Classic Melting Pot

Archive for the ‘Tributes’ category

foto  © Richard E. Aaron

Prince & the Revolution – Raspberry Beret

Yesterday was a fairly normal Thursday. Here at the end of the semester I was busy trying to finish up grading papers in between teaching. As I came back to my office, with about an hour of grading to squeeze into my office hours, I quickly checked Facebook and was thrown into shock at the passing of Prince.

Over 24 hours later, it’s still difficult to process the fact that Prince is no longer in this world. He seemed beyond age. Immortal. Eternally beautiful. That he could be gone so suddenly and without any warning doesn’t seem real. I don’t even know how to fully gauge the influence of Prince in my life. There are loads of memories connected to his songs and performances (though I regret never being able to see him live, something that I was sure I would be able to do soon, with his performances in Oakland and Atlanta seemingly setting the stage for Los Angeles). When Denise Matthews aka Vanity passed away around Valentine’s Day I mused on the fact that Prince’s taste in women, especially Apollonia, Shiela E., Sheena Easton, Sinead O’Connor and Jill Jones, had a major influence on my own (though when I’ve thought of my “dream girl” throughout most my life, she’s been closest to looking like Vanity). When MTV showed Purple Rain late last night I thought about how the very first “home video” my family got and played on our very first brand new VCR was Purple Rain, and I can still remember the big white shell case, taking the plastic off, popping the VCR in and being mesmerized once the movie started on our own TV…So many memories.

But more than anything else, when I think of Prince I think of my mother. There’s no other song that makes me think of my mother in the way “Raspberry Beret” does…back in the days before CDs and a “repeat” button, she actually had me record and re-record the song on both sides of a cassette so that she could endlessly listen to it as she drove around. In the years since her death, whenever the song would come on, the radio, in some store, on tv, wherever, I’d immediately think of her.

Along with “Take Me With U” it’s my favorite song from Prince, it finds him at his most whimsical (and both songs taken together might be his most romantic work). Though the original video had more of a Sgt. Pepper’s feel to it, I’ve always felt that the sound and structure of the song was the one that most showed Jimi’s influence on Prince’s songwriting. After Vanity’s passing, I read that she was supposed to originally have played the lead in Purple Rain, and that when she left the project, aspects of the story changed, including a love scene in a barn, that clearly relates to this song. Given that “Beret” was written in 1982, it’s entirely possible that the song may in part be inspired by Prince and Vanity’s love affair. I’ve long felt that Vanity was the love of Prince’s life, and after losing her, many of the women he found himself with were attempts at replacing her. Though there is so much to still learn about his passing, the romantic in me wonders how her passing, also at 57, may have affected him…Prince was such a private man, it’s possible we’ll never really know. What we do know is what he left behind, the effect that he had on so many of us, simply by being his utterly unique self. May he forever rest in peace…


Last night I went to sleep early after a long day teaching classes, grading and watching some election coverage…I woke into a world without one of the most iconic MC’s of the Golden Era of Hip-Hop, Malik Taylor, affectionately known as Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest. At 45 years old, it seems unbelievable that Phife is gone. I’m sure a lot of people hoped, as we moved closer to 25th anniversaries for “Low End Theory” (later in September) and “Midnight Marauders” (in November 2018), that the members of Tribe would be able to put aside their differences and bless us with a proper reunion tour performing these albums, but that now will never happen. Q-tip dominated the first Tribe record, not just on the mic, but also on production, with Phife doing some guess work, but soon Phife became an integral part of the group and the talents that we got a glimpse of on that first record shone through brightly on the albums that followed. All day long on social media there have been many many many many many many tributes to Phife, a real tribute to how important he was to those of us who had the privilege of growing up with Hip-Hop in the 1990s. These five tracks feature my favorite moments from his work with Tribe…

“Buggin’ Out”

“Yo, microphone check one, two, what is this?
The five foot assassin with the roughneck business,
I float like gravity, never had a cavity,
Got more rhymes than the Winans got family,
No need to sweat Arsenio to gain some type of fame,
No shame in my game cause I’ll always be the same,
Styles upon styles upon styles is what I have,
You wanna diss the Phifer but you still don’t know the half…”

Like a lot of people, I first heard “Buggin’ Out” at the tail-end of the “Jazz (We Got The)” video, and when I finally bought a copy of Low End Theory, I was surprised that the two songs weren’t back to back on the album. It’s really hard for me to separate the song from the video and how the visual performance of Phife works so perfectly with the vibe of the song and of the group. While I can’t entirely remember where I was when I first saw/heard this, I can guarantee that my response to it was pretty similar to a lot of other people’s, “WHAT THE FUCK?!?!?!!!!” Those moments of complete and utter shock and surprise are a rare thing indeed.


