Classic Melting Pot

Fireeater

Rusty Bryant – Fire Eater

Today would have been Matthew Africa’s 43rd birthday. As has been the case since his passing in 2012, on this day I pay tribute to my friend by posting about a record that I connect with him or that connected him to me. This record in particular is special for a couple of reasons. First, it actually came from Matthew’s collection, much of which has been auctioned off on Ebay, with proceeds going to his family (including a number of records that are up right now).

MattAfrica6The second and major reason this record is special is because of the place it holds in my history as a DJ and record collector. Rusty Bryant’s “Fire Eater,” maybe more so than any other piece of rare soul-jazz, ignited the passion I have for vinyl. If you’ve ever heard the “Fire Eater” you can understand how it might have that effect. It’s without a doubt the best song and the main reason to get this album. Now, that’s not to say that the other three tracks on the album aren’t great, they are. “Free At Last” and “The Hooker” solid slower tempo songs, and “Mister S.” is a capable up tempo soul-jazz groover…but they’re not in the same league with “Fire Eater.” Nothing I’ve heard before or since is in the same league as “Fire Eater.”

I first heard this song on a collection put out by Luv’n’Haight back in 1993 (I think I got a copy of it in 1994 or 1995) called Jazz Dance Classics, Vol. 1. This collection and this series was instrumental in getting me to move beyond CDs and cassettes and to search and dig for sounds that were no longer in print, that formed the backbone of Hip-Hop or that few people had heard before. Essentially my whole career as a DJ, at least what has distinguished me from many other DJs over the years, began with that collection. It wasn’t until a decade later, and 4 or 5 years after I already knew Matthew that I even realized that this classic collection had been compiled by Matthew Africa. One of the things that I am most thankful for is that I was able to let him know what a profound effect he’d had on me simply by doing what he did best, sharing the music that he enjoyed.

Listening to “Fire Eater” is easy to see why Matthew chose this one as the centerpiece of that collection. It’s an absolute fucking monster. There’s nothing I can say about it that improves on what Matthew said back in 1993, so I’ll just leave it to him:

“A few months ago I played a certain Rusty Bryant track on Beni B’s radio show here in Berkeley and the response was astounding –within moments the station was flooded with callers begging to know what they were listening to. One caller who couldn’t get through came all the way down to the station! Why? If you have to ask, you’ve never heard Fire Eater. What is it? A raw and rampaging slice of pure jazz funk. Rusty more than holds his own, but the track is dominated by Bill Mason’s hammering organ and Idris Muhammad’s brutal drums. Well worth the price of admission.”

MattAfricaSignIn the years since I came into contact with that collection, later on tracking down the original record, I’ve played this record now on four different radio stations in three different states. Without fail someone will call up in a slightly crazed, dazed or shocked manner, asking what song this is, (generally about halfway through Bill Mason’s fiery solo on Hammond B-3). When I think back about all those times, I think about Matthew playing it at KALX for the first time and wondering what kind of effect that had on him. I’m not sure, maybe Beni knows, but I wonder if the response the “Fire Eater” got, along with other gems Matthew used to throw on, was the thing that finally convinced him to host his own show. Maybe I’ll never know, that is part of the tragedy of losing people you care for, you’re never able to answer the questions you never asked when they were here. But we do have our stories, and those of us who knew Matthew have many stories and so much music to remind us of him, for that I am eternally grateful.

Peace be with you,

Michael

Five for John Holt…R.I.P.

October 22nd, 2014

Holt

Of late I’ve been remiss in paying tribute to dearly departed musicians here on the blog, but when word of John Holt’s passing came through earlier in the week, I knew I’d be writing a bit about this man, his amazing voice and some of my favorite tracks. What I always appreciated about Holt was his smooth delivery. So cool, just effortlessly breezy, in the way the words flow. Without a doubt I’m sure Holt was a major influence on maybe my favorite singer from Jamaica, Gregory Isaacs, and his songs have been a delight to all who’ve heard them. While most people know Holt’s “The Tide Is High,” because mega pop stars Blondie covered it in the 1980s, the man cut a number of fantastic sides, originally with his group the Paragons and just by himself. These five are the ones I’ll remember him most for.

The Paragons – Wear You To The Ball

“The Tide Is High” and “On The Beach” got more acclaim, “Wear You To The Ball” is as good if not better. Maybe it’s just because of the story in the song, where the singer is taking a date to the Ball, that other people wouldn’t. As Holt croons, “Though you don’t suit those other guys, you suit me fine.” I’m a sucker for underdog/ugly duckling stories. Additionally, “Ball” has one of the most distinctive openings for a rock steady song. Just great all around.

