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.
I’ve wanted to do this themed segment for a long, long time. Those “horn bands” from back in the day. Loved ’em.
Sure, the guys with the horns contributed to their groups hitting the charts with the likes of “Make Me Smile,” “And When I Die,” and “So Very Hard to Go.” But the players could really play. Some attended the Eastman School of Music and the Juilliard School, or were members of the best big band groups of the day before going top 40.
Tonight’s music is obscure, some album tracks never released as singles. However, the quality is clear, very clear. We pack a powerful wallop this week. Prepare to get blown away. Let’s get started.
Maurice White was the founder of Earth, Wind, and Fire.
“I wanted to do something that hadn’t been done before,” said White. “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 (the 60’s) 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.”
“Gratitude” is a double album by the band that was issued in November 1975. This is one of the best-selling soul bands of the 1970s that recorded several live albums. Quite an exciting opening we have for you.
“Gratitude” was #1 on the pop album chart for three straight weeks in late 1975.
The 42nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors take place in December. “The Kennedy Center Honors celebrates icons who, through their artistry, have left an indelible stamp on our collective cultural consciousness,” said Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein. “Earth, Wind and Fire’s hooks and grooves are the foundation of a seminal style that continues to shape our musical landscape.”
On Sunday, December 8, the 2019 Honorees, seated in the Box Tier of the iconic Kennedy Center Opera House, will accept the recognition and gratitude of their peers through performances and tributes. CBS will broadcast the honors on Sunday, December 15.
Tower of Power is an R&B-based horn section and band, originating in Oakland, California, that has been performing since 1968.
The tight, blaring 5-man horn section has backed many artists including Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, Graham Central Station, Elton John, Billy Preston, Jose Feliciano, Rod Stewart, Peter Frampton, Jermaine Jackson, Dionne Warwick, Melissa Manchester, Heart, Rick James, Santana, Smokey Robinson, Huey Lewis & The News, Toto, Bonnie Raitt, Aaron Neville, Spyro Gyra, Luther Vandross, Aerosmith, and Neil Diamond.
In 1975 the band was on top of its game. Keyboardist Chester Thompson wrote this instrumental where he’s featured prominently. Mic Gillette provides the trumpet solo.
Last year Tower of Power celebrated their 50th year with their 25th album, Soul Side of Town, that topped Billboard’s Jazz Albums and Contemporary Jazz Albums charts in June — a first for the band.
Before Kool & the Gang recorded the very pop single “Fresh” the group did the love song “Joanna.” Before that they did the party anthem “Celebration.” And before that, “Ladies’ Night.” “Jungle Boogie” and “Hollywood Swinging.”
But when the band first started out more than 50 years ago there was a heavy emphasis on jazz and blended in soul and funk. Their first live album was recorded in 1970 at The Sex Machine, a night club in Philadelphia.
A Kool section at The New Jersey Legends corridor at the Newark Grammy Museum
Kool & the Gang has been on records by the Beastie Boys, Jay-Z, Madonna, Janet Jackson, Cypress Hill, and P. Diddy. Their music is also featured on the soundtracks for Rocky, Saturday Night Fever, Pulp Fiction, Wreck-It Ralph and many others.
Next, two short clips from two medleys by two of my favorite horn bands. The first is from a 1974 album by Blood, Sweat, and Tears.
BS & T at Woodstock
The band’s self-titled album released in 1968 won five Grammy Awards and generated several hit singles.
How did the group’s title come about? Founder Al Kooper came up with it after an after-hours jam at a club in New York’s Greenwich Village. He played with a cut on his hand that had left his organ keyboard covered in blood.
About the same as BS &T another jazz-rock group emerged.The Chicago Transit Authority had to change their name or face a lawsuit by the real Authority. Like BS &T, Chicago is still in business.
Their album Chicago VII was probably their jazziest. This track is short, but really swings.
Chicago has sold more than 100 million records.
That’s it for this week’s segment.
Have a great weekend.
We close with the Tower of Power Horns appearing on the David Letterman Show. You may have heard a snippet of this catchy instrumental on a TV or radio commercial.