Category Archives: Jazz

Belated Birthday Salutations to: Miles Davis


Amid the congratulatory messages for Bob Dylan’s 74th birthday and the commiserations and condolences for B.B’s passing, another milestone slipped by without much notice (at least from the Washerman’s Dog). The birth anniversary of Miles Davis on the 26th.   The man most consider to be the second most influential personality in jazz after fellow trumpeter, Louis Armstrong, would have been 89 last week.

Rather than try to add my paltry thoughts to the millions of words already penned about Mr Davis, I refer you to this nice appreciation by fellow blogger and journalist Shaun Mullen.

The Dog has put together a couple volumes of Miles music to honor the man which I hope you will enjoy.

Happy Birthday Miles!

miles to go v 1

Track Listing (vol 1):

01 So What [Green Dolphin Street, Amsterdam (9 Apr)]

02 Walkin’ [In Stockholm 1960 Complete (CD4)]

03 On Green Dolphin Street [The Complete Live at the Plugged Nickel 1965 (CD5)]

04 I Thought About You [The Complete Blackhawk Sessions CD4]

05 Cobra [Amandla]

06 ‘Round Midnight [Live in Stockholm 1960 Cd 1]


miles to go2

Track Listing (Vol. 2):

01 Joshua [In Europe]

02 Round Midnight [Green Dolphin Street, Amsterdam (9 Apr)]

03 Back Seat Betty [We Want Miles (Disc 1)]

04 Chez le photographe du motel [Ascenseur pour l’echafaud]

05 What I Say [Live-Evil (Disc 1)]

06 The Arrival [Dingo]


From India with Love: Miles Davis


I have been thinking in recent weeks of whether or not the time has come to shut down Washerman’s Dog and Harmonium blogs. I find it hard to carve out the time to share music and do the writing which I so enjoy. I’ve got a very busy working life plus write a weekly musical column for an Indian newspaper and am dedicating more time to photography.

I do apologize for the irregularity of posts on both blogs but cannot promise that it will improve much in the coming weeks. The past month in particular has been crazy with a trip home to Oz and then 10 days here in KL with the family on a bit of a holiday. Before and after that family interlude I have been caught up in international emergency responses to two major natural disasters: the cyclone in Vanuatu (and other countries) and now, as of last week, the earthquake in Nepal.

Time for music blogging has evaporated.

But having preambled all this, I ironically find myself with an hour free. The house is clean, the laundry is doing its stuff in the back room and I’ve just finished a piece of toast and honey. I have burned the dal (my lunch for the next couple of days) and will soon toss it in the rubbish. How to fill this unexpected gift of time?

Referring back to the earthquake in Nepal, my column this week highlighted some very cool music from Nepal including the work of jazz keyboardist Louiz Banks. That got me thinking of his place in contemporary Indian music, which is hugely significant. He’s a big man and he is responsible, with a handful of others, of advancing the cause of jazz and fusion jazz among India’s musician community. Among his many kudos is a Grammy nomination for his work along side Chick Corea, John McLaughlin, Gary Bartz and several others, including a number of outstanding Indian musicians in interpreting the work of Miles Davis.

The name of the album is Miles from India and here is what the AMG folks say about it.

It was such a simple concept. Producer Bob Belden (who has directed the Miles Davis reissue series) was talking with Times Square label owner Yusuf Gandhi about Miles‘ use of Indian instrumentation during The Complete On the Corner Sessions and wondered aloud what it would sound like if Indian musicians played Miles‘ music. Gandhi replied “Miles from India,” and nearly a year later Beldendelivered this brilliant set that not only features a number of India’s finest musicians but a veritable who’s who of Miles‘ own sidemen. In perhaps the boldest move, Belden and the musicians looked well beyond Miles‘ 1972-1975 sessions with Indian instruments for inspiration, performing tracks from the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s (the same time span covered by Miles‘ associates on this album). Another fun thing about these performances is that some of Miles‘ sidemen play on songs they didn’t originally play on — like the opener, “Spanish Key,” featuring Mike Stern and Dave Liebman. But despite some additional Indian percussion and vocalizing, “Spanish Key” doesn’t vary much from the original. On the other hand, “All Blues” is completely transformed, with Ravi Chary‘s sitar taking the place of Miles‘ trumpet. The Gary Bartz/Rudresh Mahanthappa sax duet on this is a real treat, as are the presence and playing of Jimmy Cobb, who also played on the original 1959 Kind of Blue session. The fast version of “Ife” marks the entrance of monster bass player Michael Henderson and the wonderfully deranged guitar of Pete Cosey, who does not record nearly enough. After the lovely but relatively brief sarod-led “In a Silent Way,” it’s great to hear Cosey rip it up on “It’s About That Time.” He’s nearly matched in intensity by Bartz‘s sax and Kala Ramnath‘s violin while Henderson does his thing with that killer Dave Holland bassline. Stern gets to reprise his role on the classic “Jean Pierre,” paired with some great flute from Rakesh Chaurasia.

