The pre-ramble:- “It’s a funny old world”, as the late comedian Malcolm Hardee used to say. After a late night getting ready to push the publish button on this blog, a mercifully quiet day at work followed. Being within easy striking distance of Central London I was in Soho in a trice for a quick spin round the record shops on Berwick Street. My main reason for going there was to see the pop-up shop put together to display some amazing Clash memorabilia to celebrate the launch of a new greatest hits collection. Seeing the band’s guitars was on a par with seeing John Coltrane’s main tenor sax or Miles Davis’s original mouthpiece- although I’m sure neither of them would have scratched their names into their instruments as Mick Jones had done with his one of his guitars- a good way to get it back if it is nicked I suppose.
The gig:- This set me up nicely for a Friday night in a nearby music pub where Chris Holland was celebrating his birthday with a gig. By strange coincidence, yesterday’s post mentioned Billy Taylor and ‘I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to be Free’ (perhaps best known to most as ‘that filmnight theme tune’)and this was the second tune that I caught tonight. The rest of the set took us from Professor Longhair and Dr John in New Orleans to Memphis and Booker T and The MG’s via Ray Charles (more of whom in a moment). The band featured Chris Holland on electric boogie woogie funkified piano, bass, lead guitar, sax and drums played by aristocrats of the South East London music scene with Seamus Duplicate on a pared down Hammond MX3 organ.
It was a solo from the Hammond that lit up the venue and touched the parts that move and groove. Highpoint for me was the Rolling Stones ‘Shine a Light on Me’, originally featuring Billy Preston. It made me think of the night several years ago when he was due to play at The Royal Festival Hall with the remaining members of The Funk Brothers (the band that played on most of the classic Motown Hits). He was indisposed and in a tongue in cheek manner the MC introduced a young substitute who used to play with touring soul bands in the 60’s. It was a certain Mr Steve Winwood! I’ve made a mental note to turn up the volume a tad when I listen to a Hammond set as it is a very fine and much maligned instrument.
The recording:- All of that leads me on to the record under consideration. I was going for something lower key. However, a night of maximum RnB was missing only one key element- jazz tambourine- which appears with aplomb on Don Wilkerson’s ‘Preach Brother’. Don Wilkerson was the tenor sax soloist on Ray Charles classics including: I Got a Woman and This Little Girl of Mine. He was encouraged by Ike Quebec to record the first of three Blue Note sessions, of which “Preach Brother!’ was second.
I’ve never heard a Blue Note track quite like the opener of Side 2: ‘Camp Meetin’. A rolling piano accompanied by tambourine is joined by a vocalist, whose ‘Weeeeeeeeeell at that old camp meetin…’ leads us in to a gutsy RnB tenor solo and Grant Green’s finger picking good guitar (there will be much more about Grant Green in future posts).
There’s a YouTube link to “Camp Meetin’ posted by groove addict here:-
The closing track on Side 1 ‘Dem Tambourines’ is another stormer but probably not for those of immobile feet and a gentle jazz disposition- who may like Sonny Clark’s wonderful piano on Pigeon Peas. The link to ‘Dem Tambourines’ posted on YouTube by retrospeko follows:-
The band etc:- Don Wilkerson (tenor sax); Grant Green (guitar) Sonny Clark (piano); Butch Warren (bass) Billy Higgins (drums). Recorded: 18 June 1962. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Sleeve Notes: Dudley Williams. Cover photo: Reid Miles. Issued as Blue Note 4107.
What a graphically strong cover, by the way!