman, is Newman’s first recording as a bandleader. After a electrifying 1957 tour with Ray Charles that culminated with a crowd pleasing set at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, Newman felt that it was time for him to try his own stuff. The album is very well done as employs Ray Charles and the rest of the band to back him up and the band members were already acclimated to each others playing styles.

The second album, Straight Ahead, was recorded in December of 1960 and features Wynton Kelly on piano, Paul Chambers on bass and Charlie Persip on drums. The combination of Kelly and Chambers had already made an impression on the musical world with there rhythm work with the Miles Davis Quintet. Persip and Kelly had played together in Dizzy Gillepsie’s Big Band.

Three years later Newman went into the studio to record Fathead Comes On. This would be the last album for Newman to record while still playing for Ray Charles. It only seems appropriate that Newman recruited some of his Ray Charles’ band mates for this album. Trumpeter Marcus Belgrave, saxophonist Hank Crawford, and bassist Edgar Willis all played on Newman’s first album and decided to come back for a little more. Newman is also joined by Charlie Persip (drums), Norris Austin(piano), Jimmy Jefferson(bass), and Bruno Carr( drums) for selected tracks.

The final album, House of David, was recorded in 1967 and marks his return to a quartet – Kossie Gardner(organ), Tod Dunbar(guitar) and Milt Turner (drums). Soon after recording Fathead Comes On in 1963, Newman left Ray Charles’ band and entered a three year sabbatical. After three years of soul searching and spending time with his previously neglected family, Newman entered the studio with vigor. Not only had Newman come to grips with his personal life but he also directed his music down new avenues. As the music world was entering the electric 1960s, so was Newman and his music. House of Davis marks Newman’s first use of a guitar and organ in his band. This new direction is exemplified by a jazz funky version of Bob Dylan’s Just Like A Woman.

 

Yusef Lateef: The Man With The Big Front Yard

 

Yusef Lateef created a unique spot for himself in the annals of jazz history. Throughout his career, he successfully developed his own sound by always incorporating different musical styles. Lateef was never scared to add a little Eastern, soul, gospel, blues, free or meditative styles to his compositions. Lateef played with the greets such as Donald Byrd, Cannonball Adderly and Charles Mingus and then forged his sound through his own bands. Although most often identified as a saxophone player, Lateef was really the master of the flute. He also developed new instruments such as the argol which was a double clarinet and the shannai which was a type of oboe. This collection captures Yusef Lateef’s work with Atlantic Records during the late 1960s and early 1970s: The Complete Yusef Lateef, Yusef Lateef’s Detroit, Hush N Thunder and The Doctor Is In….Out.

The Complete Yusef Lateef was recorded in 1967 and it was Lateef’s first album with Atlantic Records. The album contains a lot of elements of soul, jazz and R&B and Lateef’s use of different musical styles in shown through the rousing rendition of the traditional gospel of Rosalie, the boogaloo of Brother and the New Orleans influenced See Line Woman. Lateef is joined by long time compadre, pianist Hugh Lawson and drummer Roy Brooks, who played on numerous Lateef albums. Bassist Cecil McBee who was born in Detroit and then moved to New York City had played on albums by Wayne Shorter, Charles Lloyd, Woody Shaw and Jackie McLean. Sylvia Shemwell who shakes the tambourine fills in with extra percussion.

By the time 1969 came around, Yusef Lateef was feeling the full force of rock and roll. Heading down similar roads as Herbie Mann, Lateef was looking for the perfect synthesis of jazz and R&B. Just like Mann, Lateef used the flute as the primary vehicle for this combination. 1969’s Yusef Lateef’s Detroit accomplished this through the exciting guitar work of Eric Gale; the trumpets of Danny Moore, Snookie Young, Kimmy Owens or Thad Jones; the bass of Cecil McBee and Chuck Rainey, the piano of Hugh Lawson and the percussion and drums of Norman Pride, Ray Baretto, Albert Heath, Bernard Purdie and Roy Brooks. On four of the tunes, Bishop School, Belle Isle, Eastern Market and Raymond Winchester, Lateef recruits a string quartet. Overall, the album is jazz’s answer to 1970s Blaxploitation Soundtracks. When James Bond walked into Harlem in Live and Let Die to search for the voodoo practicing, heroine dealing Katanga, the music of Yusef Lateef’s Detroit should have been playing.

In 1972, Yusef Lateef went into the studio to record Hush ’N’ Thunder. Just like 1969’s Detroit, Lateef brought in a large cast of characters to help create his upbeat, grooving tunes. The album begins with a soothing version of Duke Ellington’s Come Sunday featuring Lateef on tenor saxophone and Kermit Moore on cello. The peaceful aura of the album is short-lived as erupts into the upbeat Hump which was written by pianist Kenny Barron who also composed four other songs on the album.

1976’s The Doctor Is In…..Out is Lateef at his funkiest. Reacting to the disco-funk that was tearing across the nation, Lateef latched on to the craze and incorporated into his already tremendously diverse style. This funk is exemplified by flute ladened The Improvisers and Kenny Barron’s Mississippi Mud which features Lateef on electric saxophone.