Chick Corea appears only on “So What,” but turns in a great piano solo with some tasty inside-the-piano work. Like “All Blues,” “So What” becomes something else again with the addition of a trio of Indian percussionists and a change in time signature. And while the bassline of “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down” doesn’t really lend itself to Henderson‘s signature propulsive style, the percussionists lock in with him, providing a platform for more sick playing from Cosey. “Blue in Green” has Wallace Roney‘s trumpet singing with Shankar Mahadevan‘s voice and then sarangi in another sublime transformation. Here, Mike Stern‘s solo is as gentle as the one on “Jean Pierre” was noisy. Henderson and drummerVince Wilburn kick it on “Great Expectations,” which segues briefly into the introspective “Orange Lady” and back. Chary and Roney both contribute excellent solos and Cosey goes nuts (why doesn’t he record more?). Fortunately, he gets plenty more space on the slow version of “Ife,” both soloing and comping. The rhythm section of Henderson and Badal Roy on tabla is completely hypnotic here, providing a perfect base for languid solos from Dave Liebman and Gary Bartz and some nice spacy sounds from Cosey and Adam Holzman. The album closes with the only track Miles didn’t record: “Miles from India,” penned by John McLaughlin for this set. Scored for voice, piano, guitar, and the electric mandolin of U. Srinivas, it’s a pensive and atmospheric track that nevertheless features some passionate soloing. And that’s merely touching on some of the highlights. Folks like Ron Carter,Marcus MillerNdugu Chancler, and Lenny White haven’t even been mentioned, let alone some of the great Indian musicians also present here.

The essence of jazz is improvisation and expression, and Miles always sought out highly individual players. The beauty of Miles from India is how the players from different cultures and backgrounds meet on Miles‘ turf with their individual voices completely intact. Miles from India is not only an amazing celebration of the music of Miles Davis, it’s also a tribute to the way Miles and Teo Macero changed the way jazz music can be made. Granted, it’s the musicians involved who turn in these scorching performances, but this album was recorded in Mumbai, India, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and Saylorsburg, PA (!?), and would not have been possible without the studio techniquesMacero pioneered with Miles. Perhaps, like MaceroBob Belden will be remembered more for his production than his horn playing. Either way, with Miles from IndiaBelden has outdone himself and delivered a tribute that succeeds completely on every level. Kudos to all involved. (AMG)

Hope you enjoy this very nice record. In addition to focussing on some good and fresh music, this post is the very first ‘cross posting’ between the two blogs. Followers of both blogs I’m sure find much to enjoy here!


Track Listing: V 1

1-01 Spanish Key [Mike Stern , Dave Leibman]

1-02 All Blues [Louis Banks, Ravi Chary, Rudresh Mahantappa]

1-03 Ife (Fast) [Michael Henderson, Pete Covey]

1-04 In A Silent Way [Brij Narain]

1-05 It’s About That Time [Kala Ramnath, Gary Bartz]

1-06 Jean Pierre [Mike Stern Rakesh Chaurasia]


Track Listing: V2

2-01 So What [Louis Banks, Chick Corea]

2-02 Miles Runs The Voodoo Down [Michael Henderson, Lenny White and Sivamani and Vikku Vinayakram]

2-03 Blue In Green [Wallace Roney and Shankar Mahadevan]

2-04 Great Expectations [Marcus Miller, Ravi Chary and Wallace Roney]

2-05 Ife (Slow) [Gary Bartz, Badal Roy and Dave Liebman]

2-06 Miles From India [John McLaughlin and U. Srinivas]


Musical Man of Mystery: Baby Face Willette

Baby Face Willette

Baby Face Willette

With a name more suitable to a gangster from Capone’s Chicago and a frustratingly short biography Baby Face Willette skidded across the face of American popular music for a brief span of time in the late 1950s and early 1960s. I don’t know if there was a pan involved but Baby Face’s career certainly was over in a rapid flash.

The biography begins with his birth in New Orleans, Louisana. Or was it, as some claim, really Little Rock, Arkansas? Both stories have their supporters. Everyone agrees, though, that wherever he entered this world, he was given the grand name of Roosevelt, after, one assumes (but we cannot be sure) of the newly inaugurated President of the USA: Franklin Delano Roosevelt. 1933 was the year.

After some time learning how to play the piano in his hometown church the young (and young faced) musician decided to try his luck in the big city. He found himself in New York where he played and recorded with such soul-jazz luminaries as Lou Donaldson (sax) and Grant Green (guitar). He had by now left the piano behind and was fast mastering the Hammond B-3. Like so many other young men and women he idolized Jimmy Smith, probably the greatest B3 player to come out of the US and jazz world.

For whatever reasons after leaving his musical imprint as a sideman and leader on several records he moved to Chicago. Here he seemed to find an audience. He played regular gigs in clubs across the windy city, continuing right up to the early 1970s, when all trace of him disappears. His end, like his beginning, shrouded in uncertainty.

The record we share tonight, Stop and Listen, was recorded in Chicago in 1961 with his friend Grant Green on guitar and the favoured drummer of many B3 players, Ben Dixon on the traps. Baby Face may have been named like a gangster but he played the organ like an angel. His touch is light and dreamy almost delicate; he can swing (listen to the intense drive of Jumpin’ Juniper, with that left hand keeping the beat roiling in the lower register) and importantly knows how to play with others. The sympatico atmosphere he creates with Green and Dixon allows all three to shine and contribute, not just serve him as leader.