“Heyo, Bo knows this, (What?) and Bo knows that (What?),
But Bo don’t know jack, cause Bo can’t rap,
Well what do you know, the Di-Dawg, is first up to bat,
No batteries included, and no strings attached,
No holds barred, no time for move fakin’,
Gots to get the loot so I can bring home the bacon,
Brothers front, they say the Tribe can’t flow,
But we’ve been known to do the impossible like Broadway Joe, so,
Sleep if you want, NyQuil will help you get your Z’s, troop,
But here’s the real scoop,
I’m all that and then some, short, dark, and handsome,
Bust a nut inside your eye to show you where I come from,
I’m vexed, fuming, I’ve had it up to here,
My days of paying dues are over, acknowledge me as in there (Yeah!),
Head for the border, go get a taco,
Watch me wreck it from the jump street, meaning from the get-go,
Sit back relax and let yourself go,
Don’t sweat what you heard, but act like you know.”

“Scenario” might be the best posse cut of the 1990s and Phife is the one who bats lead-off and just like Rickey Henderson did back in the day, leads it off with a home run.

“Check The Rhime”

“[Q-tip] Yo, Phife, you remember that routine,
That we used to make spiffy like Mr. Clean?
[Phife] Um um, a tidbit, um, a smidgen,
I don’t get the message so you gots to run the pigeon.
[Q-tip] You on point Phife?
[Phife] All the time, Tip.
[Q-tip] You on point Phife?
[Phife] All the time, Tip.
[Q-tip] You on point Phife?
[Phife] All the time, Tip.
[Q-tip] Well, then grab the microphone and let your words rip.

[Phife]Now here’s a funky introduction of how nice I am,
Tell your mother, tell your father, send a telegram,
I’m like an energizer cause, you see, I last long,
My crew is never ever wack because we stand strong,
Now if you say my style is wack that’s where you’re dead wrong,
I slayed that buddy in El Segundo then Push it Along,
You’d be a fool to reply that Phife is not the man,
Cause you know and I know that you know who I am,
A special shout of peace goes out to all my pals, you see,
And a middle finger goes for all you punk MC’s,
Cause I love it when you wack MC’s despise me,
They get vexed, I roll next, can’t none contest me,
I’m just a fly MC who’s five foot three and very brave,
On job remaining, no home training cause I misbehave…”

“Can I Kick It”

“Boy this track really has a lot of flavor,
When it comes to rhythms, Quest is your savior,
Follow us for the funky behavior,
Make a note on the rhythm we gave ya,
Feel free, drop your pants, check your hair,
Do you like the garments that we wear?
I instruct you to be the obeyer,
A rhythm recipe that you’ll savor,
Doesn’t matter if you’re minor or major,
Yes, the Tribe of the game we’re a player,
As you inhale like a breath of fresh air.”

I can’t improve on what I wrote to friends this morning when I first heard the news, so I’ll just quote myself on this one…”I hope I never fully understand the magic and mystery of why certain songs, sounds and musical moments move us more than others…every time I hear this song I’m transported back to my 15 year old self listening to this for the first time and having my mind blown at how fresh it all sounded…the wordplay and flow, that Lonnie Smith break mixed with Lou Reed and especially Phife’s closing rhymes on his verse, one of the few he had in that first record. For whatever reason it always gives me chills in the way that last line is said, right before the scratching and Lonnie Smith’s organ grinds out “Spinning Wheel,” EVERY.SINGLE.TIME!”

“Electric Relaxation”

“I like ’em brown, yellow, Puerto Rican or Haitian
Name is Phife Dawg from the Zulu Nation…”

Hip-Hop has always had some salacious moments, “Sex rhymes” have been a major part of the genre at least since the Fantastic Freaks got on the mic, but I’m not sure there’s a better moment of wordplay in “Sex rhyme” history than Phife’s closing verse in “Electric Relaxation,” with it’s legendary Double Entendre that’s I’m sure boosted sales for Seaman’s Furniture for a couple of years, at least on the east coast.