 

 

Rahsaan Roland Kirk: Aces Back To Back

 

Aces Back to Back consists of Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s Left and Right, Rahsaan/Rahsaan, Prepare Thyself To Deal With A Miracle and Other Folks Music. This is the first time that these four albums have been available on CD. In the liner notes, Joel Dorn reminisces about Roland Kirk’s attempt at entering the Guinness Book of World Records. In the early seventies, Roland Kirk set out to break the record for sustaining a note for the longest period of time. In a smoky London club Kirk played one note for two hours and 45 minutes which was accomplished through Kirk’s mastery of circular breathing. The Guinness People were hardly impressed and didn’t give him the record and now Kenny G holds the record for the longest note which is a mere 45 minutes.

Dorn gave no particular reason for relaying this tale and neither do I. Perhaps the tale is indicative of Kirk’s virtuosity or perhaps it relays the tale Kirk’s constant struggles. For a man of brilliance, nothing ever seemed to come easy for Kirk. Throughout his career, Kirk fought racism, health problems and the Guinness Book of World Records.

1968’s Left and Right stands out of other jazz albums for Kirk uses a large string section in which he wrote all the compositions. The first tune, The Black Mystery Has Been Revealed, sets the tone for the entire album. Leading of with a dark string arrangement, the Kirk provides a brief narration explaining the Black Mystery: "The black mystery notes have been stolen and camouflaged for years and years. If you don’t believe me than open your ears and listen with all your might.". It is immediately evident that Kirk has a cultural message as well as a musical one. In a tune that only spans a 1:16, Kirk wins the prize for saying the most with the least amount of effort. The following tune, Expansions, is a 20 minute suite that nine different melodies that he wrote during the 1950s. In contrast to the short but intense opener, Expansions shows the visionary compositional skills of Kirk. To help with his playing, Kirk brings in 20+ musicians, including Alice Coltrane, Pepper Adams and Dick Griffith, for the first side. The second side of Left and Right focuses on Kirk as the soloist and less as the composer and it contains 6 short ballads with Kirk as the primary player.

Two years later, Kirk formed the Vibration Society and recorded Rahsaan/Rahsaan. Rahsaan/Rahsaan contains a song similar to Expansions, the 17+ minute The Seeker. As the title implies, Kirk seeks out every music style in this 4 part suite. The suite begins with a classical tone and ends with a New Orleans’ rollick. Just like Expansions, the Seeker was conceived during the 1950s but did not make it to a recording until 1970. The highlight of the album arrives with the Medley in which Kirk simultaneously plays Going Home and Sentimental Journey. This is accomplished by having two horns in his mouth and somehow playing the different melodies at the same time. That should be in the Guinness Book of World Records. In the original liner notes for this album, Kirk explained the meaning of his name: " The name Rahsaan deals with my religion, which is the religion of dreams and spirits. It is the motivating power of my life".

In both 1968’s Left and Right and 1970’s Rahsaan/Rahsaan, Kirk combined elements of jazz with classical music. Through his constant use of string sections, Kirk attempted to combine both musical forms as one. 1973’s Prepare Thyself To Deal With A Miracle is the ultimate combination of the two. The 21 minute Saxophone Concerto is the epitome of this synthesis as this piece ranges from classical to klezmer to free jazz. Even more remarkable is that the Concerto is a 21 minute one breath solo. The 9 minute Seasons also features Kirk playing a nose flute and regular flute simultaneously.

1976’s Other Folks Music was one of Kirk’s final studio sessions before his death in 1977. As the album title suggests, Kirk dedicated the album to recording other people’s compositions such as Charlie Parker’s Donna Lee and Frank Foster’s Simone. Kirk’s career was characterized by remarkable events: becoming blind at age two, his ability to play 2+hour notes, and his ability to play three horns at once. In 1975, Kirk had a stroke and he became completely paralyzed on one side of his body which forced him to play with one hand. Other Folks Music documents Kirk’s foray into one handed saxophone playing.

 

Eddie Harris: Greater Than The Sum Of His Parts

Eddie Harris was born in the musical tradition laden city of Chicago, Illinois where he was immediately introduced to the world of music in his church choir and he picked up piano playing. Along the way, Harris also learned the vibes, clarinet and a some singing. After receiving an opportunity to play piano as a substitute in Gene Ammons’ band, Harris caught the full-blown musical bug. Like so many other jazz musicians of the time, Harris’s first true music gigs were for the United States Army where he toured with the Armed Forces throughout Europe.

1965’s The In Sound was Eddie Harris’ debut album for Atlantic Records. The album introduces the classic Harris composition Freedom Jazz Dance which has been covered by great jazz musicians such as Jaco Pastorius, Brian Auger, Cornell Dupree and Ronnie Laws. In 1966, Miles Davis covered the song on his album Miles Smiles which featured his second great quintet of Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Tony Williams, and Wayne Shorter. Bassist Ron Carter is the only person who had the honor of playing on both Harris and Davis’ versions of the tune. The other Harris original on the album is Cryin' Blues which is straightforward blues number. The remaining tunes are Harris interpretations of Johnny Mandel, Mel Torme, Cole Porter and George Gershwin.