This record has been in the vaults for many years and I’ve really loved listening to it over and over in the last few days. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do. And as our musical man of mystery himself did in making it!

Stop And Listen 1

Track Listing:
01 Williow Weep for Me

02 Chances Are Few

03 Jumpin’ Jupiter

04 Stop and Listen

05 At Last

06 Soul Walk

07 Worksong

08 They Can’t Take That Away From Me


Birth of the Smooth: George Benson


George Benson has always followed his own path. Though that has meant he suffers the opprobrium of the jazz brahmanical elite he has elected to blaze a trail that unabashedly embraces pop music as an essential element of jazz. George grew up listening to Nat King Cole another jazz pioneer who was equally comfortable singing as he was at leading a small group of instrumentalists as a piano player of depth and originality. For George Benson there appears to be no line between silky pop crooner and swinging jazz guitar slinger.

What I have always loved about Benson’s jazz is that it is so accomplished. His playing which brings together scat-like runs, lightning-like picking and the most voluptuous rhythmic strumming is endlessly rich. He always surrounds himself with outstanding musicians and collaborators, most recently Al Jarreau but also Jack McDuff, Wes Montgomery, Lou Rawls just to name a few. His live performances are renown for their energy while his studio albums are always produced like fine art, with a familiar confident use of equipment and contemporary processes.

If there is a single word that comes closest to summing all of this up, it would be smooth. Smooth as in silky, elegant and sophisticated. Not in the sense used by snobs who label ‘smooth’ those artists whom they perceive to have ‘sold out’ or those whose music is somehow less legitimate because it appeals to a massive, diverse audience, not just a cabal of hard core jazz droolers.

Listen to Benson’s records if you want to understand what total artistic commitment to music sounds like. Whether it is in a hard bop jam session, a R&B duet, a funky workout with blazing organs and horns or a moody instrumental ballad, Benson is 100% ‘there’. Unlike some he doesn’t simply play his music in diverse settings, he matches his playing to the context be it blues, pop or virtuoso soloing.   With Coltrane I am blown away by urgent, desperate intensity. With Benson I am seduced by an incredibly multifaceted sexy woman.

The Washerman’s Dog team (of one) has pulled together a selection of wonderful enticements for your listening pleasure. Spread over two volumes you’ll get a glimpse of not only the many sides of this great guitarist but also his ultimate ‘smoothness’.

Go in peace!


benson front


Track Listing (v 1):


01 Push, Push


02 Hold On I’m Coming


03 So What


04 Ode To A Kudu (alt. take)


05 Little Train


06 The Wind And I


07 Shadow Dancers


08 Plum


09 I Got A Woman


10 Somewhere In The East


11 Don’t Let Me Lose This Dream


12 Billie’s Bounce


13 Let It Rain (featuring Patti Austin)


14 Benson’s Rider


15 Take Five


16 ‘Long Come Tutu


17 I Don’t Know


18 Myna Bird Blues


19 Shell Of A Man


20 Doobie, Doobie Blues








Track Listing (v. 2)


01 Top Of The World


02 Mona Lisa


03 Hippy Dip


04 One Like You


05 Ode To A Kudu


06 Shape Of Things That Are and Were


07 Ready And Able


08 Givin’ It Up for Love


09 The Ghetto


10 Still Waters


11 Will You Still Be Mine


12 Black Rose


13 Witchcraft [live]


14 The World Is A Ghetto


15 You Can’t Go Home [feat. George Benson]


16 Man From Toledo [Bonus Track]


17 El Mar


18 Strings of Love


19 Serbian Blue (new mix)


20 Love For Sale


21 Mona Lisa (Lil’ George Benson Age 8)






Inter planetary: Phil Cohran


In the outer reaches of the musical galaxies that swirl around us you will find a lump of rock from which came a man named Phil Cohran. Though he inhabited the Windy City for most of his life he was born in the deep delta blues lands of Mississippi. Stints of learning and disruptive discourse with a man, universally accepted as being a resident of Saturn, and who went by the name of Sun Ra, led Mr Cohran to take up an interest in composing music. He played it too, often after he’s composed and for hours on end.

Kelan Phil Cohran

Kelan Phil Cohran

Restless he was and travelled the flat lands of the United States from Kansas City to New York island. He did apprenticeships with Jay McShann and formed his own groups and of course played the trumpet (among other instruments of familiar and not so familiar description) in the Arkestra of Sun Ra.

He was bitten by the bug of know-no-bounds creativity and in the early part of the 1960s established a group made up of blues session players and called them the Artistic Heritage Ensemble. Today we share some of this amazingly straight-laced but exciting music. Cohran fills the gap, someone said between Sun Ra and Earth Wind and Fire. And when he wasn’t composing wonderful sounds and releasing them to an audience of nil on his own record label, he was a voracious reader, critical philosopher and community educational activist. Just what you would expect from such a man.