“If my mom don’t approve, then I’ll just elope,
Let me save the little man from inside the boat,
Let me hit it from the back, girl I won’t catch a hernia,
Bust off on your couch, now you got Semen’s Furniture.”

Whatever place there is for “Beyond Classic,” that rhyme belongs there along with Phife…truly, there will never be another. Rest In Power…


{I know I’ve been away for a month, been going through some personal things, but I think I’ve got everything sorted out and should get back to regular posting, including a couple of mixes each month and a couple of “radio” shows here on the blog…promise.}

The past couple of months have been devastating for music fans the world over.  I can’t recall a period of time during my life where so many iconic figures have passed away so close to each other.  Every time I thought I might get together a tribute post, someone else passed away, and so it seemed best to pay tribute to them all at once.

Clarence Reid aka Blowfly – Masterpiece

Clarence Reid is perhaps best known by his alter-ego, Proto-sex rap innovator Blowfly, but for fans of 1960s/1970s soul, the influence of Reid is almost impossible to fully grasp. Like his contemporaries elsewhere, such as Allen Toussaint, Willie Mitchell, Reid was a prolific song writer and arranger, who lent his talents to an extraordinary amount of songs. “Masterpiece” is maybe my favorite song of his, sampled to great effect by the Jurassic 5, and one of the best crowd pleasing mid-tempo dance floor fillers I’ve ever had the pleasure to drop the needle on.

Lemmy with Motorhead – Ace Of Spades

Like Keith Richards, you kind of had the feeling that Lemmy might be beyond death. He certainly seemed larger than life during his time here. The first time I came into contact with Lemmy, his persona and his sound, was while watching the UK comedy series “The Young Ones” on MTV in the 1980s. It’s an iconic moment from the best single episode of the show’s run, “Bambi” and one of my favorite media moments from my childhood, something that likely had a major effect on my Rock tastes as I grew older.

David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust (Isolated Vocal)

I really had planned to do several posts connected to Bowie when he passed, but it was such a huge loss I couldn’t fully wrap my head around the work necessary to write them up. Instead I just listened to Bowie. One of the things that I discovered in those early days after his passing was this track. Hearing this reminded me of being young in Georgia and making tapes of music from 96 Rock’s “Psychedelic Saturday,” when I first heard this track. I never considered that it could be the same guy who sang “Let’s Dance” and “Ashes To Ashes.” Instead I was sure it was a band, not a single vocalist. My little brain back then couldn’t comprehend the different ways that Bowie was using and manipulating his voice to give it such different sounds as if it were different people singing about “Ziggy” instead of just that one lovely man.

Maurice White with Earth, Wind & Fire – Bad Tune

So much of my childhood was shaped by the music and message of Earth, Wind & Fire. Funky and fiercely uplifting, their hits crossed across all boundaries and much of their sound was directly connected to Maurice White. While I love the albums from the group in the mid and late 1970s, it’s that first full-length record as a group (not counting the soundtrack to Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song) and shows their unique blend of Kool & the Gang, Sly Stone and Jimmy Castor’s psychedelic soul. “Bad Tune” features White on one of the instruments that would give EWF a distinctive Afro-centric sound, the Kalimba. I don’t know where/when he picked up the instrument, though I imagine it was during his early years in Chicago, given the Africanist element of many Chicago groups, including those associated with Sun Ra and Phil Cohran. “Bad Tune” is truly that, hard and funky, with a sound that literally transports you away from wherever you are.

J Dilla – Anti-American Grafitti from Donuts

All of the icons above passed away recently, but today marks the tenth anniversary of the passing of another legendary iconic figure, James DeWitt Yancey aka J Dilla aka JayDee aka Dilla Dawg or just simply Dilla. IN the time since his passing, it’s become clear that Dilla is the Hip-Hop generation’s Hendrix, perhaps even it’s Coltrane, a true revolutionary, whose approach to beatmaking will likely influence many generations to come. This year also marks the 10th anniversary of Dilla’s magnum opus, Donuts. An album that continues to amaze and astound. My favorite song from that album continues to be “Anti-American Grafitti,” which floats some Wolfman Jack over a more complex than it seems sample from Tin Tin’s “Family Tree.” The basis of the beat occurs at the very end of the song, and isn’t full enough to exist as a loop all by itself, so Dilla chopped parts of it, extended it and gave it a song structure and logic that like so many of his samples, you’re surprised when you hear the original and realize how much care was put into creating the finished product. I’m not sure if we’ll ever get another Dilla, just like all of the other icons on this list, but I do feel thankful that I lived during their times.

