Tag Archives: guitar

Humble and Glory draped: Harry Manx and Kevin Breit

Harry Manx and Kevin Breit

Harry Manx and Kevin Breit

A small (perhaps in reputation) record full of brilliant string playing, some very old and unexpected covers, references to Al Capone and lots of brilliant string playing (did I say that, already?).

Harry Manx from north of the border is a blues man with a strong love of Indian ragas. He studied for a while there and is a pretty good at handling the Mohan veena (invented Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, India’s classical guitar guru). Not a great voice but a lot better than mine. Together with his friend Kevin (Breit) he’s turned out a very pleasing north American record.

The musical partnership of singer/songwriter/guitarists Harry Manx and Kevin Breit is given a third outing on their duo album Strictly Whatever. The two play a variety of stringed instruments that includes, along with many different guitars, banjo, and mohan veena (Manx) and electric sitar, ukulele, and mandolin (Breit); Art Avalos provides percussion. Sometimes on these mostly self-written tunes,Manx and Breit create a ramshackle folk-rock sound somewhat reminiscent of Bob Dylan albums of the late ’90s and early 2000s, notably on “Nothing I Can Do.” That similarity is accentuated when Manxis singing in his gruff voice, though he can also suggest Mark Knopfler (“Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep”). The album is a low-key mixture of folk, country, and blues styles full of textured playing and interaction between the two guitarists, who have enough experience with each other to be comfortable trading licks throughout. (AMG)

I’m sipping a whiskey. I get on a plane in a few hours and in a few more will be back home with my family! A week of work followed by a week of down time before the rush to the end of the year begins in earnest.   This record which I’ve really enjoyed over the past many months is one I hope you’ll enjoy too! Humble but glory draped in its own way.

Strictly Whatever

Track Listing:

01 Sunny

02 Nothing I Can Do

03 Looking For A Brand New World

04 Hippy Trippy

05 Mr Lucky

06 Note To Self

07 Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep

08 Little Ukelele

09 There Was A Girl

10 Looking For A Plan

11 Dance With Delilah

12 Carry My Tears Away

M a N x


Winning Game: Lonnie Johnson

Lonnie Johnson

Lonnie Johnson

I picked this album up many years ago in one of those independent record stores that used to dot the strip malls of America. They were dangerous places and fun too. Hours would pass like minutes as I explored rack upon rack of tapes and CDs, while racking up an ever bigger dent in my credit rating.

Thankfully, the independent record store is making a comeback, at least in my hometown of Melbourne. Every week a book store expands its stock to include boxes of old vinyl or a new vinyl shop opens it doors offering to the world once more that deep richness of the 33 1/3 rpm disc.

I digress.

The name, Lonnie Johnson, had been a small whisper in my mind at the time I made this purchase. And looking back, I wonder, why? I was pretty into the blues by that point but was focused primarily on the Chicago electric scene. I knew nothing of the pioneers of the genre and the discovery of that sophisticated East Coast sound of the 20s and 30s was many years in the future. Perhaps there is some sort of sub-conscious ‘knowing’ that inhabits the ether and which operates, unbeknownst to us, compelling the purchase of music which normally would go unnoticed. I don’t know.

This record, though, has been an absolute winner for me since that Fate Full day two decades ago. It is a solo record; just Lonnie, his voice and tremendously accomplished and deceptively simple guitar playing. There is an inherent melody in this collection, something that goes beyond the individual songs. Lonnie’s voice has a timeless quality. I hate words like ‘timeless’, normally. They mean everything and nothing. But in this case it is appropriate. I have never been able to peg whether this is an old man’s voice or that of a young singer. It just is; doesn’t betray age. And it commands our attention because of its sweet deep tunefulness. Johnson is able to use his physical instrument with such delicacy too. Listen to each of these tracks with care but especially the final ballad, You Won’t Let Me Go and try to think of a more sensitive interpretation.

I’m not a guitar player so will defer to those who understand the nuances of the art. B.B. King claims Johnson as his most significant influence, which for me pretty much sums up the case. The guitar picking on this album reminds me of the writing of the Indian novelist, R.K. Narayan, who has built an international reputation on writing wonderfully humane stories in the most basic prose. But try to do the same and you’ll see how difficult that ‘simplicity’ is to replicate.

Lonnie Johnson’s guitar playing is like this. Each note sharp and distinct, so easy to identify. Yet in their relationship with other notes there is born a complex emotional feeling. A feeling of warmth and the particularly human pleasure that arises from when the dart hits the bullseye smack in the middle.

The songs here cover a few standards (Summertime, What a Difference a Day Makes) as well as originals. Evil Woman is one of my personal favorites: my woman is so evil/she sleeps sideways in the bed !

Love this.