Few people know of this man but they should. Here is a good article/interview with him from a dozen years or more ago. Relish this music which will sound familiar in some ways (get a load of the metallic twang so popularized by recent world-music heroes Konono No.1) but then recall these were composed and performed and recorded nearly 50 years ago!



Track Listing:

The African Look

Loud Mouth

Frankiphone Blues

El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz

Detroit Red

New Frankiphone Blues

Black Beauty


Happy Anniversary Part 6: Jazz and Related Sounds


And so we now come to a tri-partite celebration of jazz sounds as part of the ongoing commemoration of the Washerman’s Dog achieving the milestone of 700 posts (way back a couple of months ago). Thank you again to all visitors, regulars and encouragers along the way, its been a blast and I don’t’ see any reason to cease and desist any time soon.


Volume one is entitled Blue Vindaloo. Straight ahead jazz mixed with a fair number of Asian and Asian-inspired tracks by jazz artists from Afghanistan to Japan. Check out the Afghan Jazz Unit’s tremendous Spinboldak Saxophony.

Title track from the Pakistani-American uber guitarist Rez Abbasi.


Volume two is titled Afro Jazz and indeed here you will find much jazz from the Continent, as well as soukous, pop and other African delights.  Highlights this time are from Angola!  Title track comes via the mighty Madilu of DRC.


Volume three, Blow Baby, Blow is dedicated to outstanding brass, woodwind and brass band jazz. Sax, trumpet, tuba and trombone. Greats and unknowns.  Hope you enjoy.

blue vindaloo

Track Listing (Vol. 1):

01 Time Is Right Dr. L Subramaniam]

02 Beauty Of The Flower [Christoph Stiefel and Lissette Spinnler]

03 Elveen [Wynton Marsalis]

04 Spinboldak Saxophony [Afghan Jazz Unit]

05 Ranglypso [Ernest Ranglin]

06 Painted Paradise [Jiro Inagaki and Soul Media]

07 Fat Mouth [Weldon Irvine]

08 Yes, Sir That’s My Baby [Nat King Cole]

09 Abbaji (For Alla Rakha) [John McLaughlin]

10 Hub-Tones [Freddie Hubbard]

11 Eastern Dawn [Amancio D’Souza]

12 Sueño de Amor (Chachachá) [feat. Cachao] [Bonus Track] Generoso Jimenez]

13 Fried Pies (Take 1) [Wes Montgomery]

14 Tempo De Amor [Baden Powell and Vinicius de Moraes]

15 What a Little Moonlight Can Do [Billie Holiday]

16 Harlem On Saturday Night [Lil Hardin Armstrong and Her Orchestra]

17 Benson’s Rider [George Benson]

18 The Best Is Yet To Come [Mr. President]

19 Nuit sur les Champs-Elysees(1) [Miles Davis]

20 Awaara Hoon [Sunny Jain Collective]

21 Sina Nari [Hüsnü Şenlendirici]

22 Tanzania [Sadao Watanabe]

23 Summertime [Ahmed Abdul Malik]

24 Garuda [Raga Bop Trio]

25 The Look Of Love [Sergio Mendes & Brasil 66]

26 Quaze Caindo [Ricardo Herz Trio]

27 The Lewinsky March. [Rabih Abou-Khalil]

28 Ma’am A’rif Leh (Gingele) [Salma]

29 Blu Vindaloo [Rez Abbasi]

30 Raga Piloo [Joe Harriot & John Mayer]


beau souvenir

Track Listing (Vol. 2)

01 Johannesburg Hi-Lite Jive [Hugh Masakela]

02 Margret Odero [D.O. Misiani & Shirati Jazz]

03 Muasi Oweli Bela [bolero] [Vicky et l’OK Jazz]

04 Bolingo Ekomisi Ngai Liboma [L’orchestre Zembe Zembe]

05 Kulekule [Konono No.1 De Mingiedi]

06 La Bycicletta [Keletigui et Ses Tambourines]

07 Avante Juventude [Os Anjos]

08 Whiskey et Coca-Cola [Amadou Balake]

09 Black Egypt -Intro [Bukky Leo and Black Egypt]

10 Soweto Blues [Mariam Makeba]

11 Awa Awa [Wes]

12 Koki (Hot Koki) [Andre Marie Tala]

13 Tweta [Mombasa Party and Zuhura Swaleh]

14 Injuria [Jose ‘Zeca’ Neves]

15 Hymn for the War Orphans [Zimology]

16 Na boyi danbinzi [Orchestre Mando Negro]

17 Onyame [Ashanti Afrika Jah]

18 Sogodounou [Nahawa Doumbia]

19 1er Gaou (Ivory Coast) [Magic System]

20 Kyrie eleison [Orcestre Hi Fives]

21 Ting’ Badi Malo [Gidigidi Majimaji]

22 Din Ya Sugri [Christy Azuma & Uppers International]

23 Gidelam [Baaba Maal]

24 Tollon Tollon [Afro National]

25 Ichibanda [Oliya Band]

26 Revolution [Sonny Okosun]

27 Mosquito [Flaming Souls]

28 Beau Souvenir [Madilu System]

29 Black Woman Experience [Geraldo Pino]

30 Despedida [Dimba Diangola]


Blow Baby Blow

Track Listing: (Vol. 3)