The Paragons – I Want To Go Back

Along with all the other songs on the Paragons’ album On The Beach, I discovered this one on my first trip to the Bay Area as an adult back in 1997. I don’t know exactly how long it took, but I was convinced for years that the Beatles covered Holt and the gang, not the other way around. This version was just so good, so thoroughly soulful that it couldn’t have originated from anyone else. To this day I can’t even listen the Beatles version…for me there’s just no comparison.

John Holt – A Love I Can Feel

Another cover that I didn’t know was a cover until years later, in this case the Temptations, “I Want A Love I Can See.” Might be a little up-tempo to fully qualify as Lover’s Rock, but that sentiment and Holt’s phrasing make it just about perfect.

John Holt – Let’s Build Our Dreams

“Let’s Build Our Dreams” is without a doubt one of the most soulful reggae I’ve ever heard. Some of that comes through in the just ever so slightly slower riddim and those notes on the organ. But it’s Holt’s singing, the style and the sentiment that kills me every time. The interplay between John Holt and Slim Smith also is deeply soulful. A classic amongst classics.

John Holt – Ali Baba

One of my all-time favorites. Not a week goes by where for one reason or another either the first line, “I dreamed last night about Ali Babe, with the 40 thieves…” or “I rode through the valley with the princess by my side…” pops into my mind. My response is almost always the same, whether I’m walking down the street, sitting in my office or in my car, in the shower, wherever…I start singing it and dance a very particular reggae step. The riddim just by itself would have made this one a classic. Holt’s cooler than cool delivery makes it legendary, just like the man himself.

AlloDarlin1

One of my favorite indie-pop outfits from outside of the States, Allo Darlin’, is gracing us with a rare show this Thursday over at the Echo! Featuring Aussie Elizabeth Morris on the lead vocals, guitar and electric ukulele, the band released one of my absolute favorite late Summer songs a few years ago and are just about to release (like tomorrow!) their latest record, We Come From The Same Place, once again for Oakland’s Slumberland label. If you want to see them courtesy of Melting Pot, drop me a line to michael[at]meltingpotblog.com before 5pm, Wednesday October 22nd.

Here’s the first single from their new record, “Bright Eyes,” a vocal duet, back and forth kind of song that is beyond infectious:

I’d hoped to bring the band in to record a session at KPFK, especially since they’re not likely to be around again for several years, but instead, we’ll have to make do with this session at KEXP from 2012:

I’ve posted it before, but there’s no reason not to post it again, here’s one of the greatest end of summer songs I’ve ever heard, “Tallulah,” featuring Elizabeth Morris’ lovely voice and unique accent (Australian with a little British and something else mixed together) along with a bit uke strumming along:

SheridanHouse

Something Unique – This Feeling Between Us

Still on hiatus from the radio show for at least another week, but at least this week, we’ll have a fair amount of music and other goodies for y’all folks…starting the week of right is this new collection put out by Ubiquity records and compiled by DJ Sureshot. There probably isn’t a city that is more associated with the modern soul/boogie renaissance of the last several years than Los Angeles, and aside from all the fine work of Dam Funk and his Funkmosphere crew, Boogie music has a very 1980s LA feel. Sheridan House was one of a number of local labels that put out the funky stuff toward the end of the 1970s and early 1980s. At 27 tracks, there’s a ton of music to digest, some of which repurposes beats from other songs, but even those “versions” are enjoyable on their own merits. While I love the “sophisticated boogie,” I particularly dig the slower tracks on this album. Something Unique’s “This Feeling Between Us,” is just a shade reminiscent of the classic “You Can’t Turn Me Away” and since it was released a year later in 1981, it’s quite possible that that’s deliberate. If you dig this sound (and I don’t really know anyone who doesn’t love this sound) I’m sure you’ll dig on this collection.

foto © Valerio Berdini

foto © Valerio Berdini

This one is a bit last minute as a extra pair opened up…Mark Kozelek/Sun Kil Moon will be performing here in LA on Thursday, October 9th at the Fonda Theatre. Most people know Kozelek, by name or by sound, as the main force behind the much beloved Red House Painters. For more than a few years now he’s recorded music under the moniker Sun Kil Moon that remains connected to his past work, but also presents elements that were only hinted at with his prior band. Of late he’s especially grown fond of playing an Acoustic nylon string guitar and the results have been beautiful, particularly on 2010’s Admiral Fell Promises. Benji, his most recent release, includes some of the most personal songwriting of his career, and it’s likely that this show will feature mostly songs from that album, but who knows. With a body of work as rich and varied as Kozelek’s there’s no telling which songs he’ll perform or what mood he’ll be in. I’m sure it will be a night to remember, and if you’d like to go courtesy of Melting Pot, send me an e-mail at michael[at]meltingpotblog.com by 5pm today for a chance to win!

