Three measured doses of organ jazz ambience this week. These selections may only bore you, or you may find something more subtle and exciting about these, something with the quality of a cinematic archetype. Think “after hours nightclub scene.”
See also Sleeping Pills.
1. Gene Ludwig, Blue Flame (Jocida)
Atmosphere really falls into place beautifully on “Blue Flame,” a mood piece featuring Gene Ludwig’s soulful organ along with the arrangements and percussion of session musician Arthur Jenkins. (Jenkins co-authored this, along with obscure jazz composer and pianist Alonzo “Lonzo” Levister.) The unusual vocalizations, so strangely reminiscent of a jug, deserve special mention here as well.
Gene Ludwig is a Pittsburgh-based organ player who plied the well-worn circuit of the Mid-Atlantic jazz clubs. He released a handful of high-quality soul jazz releases, mostly in 1960’s – and mostly on small indie record labels. His colorful “Blue Flame” comes to us courtesy of Johnny “I Can See Clearly Now” Nash’s record label, Jocida.
See the fabulous Funky 16 Corners for an interview with Gene Ludwig.
** A great honor this week to hear from Gene Ludwig himself! The guy is a legend, as well as a tireless proponent of jazz and Jazz Organ. Have a look at his website, too, where you can read an excellent bio – and check out photos, his calender, and his latest CD’s (and discography). A class act all the way. Thanks again, Gene. **
2. The Mark II, Dead (Charay)
The Mark II’s ghostly “Dead” was first released on the Charay record label, one of several record labels associated with Major Bill Smith, a Ft. Worth, Texas record producer, promoter, and manager who styled himself in spirit (and title) on Elvis Presley’s infamous manager, Colonel Tom Parker. The “Maj,” in the tradition of the red-faced hustlers who once populated the independent record business, managed to tap dance around some of the finer points of copyright law; his entire working ethos, in fact, was based on a philosophy of cutting records and distributing them at breakneck speed. Old tracks would be recycled over and over again to fill the missing B-side of a record. New records would be rushed – still obviously unmastered – to the public.
The only problem with “Dead,” with its deep gospel flavor and unstoppable rhythm, is that it is a Major Bill production. Hastily and inexplicably faded out at the 1:48 mark, this track was, in typical Maj fashion, reused as the backing track for at least 3 different vocal releases (with different vocals overdubbed each time, of course), all on Charay Records.
“Dead” was co-written by Moses Dillard, a session guitarist and arranger.
3. Three J’s, Chalito (Part One) (Smogville)
It was the lot of the jazz musician in the 1960s to figure out how, exactly, to accommodate the ascendant rock music. Or whether to accommodate it at all, for that matter. The advent of psychedelia, with its air of experimentalism, must have intrigued at least a few young jazz musicians, of course. But, more than likely, most jazz musicians probably felt more isolated than ever from the younger intellectual audiences who, turning on now to the ear-shattering electricity of rock, might have once turned to jazz.
4. Three J’s, Chalito (Part Two) (Smogville)
Such was not quite the case with the Three J’s, however. An unknown West Coast trio, their sprawling, Latin-tinged “Chalito” smouldered with a spooky intensity and achieved, inadvertently or not, something akin to psychedelia. Or it at least successfully straddled that no man’s land where exotica simply became psychedelia.
I’d guess that “Chalito” was recorded in 1968. I believe, also, that the Smogville label was actually from Oakland, and not Los Angeles as you might suspect.