01 Blue Light [Ben Webster]

02 Black Man’s Cry [Fela Kuti with Afrika 70 and Ginger Baker]

03 Zomaye [Gigi]

04 Minnie the Moocher [Big Bad Voodoo Daddy]

05 Skalloween [Skatalites]

06 From Boogie to Funk part 1_ The Blues [Bill Coleman]

07 Don’t Take Your Love From Me [Frank Rosolino Quintet]

08 See-F [Ceasar Frazier]

09 Instant Groove [King Curtis]

10 Time Is Running Out Fast [James Brown]

11 Satan’s Blues [Don Bryon]

12 i want a little girl [Big Joe Turner]

13 John McLaughlin [Miles Davis]

14 Misterioso [Sonny Rollins]

15 Sida Gangbe Brass Band]

16 The Lonely Bull (El Solo Toro) [Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass]

17 Balkan Reggae [Mahala Rai Banda]

18 Qonqoza [Dudu Phukwana]

19 Got No Money [Dusko Gojkovic]

20 Crazy Mixed Up World [Little Walter]

21 Ad Lib Blues [Lester Young]

22 Need You (right now) [Trumpet Thing]

23 Kuenda Namwendo [The Umtali Chipisa Band]

24 Blues for Harvey [Johnny Griffin]

25 Celestial Bliss [Rahsaan Roland Kirk]

26 Frantic Activity [Rhythm Funk Masters]

27 Struttin’ With Some Barbecue [Louis Armstrong]

28 Asaw Fofor [Melody Aces]

29 African Battle Manu Dibango]

30 How Deep Is the Ocean [John Coltrane]


Flying Solo: Randy Weston

Randy Weston

Randy Weston

After two absolutely wonderful weeks at home in Melbourne with the family I am now on another long gig of business related travel.  As if planes, airports, and shoe box hotel rooms aren’t bad enough; as if canned oxygen and ringing ears aren’t bad enough, I have to come down with a throat that feels as if its being slit open with each swallow and the shakes.

So before I go off to bed (it is still sunny over the Alpine evening) I share some very nice jazz from the land of Montreux, which by the way is just around the corner.

See ya on the other side.

Placing Randy Weston into narrow, bop-derived categories only tells part of the story of this restless musician. Starting with the gospel of bop according to Thelonious MonkWeston has gradually absorbed the letter and spirit of African and Caribbean rhythms and tunes, welding everything together into a searching, energizing, often celebratory blend. His piano work ranges across a profusion of styles from boogie-woogie through bop into dissonance, marking by a stabbing quality reminiscent of, but not totally indebted to, Monk.

Growing up in Brooklyn, Weston was surrounded by a rich musical community: he knew Max RoachCecil Payne, andDuke JordanEddie Heywood lived across the street; Wynton Kelly was a cousin. Most influential of all was Monk, who tutored Weston upon visits to his apartment. Weston began working professionally in R&B bands in the late ’40s before playing in the bebop outfits of Payne and Kenny Dorham. After signing with Riverside in 1954, Weston led his own trios and quartets and attained a prominent reputation as a composer, contributing jazz standards like “Hi-Fly” and “Little Niles” to the repertoire. He also met arranger Melba Liston, who has collaborated with Weston off and on into the ’90s. Weston‘s interest in his roots was stimulated by extended stays in Africa; he visited Nigeria in 1961 and 1963, lived in Morocco from 1968 to 1973 following a tour, and has remained fascinated with the music and spiritual values of the continent ever since. In the ’70s, Weston made recordings for Arista-Freedom, Polydor, and CTI while maintaining a peripatetic touring existence — mostly in Europe — returning to Morocco in the mid-’80s.

However, starting in the late ’80s, after a long recording drought, Weston‘s visibility in the U.S. skyrocketed with an extraordinarily productive period in the studios for Antilles and Verve. Among his highly eclectic recording projects were a trilogy of “Portrait” albums depicting EllingtonMonk, and himself, an ambitious two-CD work rooted in African music called The Spirits of Our Ancestors, a blues album, and a collaboration with the Gnawa Musicians of MoroccoWeston‘s fascination with the music of Africa continued on such works as 2003’s Spirit! The Power of Music, 2004’s Nuit Africaine and 2006’s Zep Tepi, The Randy Weston African Rhythms Trio. In 2010, Weston released the live album The Storyteller which featured the then 84-year-old pianist in concert at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, as part of Jazz at the Lincoln Center.


Blues to Africa  is a particularly strong solo performance by the unique pianist Randy Weston. He interprets eight of his originals, all of which are to an extent influenced by African music. Weston’s percussive style has sometimes been compared to Thelonious Monk’s (Monk is an influence) but he has long had his own original voice. After many group recordings, Weston started concentrating on solo playing in 1974 and this was the second of his five unaccompanied recitals of 1974-76, all for different labels.