Not sure if tomorrow’s show will be a solo one or he’ll have a band backing him up, but either way the results are extraordinary. Here’s Sun Kil Moon with a full band back Kozelek, for the song “Richard Ramirez Died Today Of Natural Causes,” from the most recent album Benji:

I very rarely will feature a cellphone video on this site, but I highlight this one, because “Church Of The Pines” is one of my favorite recent songs from Sun Kil Moon, and also to showcase just how extraordinary Kozelek sounds when he performs solo:

Connor

Chris Connor – Where Are You
Chris Connor – Ev’rytime
Chris Connor – Get Out Of Town

As I’ve mentioned here and on the radio show, I’ve been on a major jazz record kick here in 2014. Quite a lot of that started earlier in the year when I ran across a couple records from vocalist Chris Connor while at Groove Merchant in San Francisco. While I was familiar with the name, I couldn’t recall here voice, but from the moment I dropped the needle to this album while at the store, I was in love.

Chris Connor was associated with the “cool” school of vocalists coming out of the 1940s and early 1950s, including Anita O’Day and June Christy. She actually got her big break when Christy recommended her as a replacement with Stan Kenton’s band. While I love a lot of the vocalists associated with this period of jazz, what I feel like sets Connor apart is not only how cool and effortless her singing sounds, but also the hint of vulnerability in her phrasing.

This album was her debut on Atlantic, after recorded some splendid sides on the Bethlehem record label. It’s actually a historic record, as this album was the first from a white jazz vocalist to have been released on the label, which by the mid-1950s was especially associated with Rhythm & Blues. This album, and several of the ones that followed for the label, have a mix of jazz and pop stylings. Most of the pop stuff with the strings and background vocals I can do without, it seems a waste of Connor’s talents, but when she’s with a smaller group (that on this album features John Lewis, Connie Kay, Oscar Pettiford and Barry Galbraith), as she is on “Where Are You” and “Ev’rytime,” the results are simply stunning.

On a more sociological note, I find artists like Connor fascinating, singing heterosexual love songs and never publicly being able to acknowledge the woman you love, at least not while your career is in full swing. I wish she were still alive or there were more interviews with her or her partner to detail what that life was like. Thankfully we have the music and in that music there are many layers of wonder to consider.

Cheers,

Michael

KhanBBQ

I’d heard they’d broken up, that we’d seen the last of King Khan & the BBQ show, but clearly those accounts were greatly exaggerated cause they’ll be playing here in Los Angeles on Tuesday October 7th at the El Rey. In contrast to the expansive sonic fury when he’s backed by his 10 piece (at least) band the Shrines, Khan’s work with BBQ show is stripped down and bone raw. BBQ Show would be a draw just by himself, with his one-man band percussion set-up, jangly guitars and vocals, but you add in King Khan and it ups the intensity and insanity levels far past 11. If you’d like to see them courtesy of Melting Pot, make sure to send me an e-mail to michael[at]meltingpotblog.com before 5pm on Monday, October 6th!

Just as an introduction to the sound of King Khan & the BBQ Show, here’s their video for the song “Fish Fry”:

And for a better idea of what’s in store for you if you go to the show, I think this video just about sums it up:

JFIRE

Jungle Fire – Tropicoso

First heard about Jungle Fire a couple years ago, when Oliver Wang of Soul-Sides.com was raving about their first single, “Comencemos,” a cover of Phirpo y Sus Caribes (covering Fela Kuti). I’d recently heard the original and while they two shared a number of sensibilities and style, that new version seemed tougher and tighter rhythmically. A couple of 45s for the Colemine label followed and whet our appetites for the main course, their debut album, just released by Latin-Alt label Nacional. Like a number of funky groups in the LA area, Jungle Fire shares a few members with other bands, but together their style is all their own. The band’s stock and trade is a muscular, heavy Afro Latin Funk sound. Tropicoso features the previous singles as well as a number of other originals that showcase the varied talents and inspirations of the group. “Tropicoso” starts off with a bit of a cumbia feel to it, until the drums and horns kick in and suddenly it’s become the all-star recording session that you always wished Fruko y Sus Tesos and Eddie Palmieri’s Harlem River Drive had recorded in the early 1970s. That sound never really existed, at least not until now with Jungle Fire and that’s part of the beauty of the band in this post-Hip-Hop musical landscape, the ability to mix styles and sounds in a way that pays homage to the past, but keeps things moving forward.

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