Rest In Peace Allen Toussaint…

November 20th, 2015
foto © Michael Wilson

foto © Michael Wilson

A truly epic second line laid rest today to one of New Orleans’ most favored sons, the legendary Allen Toussaint. Toussaint passed away on November 10th, perhaps fittingly after performing earlier in the night in Spain. I don’t know if there is any way possible to fully quantify the effect Allen Toussaint had on the music of New Orleans. In all honesty, it’s quite possible that the only other figure that even comes close to rivaling Toussaint’s influence is Louis Armstrong. If you’re a fan of New Orleans soul and funk, chances are your favorite songs have Toussaint’s fingerprints all over them, whether directly as a musician, songwriter or arranger, or just in the influence he had on virtually all of the musicians, songwriters and arrangers of the 1960s and 1970s when he was truly in the pocket and recording with essentially everyone, Lee Dorsey, Ernie K. Doe, The Meters, The Neville Bros., Betty Harris, Irma Thomas and on and on and on and on. You could have successful soul/northern soul nights just based off of tracks from Toussaint’s catalog and no one would ever tire of hearing them. The ones below are just my personal favorites.

Lee Dorsey – A Lover Was Born

Without a doubt, one of my absolute favorite songs of all-time and absolutely my single favorite thing to dance to. If you ever want to see me completely lost my shit…drop the needle on this record. Lee Dorsey, backed up by the Meters, with Allen Toussaint at the controls…it does not get any better than this right here!

Lee Dorsey & Betty Harris – Take Care Of Our Love

As big fan of Southern deep soul, there had to be one of those slow burning songs on this list. This duet between Dorsey and Betty Harris, where each pledges to remain true to the other while they are physically apart, hits me deep deep down in my heart. As with so much music out of New Orleans, much of the appeal is in the delivery of choice lines like “And don’t let no sweet talking joker, come and confuse what’s going on between you and I.”

Betty Harris – I’m Gonna Get You

One of the things I found myself appreciating at a recent Allen Toussaint tribute put on by Miles and Clifton of Funky Sole, was the great diversity of sounds in the catalog of tracks. Though Toussaint’s hands were all over many tracks in the 60s, there wasn’t a single signature sound or rhythm that is associated with the tracks. They all sound distinctive and have a special sound of their own, even as the elements they’re drawn from are so clearly recognizable as being from New Orleans. “I’m Gonna Get You” starts off as if it might be a version of Toussaint’s “Get Out My Life Woman,” (and when you compare the two, it’s possible that the songs were related, though they don’t quite seem to an answer/response kind of thing), but the use of the horns, the background vocals and Harris’ impassioned phrasing might make you forget that “Woman” even exists. Such is the power of Mr. Toussaint.

The Pointer Sisters – Yes We Can, Can

This was originally recorded with Lee Dorsey, and that version is fine and dandy, but I’ve always favored the Pointer Sisters version of the “Yes We Can, Can.” Something about the mix of all those women’s vocals just gives the song and even greater sense of uplift than the original, and elevates this song above other inspirational soul songs of the period.

Lee Dorsey – Four Corners

As much as I love dancing to “A Lover Was Born” the pure insanity of “Four Corners” comes a close second. As I get older, I have a suspicion that one day someone will play these songs back-to-back and I’ll have a heart attack right there on the dance floor from the excitement. I don’t know who is ultimately responsible for that “Now give me that shaker-maker” line that Dorsey throws out just before the drum break, but I like to think that it came about as this thing was being recorded. I would have loved to have been in the studio when this song was cut, because it sounds like one of the best parties ever committed to vinyl and LORD those drums…thank you Allen Toussaint for bringing this band together and blessing us with one of the most dynamic songs of all time, in addition to all the other gifts you gave us. For this and all of those, we are so very thankful you were in our world and we’ll make sure that future generations know your name and know your songs.


