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.
This week, pleasant, soothing, melodic music from some fairly recent recordings. Let’s get started!
Hard to believe that Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Herb Alpert is 85. But the legendary trumpeter is still going strong.
What a resume: Five #1 hits, nine GRAMMY® Awards, fifteen Gold albums, fourteen Platinum albums. Alpert has sold more than 72 million records. In 1966, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass simultaneously had four albums in the Top 10– and five in the Top 20 at the very same time. No one’s done it since. Herb Alpert also has the distinction of being the only artist who has had a #1 instrumental and a #1 vocal single.
“You know my story — I started playing when I was 8, so I’m hooked on music,” Alpert says on his official website. “I’m seduced by the whole idea of recording. And I met some great mentors in my day.
“When I started playing trumpet, I was inspired by Harry James, Louis Armstrong and Clifford Brown. But when I met Sam Cooke, he was a mentor — and he didn’t know it — by example. He came out of the gospel field and had this soulful quality that was infectious. He said: ‘Herbie, people are listening to a cold piece of wax; it either makes it or it don’t.’
“I’m not kicking back; I’m kicking it forward! I wake up each morning, excited about painting and sculpting and playing my horn. Doing concerts gives me a lot of energy and pleasure. I know I can make a lot of people happy with my music, and I will do that as long as I can. I’ve been very blessed, beyond my dreams.”
His album “Music: Volume 1” features many covers, including a Nat King Cole classic that has an entirely different sound than the original.
Alpert and songwriter Lou Adler met Sonny Bono in the late 1950’s. The aspiring artists were on a mission to gain support from record company executives in Los Angeles. At Specialty Records Bono was the head the record label’s artists and repertory department. Bono was succinct.
“You guys ought to get out of the business,” he told them, “because you don’t have it.”
On Billboard’s chart of the 125 greatest artists of all-time Herb Alpert comes in at #21.
Our next artist has been a musician since the age of five, playing the piano, the violin, and the drums before she settled on the flute.
Reviewer Ronald Jackson says, “Flautist Ragan Whiteside’s star continues to shine brightly with this latest release Treblemaker. Hers is always a refreshing, lilting, and sweet sound, giving life to each and every note on each and every track. The flute is such an especially appealing instrument to me, bringing with it its own sparkling light and soothing texture, and Whiteside firmly embraces its musical majesty.”
Whiteside wrote this happy tune along with keyboardist Bob Baldwin.
Baldwin describeds Ragan by saying, “She not only has THE silkiest and sweetest flute tone in the business, but her tenacity and desire to be recognized in Urban, New-Soul AND smooth jazz genres makes her a musical-force to be reckoned with — mark my words!”
Guitarist Chuck Loeb who composed more than 250 published songs, network television show themes and scores. He wrote music for, performed on albums by, and produced recordings for Bob James, Carly Simon, Dave Grusin, Bob Dylan, Art Garfunkel, Johnny Mathis, Gato Barbieri, Spyro Gyra, Astrud Gilberto, David Benoit, Randy Brecker, Grover Washington, Jr., and many others.
In 2001 the NY Times called Loeb “The Clark Kent of jazz guitar.”
Loeb died in 2017 of cancer at the age of 61.
In the 1960’s the Jazz Crusaders was influenced by hard bop, their sound marked by a familiar tenor sax/trombone combination. Jazz fans liked them, but so did folks outside the jazz community.
So as not to be pigeonholed the group dropped “Jazz” from their title and adopted a fusion style. Because they enjoyed crossover success they secured gigs opening for acts like The Rolling Stones.
“Put It Where You Want It” became a signature piece for the group in 1972.
Guitarist Paul Brown covers that classic in his album “One Way Back.” Brown’s take is energetic, bold, fiery, and bluesy.
That’s it for this week.
Have a great weekend.
Go out and by a CD!
We close with another remake of a hit, this one with a Wisconsin angle that’s definitely raw compared to the previous tracks and our theme this week.
Chi (pronounced “shy”) Coltrane was born in Racine in 1948. She was one of seven children born to a Canadian mother and a German violinist father. As a child she studied a number of instruments and gave her first piano recital at the age of 12. In 1970, she formed Chicago Coltrane, playing blues, funk and gospel in local clubs and bars.
Columbia Records signed her in 1972 and her first album was released that year. Coltrane’s first single, “Thunder and Lightning” reached number 17.
Here’s a short clip.
During the 70’s and 80’s in America, Chi was called “The First Lady of Rock” and in Europe she was dubbed “The Queen of Rock” where she was also voted “Top Female Artist” for two consecutive years, and held the #1 position in the Musik Express Popularity Poll in Western Europe.
Keyboardist Kirk Fischer brings a high-energy performance to Coltrane’s big hit. Fischer’s version was arranged by Greg Adams, formerly of Tower of Power, and features a driving saxophone by Greg Vail.
“I loved this song the first time I heard it,” said Fischer. “I revved up the B3, laid down the groove, and got out of the way.”