Category Archives: Don Wilkerson

Flying The Jazz Flag at Macc Record Club. November 2014

Macclesfield Record Club was in session for its third meet-up last night. Held in the upstairs bar of Mash, a stylish, quirky bar that would not be out of place in Shoreditch or Manchester’s Northern Quarter, the second Wednesday of each month offers a cornucopia of vinyl.

You know how it is. You may just have bought an amazing box set reissue of the life’s work of a critically acclaimed African musician and producer, William Onyeabor; you may select a couple of favourites from Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson; movie soundtracks might be your thing; you are a DJ who wants people to hear a potential floor filler; you might want to put metal against your fellow listeners mettle with some light satanic death thrash, while the deservedly obscure Flexi Sex might be something that just has to be played. All of these things and more were there last night.

The album of the evening, chosen through a pre-meet internet ballot and played in full was Bowie’s Hunky Dory. Discussion ranged widely over what were considered by those present to be his best recordings, without any final consensus. I’m not sure if it was the first pressing on UK RCA that was lacking in a bit of punch or whether the volume was a bit low, but after a while, it did start to sound a bit backgroundy in this context (although it’s up there with Bowie’s best for my money).

As for me, I’m the guy who fights from the Jazz corner. So much to choose from, so many potential barriers to overcome. Although there was a temptation to turn up with Albert Ayler’s Truth Is Marching In, I resisted exposing my fellow listeners to the glories of the free extremes of the Impulse label.

My first track was designed to grab the attention with some hard-edged, soul flavoured saxophone and guitar. Don Wilkerson was called on and you can hear Camp Meeting right here.

To play, touch or click on the arrow.

My own copy isn’t a brilliant pressing (French Liberty) but it still sounded OK. I expect near-mint original first pressings are rare and extremely expensive, but I live in hope.

Attendees like to hear a little about the recording before the stylus graces the groove and my temptation to say a little about Freddie Roach accompanied the title track from his Brown Sugar, presented here for your delectation:

Freddie Roach wrote in 1964, in his self-penned sleevenotes:

I decided to do show soul tunes: Brown Sugar was written with this in mind. I really pictured the dancers in my head. I saw them as they danced the twist to the first twelve bars. Then switching to the Bop for the second twelve and eight bar turnback. Then back to the twist. I could see them so plainly that instead of saying ‘One More Time” at the end, I say “Now where you think you’re going girl” because I can see the girls heading back to their seats.”

I took a look at Brown Sugar here in December 2013. Joe Henderson on tenor sax and the great Grant Green on guitar really soar. My own copy is the Blue Note mono first pressing and a beast with great presence it is too, standing sonically alongside the punchiest 12 inch singles that were played tonight. Hats off to Rudy Van Gelder at the controls. I’m confident that my excursion to the Boogaloo Baptist part of the Blue Note spectrum won the label several new friends in the Castle Quarter of Macclesfield.

I can’t praise Macc Record Club too highly, offering as it does, the opportunity to listen to music that perhaps you wouldn’t normally consider listening to. Hosts Nick and Simon have wisely, in my view, limited themselves to an entry level music system, as they don’t want to introduce hifi eliteism. However, their move from a Rega RP1 turntable with basic cartridge to a more advanced Project / Ortofon Red cartridge arrangement next month will be interesting. Those Christmas carols and festive beats will be displayed at great advantage.

If you like the concept of what you just read about, why not do it yourself and start your own Record Club right there in your own locality. You can visit Macclesfield Record Club’s Facebook pages here.

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A good excuse to write about Don Wilkerson’s ‘Preach Brother’

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.

downwithit 'Chris Holland' 'The Pelton'

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!

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