Within a year, Harris released Mean Greens. This album stands out for it is the first time that Harris plays the electrical piano. Although he started with the acoustic piano and made a name for himself with his saxophone work, Harris possessed a hidden passion for the electric piano and organ. In the album’s liner notes, Harris comments on the instrument: "The sound is terrific. The electric piano and organ is a hell of a combination – it’s a new sound. The electric piano I used on the date (recording of Mean Greens) is the best I ever played. In person, it’s more like a guitar than a piano."

In the same year, Harris recorded the Tender Storm which was somewhat of an indicator of Harris’ new developing sound. Ranging from the selective use of the amplified saxophone( Varitone) to the funky version of a "When A Man Loves A Woman", Harris was laying down the foundation for the electric sounds that became his trademark. The album is not a full commitment to the new age as it does possess some traditional ballads as well. Harris does a wonderful job with his versions of My Funny Valentine and A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square as well as his interpretations of the Broadway tunes On A Clear Day (You Can See Forever) and If Ever I Would Leave You.

If The Tender Storm was the introduction of Harris’ new sound, then 1968’s Silver Cycles is the eye of the storm. Harris uses the varitone on almost every track and adds a little Latin to most of the tunes. Silver Cycles also features a tribute to John Coltrane (Coltrane's View). On two tracks, Little Bit and I’m Going Leave You By Yourself, Harris is joined by the talented Austrian pianist Joe Zawinul. Just like Harris, Zawinul would later take huge steps in developing the electric jazz sound with his work with Cannonball Adderly and Weather Report.

 

Moses Allison/The Sage Of Tippo

Atlantic Records Producer Jerry Wexler once called Mose Allison "the William Faulkner of southern blues". 32 Records president Joel Dorn brings across the same sentiment when describing Allison’s records: " They’re not simply consistent, they’re consistently brilliant. The recipe’s the same each time, equal parts of Delta Zen and Greenwich Village in the fifties combined with truth, irony and that special sauce only Mose knows how to make. There’s no such thing as a bad Mose Allison album".

Pianist, composer and singer Mose Allison gained national recognition as the pianist for both Stan Getz and Al Cohn/Zoot Sims. Allison contributes to jazz what so many other jazz artists are unable to do: a little bit of the Delta Blues. Allison was born I n Tippo, Mississippi where he became influenced by the works of Sonny Boy Williamson, John Lee Hooker, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Percy Mayfield. By adding the styles of Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Nat "King" Cole and Duke Ellington, Allison undoubtedly created a style he could call his own. This style continuously wavered between jazz, folk, R&B, boogie-woogie and blues without full heartedly committing to any of the styles.

In 1962, Mose Allison headed into the Atlantic Records studio to record Swingin’ Machine. It was the first time that Allison recorded for Atlantic as he had spent the previous 5 years recording for Prestige, Columbia and Epic. Not only did Swingin’ Machine signify a change of albums but also a change of personal format. Swingin’ Machine was the first time that Allison deviated from his standard trio of piano, bass and drums and added a tenor saxophone and trombone. Two years later, Allison recorded The Word From Mose. This album has Allison returning to his trio format and there is a strong emphasis on Allison’s vocal abilities. The album features some Allison classics such as Days Like This and One Of These Days as well as a cover of Muddy Waters’ Rollin’ Stone. As you listen to Allison’s lyrics and sweeping piano style, imageries of honky-tonks and roadside taverns immediately come to mind.

Allison went into the studio in 1965 and 1968 to record Wild Man On The Loose and I’ve Been Doin’ Some Thinkin’, respectively. For the original liner notes, Allison attempted to describe his role in music: " No, I don’t regard myself as primarily a jazz artist. I regard myself as a musician who’s playing some jazz, doing some composing and some singing, I don’t regard anybody I’ve ever heard as a pure jazz artist, for that matter. Because jazz is performed, thought, felt and conceived at the same time. And most of what you hear that passes for jazz is simulated jazz. Like, most players simulate themselves a lot of times." Like all his albums, Allison creates a perfect combination of jazz and blues and a perfect synthesis of vocals and instrumentals. In all of his songs, Allison doesn not allow any one form to dominate the character of the song. It is never too bluesy or jazzy; the vocals are never overbearing and his piano playing is always providing the perfect accompaniment. It is this mastery of these combinations that helped Allison create his own musical style.

Besides the jazz albums reviewed in these pages, 32 Records has many more amazing recordings that cover pop, blues and R&B. The record company has only been together for one year and it already has made an incredible impression on the music industry. With the combination of Dorn’s music experience and Miller’s sound business mind, 32 Records is bound to keep on moving forward.. The label is planning to release over 100 albums in 1998 with 60 of them being jazz. As the company states in its catalog, their goal is clear and concise: "We’re lookin’ to give you the most great music for the least amount of money in as attractive package as we possibly can." To receive a catalog, give the company a call at 212-265-0740 or visit their website at http://www.32records.com.