For several months I’ve been planning this show, knowing that for #200 I wanted to highlight a favorite artist, as with the Dirty Three for show #100, and though this time I’d take a look back and feature an artist that I love but might be a bit unsung or under-appreciated. Ultimately I settled on highlighting the music of Dale Ossman Warren, perhaps best known as the mind behind the 24-Carat Black. Warren should be seen as a musical genius and one of the great talents of the era, but there is relatively little publicly known about the man and his methods. What we do have are a wealth of recordings that feature Warren as a writer, arranger, producer, engineer or musician.

With the 24 Carat Black recordings as a guide, in the first hour of the program I tried to choose songs that seemed to have been clearly touched by Warren’s hand. Some of them are well known, such as his first Stax related collaboration with Isaac Hayes, “Walk On By,” others are less well-known but just as amazing, such as the Precisions “What I Want,” which has been on repeat since I tracked it down recently. I also highlight several tracks from the “lost” album that the Numero group issued in 2009. With the few tracks that they were able to salvage, the mind boggles at the music Dale Warren might have been able to create given a full budget or perhaps a different period of time.

In the second hour we have the best statement of Warren’s vision, the 1973 album Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth, played from start to finish. I’m not sure why I hadn’t thought to play that whole album on the air until now, but I’m glad that I got to do it this past Sunday, on our last show on Sunday’s before we move to Fridays at 8pm this week. Big thanks to Rob Sevier of Numero Group and Oliver Wang of for help tracking down a few of the tracks, eternal thanks to Matthew Africa (RIP) for turning me and others onto this music, and of course to the maestro himself Dale Warren, for leaving such a rich musical legacy.

Melting Pot on KPFK #200: First Hour
Melting Pot on KPFK #200: Second Hour

Playlist: 06-21-2015
{opening theme} Booker T & the MGs – Melting Pot – 7” (Stax)

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Isaac Hayes – Walk On By – 7” (Stax)
The 24 Carat Black – Best of Good Love Gone – Gone: The Promises Of Yesterday (Numero)
David Porter – I’m Afraid The Masquerade Is Over – Victim Of The Joke?: An Opera (Enterprise)
Isaac Hayes – Ike’s Mood I – …To Be Continued (Enterprise)

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The 24 Carat Black – I Began To Weep – Gone: The Promises Of Yesterday (Numero)
John Kasandra – The Other Brother/We Gotta Go On – The True Genius (Respect)
The Mad Lads – Gone, The Promises Of Yesterday – A New Beginning (Volt)
Strings’n’Things – Charge! – 7” (Jet Set)

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The Embraceables – Here I Go – 7” (Sidra)
Gloria Ann Taylor – World That’s Not Real – 7” (Selector Sound)
The Precisions – What I Want – 7” (Drew)
The 24 Carat Black – I’ll Never Let You Go – Gone: The Promises Of Yesterday (Numero)

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The 24 Carat Black – Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth (Enterprise)

Five for John Holt…R.I.P.

October 22nd, 2014


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.


Earlier this Summer, Double Nickels On The Dime, the classic album from the Minutemen, celebrated it’s 30th anniversary. Double Nickels is one of my favorite albums, something I’ve listened to hundreds of times over the years. It’s an album that has deep personal meaning for me, along with a handful of others, because it’s something that really changed the way I hear music and informed my personal and political sensibilities. When the idea for a tribute show came to mind, I knew I wanted to play the entire record, from start to finish. I wanted to include some information about the Minutemen and the recording of this album and considered using clips from the documentary We Jam Econo. Thankfully I was able to get a hold of Mike Watt and he was extremely gracious with his time, driving up from Pedro on a traffic filled hot summer weekday and spending almost two hours with me about the band and this album. Given the constraints of time, I had to edit down that conversation for the on-air program, but you can find our full conversation right here. All together this was truly a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience. One of the shows that I’m most proud of in my 20+ year radio career. Enjoy this one to the fullest.

