This track is cool. Very cool. It’s the electro blues, yawl. It’s never been released anywhere, so heads up.
It sure is nothing like you’ve ever heard before. Try it, you’ll see. A holy alliance of the legendary country blues musician Mississippi Fred McDowell and his student, mentor, and friend (and my friend) Tom Pomposello, the tracks were recorded in the winter of 1971 (they were, in fact, Fred’s last recordings before he passed away in 1972), and overdubbed/remixed in 1998 by Tom (also his last project before he passed away in 1999) and Lenny Kravitz’s partner, composer/producer/mixer Dave Baron. The 26 years between sessions is the secret sauce.
It doesn’t take much to get me in an impressionistic mood, so our friend Steve Woolf’s photo and title moved me there today.
Was Curtis Mayfield the most impressive singer/songwriter of his day? Of his genre? Probably. And it’s probably why it took me so long to pick a single to feature here. I ended up with We’re a Winner because aside from being a favorite I seem to remember it being a core sample for something from the Space Jam soundtrack, so I thought some of the older young folk reading might recognize it.
Phil Schaap’s obsessive nature has made him an invaluable resource in the world of jazz (and plagued many of his relationships he’s had that I’ve witnessed). And he’s become such a fixture in the New York radio community that the editor of The New Yorker has devoted an extensive profile of Phil this week that I’d recommend to anyone who loves Charlie Parker.
Anyone who knows Phil (he and I were in college radio in the early 70s; he still broadcasts on the station today) can argue pro and con for slightly less long than his description of a, say, 1947 Count Basie recording session, but I found his philosophy of jazz incredibly refreshing when he told me about it at a bar in 1999, and is recounted in the profile:
“The school system is creating six thousand unemployable musicians a year—from the Berklee College of Music, Rutgers, Mannes, Manhattan, Juilliard, plus all the high schools,” he said. “There are more and more musicians, and no gigs, no one to listen. So what happens to these kids? They work their way back to the educational system and help create more unemployable musicians. My rant is this: I’m not trying to teach you to play the alto sax. No. I’m trying to get you to learn how to listen to Charlie Parker.”
When I was a budding record producer my go-to guy for album covers was my great friend from childhood, Frank Olinsky, who went on to become one of the most respected and successful music designers of the last 30 years (starting, most famously, with his co-design of the MTV logo). He selflessly went to work on whatever I asked him for, including this unreleased album cover for the unreleased (really tasty) jazz album cut by R&B pianist/singer/songwriter Rusty Cloud (Bo Diddley, Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes, The Blues Brothers). (Maybe I can find and post the tapes someday.)
Frank’s a great designer, but, in my eyes, an even more incredible illustrator and painter. This cover always reminded me of Eberhard Weber’s “The Colours of Chloë”, but with Frank’s trademark wry humor.
The post for Mississippi Fred McDowell has moved here. Sorry for the inconvenience.