Blues To Africa

Track Listing:

01 African Village/Bedford Stuyvesant

02 Tangier Bay

03 Blues To Africa

04 Kasbah Kids

05 Uhuru Kwanza

06 The Call

07 Kucheza Blues

08 Sahel



On Fire: Mahavishnu Orchestra


John McLaughlin

John McLaughlin

For a brief sizzling moment in time, as the 60s stumbled into the 70s, the Mahavishnu Orchestra was the benchmark of rock n’ roll.  The world’s best, most exciting, most risky, most ‘spiritual’ and most together band of musicians that ever set foot on stage. Jazz Times in its March 2014 issue dedicated a wonderful article to that group’s first album, The Inner Mounting Flame, a little of which I exerpt here.

The first Mahavishnu Orchestra was born and died in New York City. Two and a half years separated those events. In between, they released three records, played somewhere in the region of 500 concerts and managed to astound the world, or that part thereof which took notice of modern music. And, in the early ’70s, that was a lot of the world. There were still vast, uncharted realms of sound for music to inhabit, still record-making corporations willing to fund the voyages of exploration and still hordes of listeners eager to make new discoveries. Popular music informed the culture, it was muscular and virile, and the feeling was abroad that perhaps still it could change the world. Mahavishnu John McLaughlin had not a shred of doubt about that.

Mahavishnu_orchestra1973Changing the consciousness of the world was, for John, the whole point of the thing. For the other guys, whatever turned John on was fine: They were simply ecstatic to be playing in what felt like the greatest band on the planet. The band, like the city, was a melting pot of nationalities and cultures: John McLaughlin from England; Billy Cobham from Panama; Rick Laird from Ireland via New Zealand, Australia and London; Jan Hammer from Czechoslovakia, as it was then, via Germany; and Jerry Goodman from Chicago. Many roads had led each of the five to New York where the first Mahavishnu Orchestra came together in the summer of 1971.

The Mahavishnu Orchestra’s debut album, The Inner Mounting Flame, with John pictured in lotus position among his cohorts on the cover and a poem on aspiration by Sri Chinmoy within, was recorded on August 14 1971. Released before the year’s end, it sold 20,000 units in its first three weeks.

The music was astounding. While some of the elements and ideas within it may be glimpsed, in retrospect, scattered here and there across Devotion, My Goal’s Beyond, the recordings with Miles Davis, Lifetime and Carla Bley, and even back to Extrapolation, those were but doodles on paper compared to this fully formed masterpiece.  It was a music that was wholly new and which could not have been predicted.

John’s compositional maturity had finally arrived. As fabulous as Extrapolation was, this was a level beyond.  There was an indestructible immortal aura around several of the album’s pieces. A lesser item like Vital Transformation—its title reflecting Sri Chinmoy’s preoccupation with the lower and higher vitals of the soul—grabbed the listener by the throat with its superficially Hendrix-esque riffing and sound, but even here the lascivious blues-rock overcoat gave way to a clean ascending movement.

Sri Chinmoy

Sri Chinmoy


It was in the contemplative pieces, Dawn, You Know, You Know, A Lotus on Irish Streams—where space, restraint and the wisdom to use it were the key—that the caterpillar truly emerged as a many-coloured creature in winged flight.  The yin to their yang were the unholy behemoths, Meeting of the Spirits and Dance of Maya. Those two introduced the world to a device that might as well be known as ‘Mahavishnu arpeggios’—weird, unresolving, cyclical guitar patterns that formed the basis of many of John’s compositions of the Mahavishnu era. It was high art for the masses. And the masses came.

“I notice some difference in the music I played before I became a disciple and the music I play now,” John mused, early in 1972.  “When I play now, I think of Sri Chinmoy. I think of him as my higher self, and me as his lower self. I think of my music now as an offering to God…the master musician, the soul of music, the spirit of music. I’m just trying to reach him by letting myself be his instrument. That’s what I’m striving to become.”

Perception is half the history; truth is the rest.  To the record-buying, concert-going public of the early 70s, the substantial coverage given to John McLaughlin as the face of the Mahavishu Orchestra, and his serene demeanor onstage, asking for moments of silence before every show and presenting the performance as an opportunity for all assembled to reach their highest heights and deepest depths, fuelled a general fascination with the man.  His extraordinary virtuosity, and his band’s extraordinary music, spoke for itself, but his commanding, slightly otherworldly personality and spiritual commitment behind it all not only added weight and portent to the music, but conversely, suggested that such singular accomplishments were achieveable by all and sundry through the path being espoused.  Mahavishnu John McLaughlin was not a man on a table-tapping weekend in Bognor Regis. He was deadly serious.

Music was more than a pastime of an income or even a vocation to John McLaughlin.  It was a mission from God.  Among Sri Chinmoy’s many aphorisms was one that explains John’s extreme devotion to the cause of spreading his music as a gateway to God for the masses: If you say that a musician is not God, I may agree with you. But if you say music is not God, then I totally disagree with you. [Jazz Times (Vol 4. Number 2) March 2014]


This is indeed amazing, confronting and deeply moving music.


Track Listing:

01 Meeting of the Spirits

02 Dawn

03 Noonward Race

04 A Lotus On Irish Streams

05 Vital Transformation

06 The Dance of Maya

07 You Know, You Know

08 Awakening




Marking a Milestone: 100 R&B and Gospel Gems

2 dunham

Third instalment of the Washerman’s Dog Anniversary Edition commemorating 700 posts is ready for your enjoyment.  In this instalment you will find 100 juicy, emotion-drenched and intense tracks from the R&B, gospel, soul and funk side of town.