Melting Pot on KPFK #175: First Hour
Melting Pot on KPFK #175: Second Hour

Playlist: 08-31-2014

{opening theme} Booker T & The MGs – Melting Pot – 7″ (Stax)

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Mike Watt – Interview – Recorded Live At KPFK: 07-31-2014

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The Minutemen – Side D. – Double Nickels On The Dime (SST)

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The Minutemen – Side Mike (Part 1) – Double Nickels On The Dime (SST)

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The Minutemen – Side Mike (Part 2) – Double Nickels On The Dime (SST)

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The Minutemen – Side George – Double Nickels On The Dime (SST)

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The Minutemen – Side Chaff – Double Nickels On The Dime (SST)

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{closing theme} Dungen – C. Visar Vagen – Tio Bitar (Kemado)


This was a very special show. I wasn’t on the air last week, so I wasn’t able to share the Charnett Moffett interview or pay tribute to Charlie Haden. With Haden’s passing, Moffett is without a doubt the best bass player walking the earth. We recorded the interview on Thursday, the day before we found out about Haden’s passing and so we don’t discuss him, and instead focus solely on Moffett’s exceptional career. It’s truly an honor to be able to pair this interview and performance with a tribute to Haden, as these two players (along with Mingus) are my favorite bassist/composers in Jazz History.

In the week since we learned of his passing, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on Haden’s legacy and listening to all of the fantastic tributes on KPFK. I’d pretty much known what songs I was going to play featuring Haden within a couple of hours of hearing of his passing. I’m struck that with an entire week of programming, from 5 or 6 different shows on our station, there was very little overlap in the songs people played. Charlie Haden’s career was so long and so stellar that we likely could have dedicated the entire week to him, 24/7, and never once repeated ourselves. In my case, I focused on songs that I had deep personal connection to. 10 years ago, I had a much more extensive collection of music that featured Haden. Over the last decade as I’ve started to rebuild my collection, I’ve often had to focus on the music that I knew I loved most. That is certainly the case with the majority of tracks I’ve played here, many of them recorded from around 1970 to 1973, a period of time where Haden was particularly associated with two large ensembles, his Liberation Music Orchestra and the Jazz Composer’s Orchestra. The sound of these pieces is certainly within the avant-garde, but it is marked by an extraordinary soulfulness and depth of emotion that isn’t always found within this particular branch of the creative music we call Jazz, but was always found in the music of Charlie Haden, regardless of what ensemble or style of music he played.

Each of these songs, as well as the recent collaboration with his son, Josh Haden and his band Spain, “You and I,” testify to the extraordinary beauty of Haden’s playing. As I’ve mentioned before, truly hearing Haden’s music affected me in profound ways, not just in terms of how I approach music, but also politically, emotionally and spiritually. I am a better man and more capable of recognizing the wonders of life and playing my part to increase beauty and love in this world because of the work of Charlie Haden. I will be eternally grateful to him for the many gifts he gave us all.

Melting Pot on KPFK #171: First Hour
Melting Pot on KPFK #171: Second Hour

Playlist: 07-20-2014

{opening theme} Booker T & the MGs – Melting Pot – 7″ (Stax)

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Charnett Moffett – Interview and Performance – Recorded Live at KPFK (KPFK Archives)

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Charlie Haden Tribute:
The Liberation Music Orchestra feat. Charlie Haden – Song For Che – Liberation Music Orchestra (Impulse)
The Liberation Music Orchestra feat. Charlie Haden – Els Segadors – Ballad Of The Fallen (ECM)

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The Jazz Composer’s Orchestra feat. Charlie Haden – Trans-Love Airways – The Relativity Suite (JCOA)
Joe Henderson feat. Charlie Haden – Earth – The Elements (Milestone)

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The Jazz Composer’s Orchestra feat. Charlie Haden – Hotel Overture – Escalator Over The Hill (JCOA)
Spain feat. Charlie Haden – You and I – Sargent Place (Glitterhouse)

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{closing theme} The Liberation Music Orchestra feat. Charlie Haden – We Shall Overcome – Liberation Music Orchestra (Impulse)


Charlie Haden & the Liberation Music Orchestra – Song For Che
Charlie Haden & the Liberation Music Orchestra – The Introduction/Song Of The United Front/El Quinto Regimento/Los Cuatro Generales/Viva La Quince Brigada/The Ending To The First Side

A great and glorious light in this world has gone out…on Friday, July 11th, we learned of the passing of Charlie Haden. I’m not sure it’s possible to fully understand the impact Haden’s music and style have had on musicians the world over. I’ll leave that for others. Instead here I’ll just tell of the effect his music has had on me, a subject I’ll return to next week when I host an hour long tribute to Haden on my radio show. I have no memory of the first time I heard Haden on bass. I’m sure it must have been at some point in high school, when I was starting to take baby steps into jazz, but I don’t remember it. I’m sure I had heard his music, particularly from the years he spent with Ornette Coleman, by the time I arrive at college. Surely by the time we (myself, James Diggs and Daryl “G-Wiz” Felker) brought jazz back to Album 88 I must have been familiar with his name and his work. By the time James and Daryl had left the show and it was all my own I’m certain I must have owned several records with Haden playing on them. At that time, shortly after my mother’s death, I engaged in quite a lot of record therapy and with the jazz show, much of what I dug up was out of print jazz on vinyl. At the time I had pretty extreme tastes, either funky soul-jazz that often got sampled by Hip-Hop producers or the fiery free and spiritual jazz that was rarely ever heard on the radio.