Track Listing:

01 New Orleans Blues

02 My Little Kitten Susie

03 Evil Woman

04 What a Difference a Day Makes

05 Moaning Blues

06 Summertime

07 Lines in My Face

08 Losing Game

09 New Year’s Blues

10 Slow and Easy

11 Four Walls and Me

12 You Won’t Let Me Go


It Certainly Is!: Grant Green

Grant Green

Grant Green

My favourite jazz guitarist has always been George Benson (sans the singing, except on Breezin’, which is simply one of the most delightful albums on the 1970s) but it is Grant Green that I love listening to more these days.  Green is a guitarist who puts the tune above the technique. Whatever he played seemed not just to swing, but to sing, as well.  And I love soul-jazz which Grant became known for in his latter years.

Often overlooked by jazz critics and snobs, Grant Green, is now building a posthumous reputation as an exceptionally expressive and talented musician.

Green was born in St. Louis, Missouri. He first performed in a professional setting at the age of 12. His influences were Charlie Christian, Charlie Parker, Lester Young, and Jimmy Raney, he first played boogie-woogie before moving on to jazz. His first recordings in St. Louis were with tenor saxophonist Jimmy Forrest for the United label. The drummer in the band was Elvin Jones, later the powerhouse behind John Coltrane. Grant recorded with Elvin again in the early Sixties. Lou Donaldson discovered Grant playing in a bar in St. Louis. After touring together with Donaldson, Grant arrived in New York around 1959-60.

Lou Donaldson introduced Grant to Alfred Lion of Blue Note Records. Lion was so impressed with Grant that rather than testing Grant as a sideman, as was the usual Blue Note practice, Lion arranged for him to record as a group leader first. However, due to a lack of confidence on Green’s part the initial recording session was only released in 2001 as First Session.

Despite the shelving of his first session, Green’s recording relationship with Blue Note was to last, with a few exceptions, throughout the Sixties. From 1961 to 1965, Grant made more appearances on Blue Note LPs, as leader or sideman, than anyone else. Grant’s first issued album as a leader was Grant’s First Stand. This was followed in the same year by Green Street and Grantstand. Grant was named best new star in the Down Beat critics’ poll, in 1962. He often provided support to the other important musicians on Blue Note, including saxophonists Hank Mobley, Ike Quebec, Stanley Turrentine and organist Larry Young.

Sunday Mornin’ , The Latin Bit and Feelin’ the Spirit are all loose concept albums, each taking a musical theme or style: Gospel, Latin and spirituals respectively. Grant always carried off his more commercial dates with artistic success during this period. Idle Moments (1963), featuring Joe Henderson and Bobby Hutcherson, and Solid(1964), are thought of as two of Grant‘s best recordings.

Many of Grant’s recordings were not released during his lifetime. These include McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones (also part of the Solid group) performing on Matador (also recorded in 1964), and several albums with pianist Sonny Clark. In 1966 Grant left Blue Note and recorded for several other labels, including Verve. From 1967 to 1969 Grant was, for the most part, inactive due to personal problems and the effects of heroin addiction. In 1969 Grant returned with a new funk-influenced band. His recordings from this period include the commercially successful Green is Beautiful and the soundtrack to the film The Final Comedown.

Grant left Blue Note again in 1974 and the subsequent recordings he made with other labels divide opinion: some consider Green to have been the ‘Father of Acid Jazz’ (and his late recordings have been sampled by artists including US3A Tribe Called Quest and Public Enemy), whilst others have dismissed them (reissue producer Michael Cuscuna wrote in the sleeve notes for the album Matador that “During the 1970s [Green] made some pretty lame records”).

Grant spent much of 1978 in hospital and, against the advice of doctors, went back on the road to earn some money. While in New York to play an engagement at George Benson’s Breezin’ Lounge, Grant collapsed in his car of a heart attack in New York City on January 31, 1979. He was buried in Greenwood Cemetery in his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, and was survived by six children. Since Green‘s demise, his reputation has grown and many compilations of both his earlier (post-bop/straight ahead and soul jazz) and later (funkier/dancefloor jazz) periods, exist. (Wikipedia)

Ain’t It Funky Now! is the third of three thematically organized Grant Green compilations in the Blue Note Original Jam Master Series — all of which focus on his final period recording for the label, between 1969 and 1972. Green was deeply interested in popular Black music in his late period and that is reflected in these seven cuts taken from six different albums. The title track, of course, is the a read of the James Brown classic and also features Blue Mitchell on trumpet and Idris Muhammad on drums, among others. At nearly ten minutes, it’s a deep-stretch groove piece with Green‘s guitar playing gritty and dirty center-stage. Other highlights include “Ease Back,” a Meters cover from Green‘s Carryin’ On outing, and a nasty version of the Isley Brothers‘ “It’s Your Thing,” with Chuck Rainey and Muhammad in the rhythm section. The set closes with a decidedly non-funky yet very soulful cover of the Stylistics‘ “Betcha by Golly Wow” with Wilton Felder on bass, Hall Bobby Porter on congas, and fine soprano and tenor work from Claude Bartee, Jr..  (AMG)

Ain't It Funky Now_ Original Jam Master 1

Track  Listing:

01 Ain’t it Funky Now!

02 Ease Back

03 It’s Your Thing

04 Love on a Two-Way Street

05 Let the Music Take Your Mind

06 I Don’t Want Nobody to Give Me Nothing

07 Betcha by Golly Wow