Please enjoy!

Hold Me Baby

Track Listing: Hold Me Baby

01 Stand By Me [Aaron Neville]

02 I Need Someone [The Wallace Brothers]

03 Contradiction [Total Experience]

04 One Is The Magic # (Redux) (Live) [Jill Scott]

05 It’s Too Late [The Isley Brothers]

06 Cadillac Jack [Andre Williams]

07 Marvellous [The Jungle Band]

08 On Fire [The Transatlantics]

09 If Loving You Is Wrong I Don’t Want to Be Right [Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland]

10 Break Up To Make Up [Cecil Holmes Soulful Sounds]

11 Cryin’ [J.I. Henderson]

12 Ring Bell, Ring Bell [Mariam Makeba]

13 Hush [The Blind Boys of Alabama]

14 African Hustle [Mombasa]

15 I Don’t Worry about a Thing [Mose Allison]

16 Love & Happiness [Mr.President]

17 Alluswe [Gil Scott-Heron & Brian Jackson]

18 Make It Funky [James Brown]

19 Heaven [Ebo Taylor]

20 California Dreamin’ [Eddie Hazel]

21 (I’ll Know) When True Love Really Passes By [The Ebonys]

22 ‘S Wonderful [Ella Fitzgerald]

23 Bad News, Bad Times [Marion Williams]

24 Billie Jean [Eric B & Rakim]

25 Here Come the Girls [Ernie K. Doe]

26  Jan Jan [The Fabulous Counts]

27 The Rockafeller Skank [Fatboy Slim]

28 Hold Me Baby [Albert Washington]

29 That Thing Called Love [Ray Charles]

30 Losing You [Dusty Springfield]

31 My Soul Has Got To Move [Cleophus Mabone & The Dixie Wonders]

32 Ooh Child [Edwin Hawkins Singers]

33 Never Knew Love Like This [Alexander O’Neal]


You Can Make It

Track Listing: You Can Make It

01 How I Got Over [Aretha Franklin]

02 If You Believe Your God Is Dead, Try Mine [The Swan Silvertones]

03 New York Lightning [The Voices of East Harlem]

04 Glory to the Newborn King [Angelic Gospel Singers]

05 Stumblin’ blocks, steppin’ stones (What took me so long) [Joshie Jo Armstead]

06 Thank You, Lord [Alvin Dockett and Blessed]

07 This Old World Is Going Down [Modulations]

08 Jesus Paid the Debt [Sam Cooke with the Soul Stirrers]

09 Jesus Is a Friend to Everyone [The Harmonizing Four]

10 You Can Make It [Shirley Caesar]

11 Young Hearts Run Free [Candi Staton]

12 What Kind of Man is This [The Caravans]

13 In the Ghetto [Rev. James Cleveland]

14 Oh Babe (Live) [Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderley]

15 Mama Don’t Allow It [Julia Lee]

16 23rd Psalms [Junior Delgado]

17 Nobody’s Fault But Mine [The Staple Singers]

18 All These Things To Me [The Stars of Virigina]

19 Lean On Me [Live] [Bill Withers]

20 (You Keep Me) Hanging On [Ann Peebles]