At some point in that period of time I bought a copy of this album, the first by Charlie Haden’s collective of musicians known as the Liberation Music Orchestra, originally released on Impulse records in 1970. In those days my ears were not as patient as they are now, I’d buy 10-15 records in a week and generally listen to the ones with breaks (or that I thought had breaks) and leave the others for some later day, often Sunday when the “Blue Note” aired. I may have listened to this album once or twice, I can’t remember the exact circumstances, but I do remember vividly when I finally HEARD the music on this album. I was going about my business with the album on the turntable, probably alphabetizing other records, and the moment on the first side where everything falls away and you hear, a chorus of voices rise up, almost like voices from beyond the grave, to sing a few lines of Spanish Civil War Song “El QUinto Regimento” before a blistering flamenco style solo arrives from Sam Brown that closes with a solo from Haden himself with these lightly cascading cymbals in the background. When I heard those voices and then the music that followed I stared at my turntable from across the room for a good long while. In all honesty I wasn’t sure if the voices actually came from the record, which didn’t make sense, why would these Spanish voices be coming out of this avant-grade jazz record, or there was some kind of ghostly happenings afoot.

The album finally reached another passage where the old Spanish Republican songs were super-imposed again (which, incidentally, last for longer periods of time on this version only, the 1973 repress of this album, in some cases a full second or two longer than the original from 1970 and all of the post-1990s reissues) and I finally was able to move and went over to the turntable to begin the side over again, now with my full attention on the piece. I spent the next 26 minutes listening to this extraordinary piece of music, brought together by Carla Bley and inspired by the music of Spanish Civil War. Haden2From the opening notes of “The Introduction” through all that followed after I was completely mesmerized. I just sat there in front my stereo with my hand on my chin trying to process all of that beauty. When the piece arrived at “Viva La Quince Brigada” with it’s deep swells of emotion from the entire ensemble and especially the screaming saxophone of Leandro Barbieri and the chorus now singing “Ay Carmela” I was completely overwhelmed by this music and began to openly and uncontrollably weep. I’ve shed tears over music before and since, but I’ve never had that experience again. The experience fundamentally changed aspects of my character, beginning with an obsessive look into the Spanish Civil War, deeper investigations into political music and leftist political theory from outside the US and also forever shifted my listening habits so that whenever I buy music that is new to me, I always make sure to set aside time to hear it fully.

When I finally flipped the record over and played “Song For Che” I was just as deeply moved. After years of now listening intently to the music of Charlie Haden, in all his many groups and all the many styles he played in, there’s still not a more perfect song than this one that expresses everything that was so beautiful about him. About three minutes in there is a stretch where he plays the central melody in an almost flamenco style on his double bass as a short passage of Carlos Puebla’s “Hasta Siempre” makes a brief appearance before all manner of glorious sounds erupt with the parts of the orchestra coming in led by Dewey Redman’s plaintive tenor saxophone. Every time the full group returns to the central melody near the end of this song, with Dewey’s Saxophone on one side and Don Cherry’s trumpet on the other, my heart swells. To this day it remains one of the most beautiful and deeply affecting pieces of music I’ve ever heard.

Haden3A few years ago, at the 75th anniversary of the Spanish Civil War, I did a tribute to the music of that conflict, including tracks from this album and other Liberation Music Orchestra releases (as well as the original tracks they interspersed in this album, which were released in 1963 on a 78 and reissued on CD in 1996 with notes in English, Spanish and French). At one point during the broadcast a caller called in saying that he was Charlie Haden and thanking me for doing the show and for playing his music. I honestly didn’t believe it was him until he called up again at the end of the show to give me his post office box address to send a copy of the show to, which I promptly and inexcusably lost. I thought I might have dreamed the whole thing until Maggie Lepique, the Music Director at KPFK, told me that Charlie had called her and wanted a copy of the show. In the last several years I’ve had an opportunity to interview Charlie’s son, Josh Haden and his group Spain, and have had short conversations with one of his daughters Rachel Haden who sometimes works in a local record store (in fact I bought this particular copy of this album, replacing an older one, at that store and she was at the counter when I brought my records and she beamed and proudly showed it to her co-worker). Though they play different styles of music than their father, his light shines in them and thankfully will be carried on in their music and their lives.

