Every Friday night we smooth our way into the weekend with music, the universal language. These selections demonstrate that despite what is being passed off as art today, there is plenty of really good music available. Come along and enjoy!
Dave Koz and some of the best saxophone players in the business today teamed up for an album and tour five years ago, “Summer Horns” that revisited the most popular rock, R&B, soul and funk bands of the day that were propelled by high-octane, richly arranged horn sections.
This summer Koz is back with another horn-oriented album that provides the inspiration for this week’s feature.
Let’s get started.
“Summer Horns II From A To Z” is a collection of 11 more timeless tunes reimagined by Koz (soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxes), joined by alto saxophonist Gerald Albright and tenor saxophonist Richard Elliot—both returnees from the first session—with new additions Rick Braun (trumpet) and Aubrey Logan (trombone and vocals).
With the creative team in place, the biggest dilemma facing Koz, Braun and the others was which songs to choose—or, rather, how to narrow down an enormous list of contenders. “My original list was in the hundreds,” Koz said. “We’d have good-natured arguments during weekly conference calls. We each pitched songs and then tried to get other people on our team.”
“It reminds me of my youth,” he says of this music. “I grew up playing in jazz bands. That’s how I was educated in music, playing in a saxophone section and playing in a big band, then sometimes doing small group stuff, playing with other horn players. For most horn players, even if you go on to do more solo work, part of your identity is rooted in being in a section and blending with others. How do you do this? How do you play that? All these fine nuances of music are in there somewhere.”
“With this music, the fans know every song,” said Koz. “And the musicians leave their egos at the door and show up with a commitment to the band. We know that this is not a replacement for our solo careers, that we will resume them eventually, so it’s not like we’re saying bye-bye to that. But people see all the star power on stage—where everybody could do a two-hour show on their own—the five of us with an incredible band, and it’s an event. Then we get addicted to the response from the fans! That’s why we did it again.”
Making the cut was “More Today Than Yesterday,” the only Top 20 hit from the Spiral Starecase, from the spring of 1969.
“Most people, when they hear that song, think it was by Chicago,” said Koz. “It sounded so much like them.”
During the 1970s, the band Earth, Wind & Fire gained fame with music rich in African and African-American styles, particularly jazz and R&B.
Founder and leader of the group, Maurice White said, “I wanted to do something that hadn’t been done before. Although we were basically jazz musicians, we played soul, funk, gospel, blues, jazz, rock and dance music…which somehow ended up becoming pop. We were coming out of a decade of experimentation, mind expansion and cosmic awareness. I wanted our music to convey messages of universal love and harmony without force-feeding listeners’ spiritual content.”
The multi-platinum album “Gratitude” held the number one pop album spot for three weeks in late 1975. Here’s the opening track.
One can easily forget when listening to these horn bands what incredible talent the musicians have.
Take for example my favorite horn band, “Blood, Sweat & Tears.” Thoughts of pop hits like “Spinning Wheel” instantly come to mind. However, the group that’s been around since the late 1960’s wove jazz and classical into their work.
This next selection begins with a solo by pianist Larry Willis on “Inner Crisis” from the 1973 album, “No Sweat.”
At the age of 19, Willis was discovered and recruited by saxophonist Jackie McLean, and made his jazz recording debut on McLean’s Blue Note release, “Right Now!”
Willis went on to play with jazz greats such as Dizzy Gillespie, Woody Shaw, Cannonball Adderley, Stan Getz, Carmen McRae, and Shirley Horn before joining “Blood Sweat and Tears” where he was a member from 1972-79. In all, Willis has appeared on 300-plus albums, with more than 20 recordings as a leader.
That’s it for this week.
Have a great weekend.
Our closing number is one you’ve probably heard before, but maybe just a brief snippet, quite possibly in a commercial.
The classic instrumental is from “Tower of Power,” a band formed in Oakland, California in 1968 that still performs today. Among the hundreds of artists they have played with are Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, Graham Central Station, Elton John, Little Feat, Billy Preston, John Lee Hooker, Coke Escovedo, Jose Feliciano, Al Kooper, Sammy Hagar, Rod Stewart, Peter Frampton, Jermaine Jackson, Harvey Mason, Lenny White, The Brothers Johnson, The Meters, Lee Oskar, Dionne Warwick, Melissa Manchester, Bobby Caldwell, Heart, Rick James, Santana, Smokey Robinson, Huey Lewis & The News, Toto, Paul Shaffer, Bonnie Raitt, Aaron Neville, Spyro Gyra, Terence Trent D’Arby, Luther Vandross, Candy Dulfer, Aerosmith, Phish, John Hiatt, Neil Diamond, P.Diddy, Bill Wyman, Eiko Shuri…and TV’s The Simpsons.
The title of this track came from trumpeter Mic Gillette who used it to describe the backsides of attractive women.