21 God Shiva [Me’shell Ndegeocello]

22 Loungin’ (feat. Donald Byrd) [Guru]

23 Affirmation [George Benson]

24 Peace Be Still [Rev. James Cleveland]

25 Where Do I Go From Here [Rev. Julius Cheeks & The Four Knights]

26 I’m Going to Live the Life I Sing About in My Sing [Mahalia Jackson]

27 Dragnet For Jesus [Sister Wynona Carr]

28 Up Above My Head There’s Music In The Air [Sister Rosetta Tharpe]

29 Outside Looking In [Jimmy McGriff]

30 Chained In The Mind [Joe Tex]

31 A Losing Battle [Johnny Adams]

32 I Thank You Lord [Little Chris & The Righteous Singers]

33 Ekoléya [Angelique Kidjo]



Black Magic Woman

Track Listing: Black Magic Woman

01 Funkanova [Los Charly’s Orchestra]

02 You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine [Lou Rawls]

03 Midnight Creeper [Lou Donaldson]

04 Dancin’ In An Easy Groove [Lonnie Smith]

05 Lalo Caught Me Dancin’ [Llorca]

06 Arabian Song (Da Ghetto Fuckiro Club) [Livin’ in da Ghetto]

07 Who Will Be the Next Fool [Little Jimmy Tyson and the Highway Robbers]

08 Living In The Ghetto [Gamut of Crime]

09 Chicken Run [Speedometer]

10 Could It Be I’m Falling In Love [The Spinners]

11 Crime To Be Broke In America [Spearhead]

12 All The Bass [Spatial Disco]

13 Say it Aint So [The Sound Stylistics]

14 Why Black Man Dey Suffer [Fela Kuti]

15 Goin’ To See My Baby [Fatback Bank]

16 Get Funky (edit) [The Cannibals]

17 Funky Hot Grits [Rufus Thomas]

18 Ain’t No Runnin Away [Willie Washington & Paula Ralph]

19 I Shall Be Released [Marion Williams]

20 Money Jungle [Black Star, Ron Carter and John Patton]

21 Spontaneous Simplicity [Sun Ra]

22 Run On Home And Live With God [Soul Satisfiers of Philadelphia]

23 Black Magic Woman [Orchester Huge Strasser]

24 Live Right Now [Eddie Harris]

25 Pull Man [Marks Mankwane and His Band]

26 Johnny Too Bad [The Slickers]

27 Am I Black Enough for You? [Billy Paul]

28 Shake Your Hips [Slim Harpo]

29 I Got Soul [Skeewiff]

30 Gotta Serve Somebody [Shirely Caesar]

31 Make it Raggae [Shark Wilson and the Basement Heaters]

32 Soul Serenade (Live) [Aretha Franklin and King Curtis]

33 She is the Sea [Anthony Joseph and the Spasm Band]

34 A Love Vibration [Ann Peebles]





Back Story: Odell Brown


Whenever I visit Washington D.C., I’m struck, as most visitors are, by the number of homeless people living in the vicinity of the White House. Men with matted beards and bag ladies, all silently, slowly pushing carts that were once overloaded with the tins and packages of a throw away culture  but are now filled with rags, bags, bent coat hangers and despair.


Who are these people? What are their stories? What circumstances conspired to drop them to such a place?


A well-to-do parish in Chicago has in the past weeks commissioned a sculpture of a homeless man, sleeping under a thin blanket on a park bench.  From a distance it is so life-like that upper class citizens and members of the church have protested to their pastor and the city council to get the scumbag out of the neighbourhood.  Up close, it is only the nail marks on the man’s feet that identify him as Jesus Christ.


What are the stories of the homeless?


Several decades ago one of those homeless Chicago scumbags was a man named Odell.  This is his story.


Born in 1940 in Kentucky (Louisville), Odell Brown came from a solid southern educated Afro-American family.  His father had attended the historic Fisk University in Nashville and Odell intended to do the same.  At the age of 19 he moved to Nashville himself but enrolled in Tennessee State University (at the time, known as Tennessee A&M and whose other alumni include Oprah Winfrey and Rufus Thomas) where he found his first gigs as an organist and piano player, in various R&B bands. During the day he took course in composition and stared to write music.


In 1960, like Elvis, he was called up to serve Uncle Sam an opportunity which he always was grateful for. As a member of an Army band in Ft. Carson, Colorado he was exposed to other mentors who guided him further in the fields of orchestration. Of his army years, Odell says simply, “Awesome!” Not exactly what one would consider to be the standard response in the 1960s.


After the Army, Odell moved to Chicago and with old Tennessee compatriots put together a band called Odell Brown and the Organ-izers. Picked up by the Chess label the band made several albums and enjoyed some moderate chart success with numbers like No More Water in the Well.  In addition to playing with the Organ-izers, Brown arranged, composed and played with the full suite of Chess superstars from Muddy Waters and Ahmad Jamal to Etta James and Ramsey Lewis.


I969 saw the Organ-izers cease and Odell moving on as an independent arranger, working with many of America’s top drawer jazz, blues and R&B artists.  1981 Brown was holed up with Marvin Gaye in France and working on Midnight Love, Gaye’s last album. Indeed, they wrote the huge international hit, Sexual Healingtogether and things seemed to be completely on the upside for Brown.

Alas, for not the clearest of reasons–depression was probably both a cause and effect–by the late years of the 80’s Odell Brown was homeless and living rough in the Windy City.


Odell Brown

Odell Brown

The time soon came when Uncle Sam repaid Brown for his service.  Assisted through a government veteran’s program Brown was able to stablise his life, build a studio and return to the music world as both a performer and arranger.


Tonight’s selection comes from 1966, nearly a half century ago.  Raising the Roof is a brief but immensely satisfying workout with the Organ-izers. Unlike many organ-led bands of the day, Brown and the Organ-izers stayed away from the greasy, blues-based jams, working instead in a jazzier mode. This was in large part due to the playing of Artee ‘Duke’ Payne on tenor sax, who added a sharp, Coltrane-influenced ‘inside/outside’ feel to his playing.  One of the group’s trademarks is the unison playing of Payne and fellow tenor blower Tommy Purvis. In fact, the saxes are as important (sometimes more so) to the group’s sound than Brown’s organ.


This is not to say that Brown isn’t often the focus of their sound. In an ear where many of the key organists had a gritty, heavy sound, Brown used a combination of stops to create a slightly smoother but no less exciting sound. He was also the Organ-izersmain original composer, with Payne, Purvis and drummer Curtis Prince making contributions as well. (


So the next time you pass quickly by a homeless person spare a thought for what that person’s story might be.  You just never know.

Raising The Roof

Track Listing:

01 The Honeydripper

02 Raising The Roof

03 A Cool Señorita

04 Strike Up The Band

05 Day Tripper

06 Maiden Voyage

07 The Thing

08 Enchilada Joe