I feel incredibly lucky to share music like this, here online and on the various radio stations I’ve been at. Even people who don’t like Avant-Garde music recognize the incredible majesty of these songs. I’m also thankful that I got to see Charlie Haden perform late last year, perhaps one of his last public performances, as he led a CalArts edition of the Liberation Music Orchestra, performing a variety of songs, including a tribute to the then recently departed Nelson Mandela. It was sadly clear just what ill health Haden was in at that time, so frail and especially at the beginning of the night seemingly unable to stand or talk for stretches of time. But as the music played and he got excited by what the young musicians were doing, he kept coming to the microphone and telling stories, most of them centered of love in one form or another. That night closed with one of my most cherished memories, as Haden took up his bass and played some of the sweetest and saddest notes I’ve ever heard in a blissfully long rendition of “Blue In Green.” As with the first moment I really heard his playing on this album, I’ll never forget hearing Haden play on that evening. We all should feel blessed to have spent time with and been able to hear such lovely music from a truly lovely human being.

Peace be with you Charlie Haden, thank you for all you shared with us…


It was a blessing in disguise to not have been on the air last week when word hit that Lou Reed had passed away. All week long I’ve been listening to music from Reed’s long and rich career. While I felt like I knew his work with the Velvet Underground fairly well, I was surprised at how much of his solo material I’d either never heard before or had only given a cursory listen previously. What I tried to do in this tribute was focus on the songs that moved me most from Lou Reed, and that ended up being these twenty tracks recorded from 1967 to 1992. With such a prolific career, with some many albums and such high quality all over the place, I really wish I’d had a few days to pay tribute to Reed’s legacy and fully do it justice, but I’m happy with the show and whether you’ve only recently heard Reed’s music or if you’re a long time fan, I hope you enjoy it.

Melting Pot on KPFK #144: First Hour
Melting Pot on KPFK #144: Second Hour

Playlist: Lou Reed Tribute 11-3-2013
{opening theme} Booker T & the MGs – Melting Pot – 7” (Stax)

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Lou Reed – Walk On The Wild Side – Walk On The Wild Side: The Best Of Lou Reed (RCA)
The Velvet Underground – Some Kinda Love – The Velvet Underground (MGM)
The Velvet Underground – Sweet Jane [Full Length Version] – Loaded: Fully Loaded Edition (Rhino)

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Lou Reed – Vicious – Transformer (RCA)
The Velvet Underground – Sister Ray – White Light/White Heat (Verve)

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The Velvet Underground – Pale Blue Eyes – The Velvet Underground (MGM)
Lou Reed – Perfect Day – Transformer (RCA)
Lou Reed – Berlin – Lou Reed (RCA)
The Velvet Underground – Beginning To See The Light – The Velvet Underground (MGM)

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The Velvet Underground – Rock’N’Roll [Full Length Version] – Loaded: Fully Loaded Edition (Rhino)
The Velvet Underground & Nico – I’m Waiting For The Man [Stereo Edition] – The Velvet Underground & Nico: Deluxe Edition (Polydor)
Lou Reed – Make Up – Transformer (RCA)

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The Velvet Underground – I’m Set Free – The Velvet Underground (MGM)
The Velvet Underground with John Cale – Ocean [Demo] – Loaded: Fully Loaded Edition (Rhino)
The Velvet Underground – Jesus – The Velvet Underground (MGM)

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Lou Reed – Magician (Internally) – Magic and Loss (Sire)
The Velvet Underground & Nico – Sunday Morning [Single A Side Mono Version] – The Velvet Underground & Nico: Deluxe Edition (Polydor)
The Velvet Underground – Candy Says – The Velvet Underground (MGM)
Lou Reed – Coney Island Baby – Coney Island Baby (RCA)

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{closing theme} Dungen – C. Visar Vagen – Tio Bitar (Kemado)

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