Saturday, March 7, 2009

Donny Hathaway - "What a Woman Really Means" (1973)



A Donny Hathaway track from 1973 I'd never heard ? WTF ?

A few weeks back I was talking music with an old friend, and we got to talking about how much we both love Hathaway's final studio album, "Extension of a Man" from 1973.

There's a multi-layered melancholy when listening to it - the passion of his extraordinary voice, songwriting and arrangements mixes with the poignancy of the promise that it showed, in the knowledge of the fact that he jumped off a building six years later, deep in depression.

"Yes", said my friend, "that's why that extra track from the sessions on that Atlantic comp a few years ago was like a gift, so unexpected ... "

Extra track?

"The Atlantic Unearthed comp ... unreleased tracks from Atlantic artists".


And so I discovered that I'd missed the 2006 release of a Donny Hathaway song, coming from the same sessions as one of my favourite 70s soul albums ... Maybe I'm the last person on earth to discover it, maybe not. I decided that if even one of you haven't heard it, it's worth a post. It wouldn't have been the best track if it had made the album, but it gets me when that chorus kicks in halfways through.

Download above, 320 MP3, or just have a listen.

"Extension of a Man" link goes to "Rare & Groove Jazz"

Thursday, March 5, 2009

LaMont Johnson - "Aces" (1979)

LaMont Johnson returns three years after "Nine : A Mystical Musical Allegory", and rather surprisingly - when you read his liner notes at that last post - names his album "Aces" rather than "Twelve".

In the course of those three years, he seems to have been preoccupied with his work as a kung fu movie producer and his parallel career as a rising star in the Church of Scientology, with this being his first recording since that last album. Too busy "auditing" those girls on the front cover? We may never know ...

Arkadin (check his great new blog) and I had an interesting discussion in the comments of the "Nine" post, and dug up an old Scientology brochure on ebay which describes a very alternate Johnson universe to that described in his official biography statements. Since that will disappear in a few days, I've archived the text and brochure scans here.

But back to the music : Even though the cover's been immortalised on Crap Jazz Covers, there's some good music to be found here, even if it doesn't have the range of "Nine". Johnson's mainly on piano, with some occasional rhodes and subtle synth.

I really like his piano work here - all in all, the album's not too 1979 apart from the slight overuse of reverbed space. I remember being in studios in the late 70s - we were all quite enamoured with the hastening development of reverb units, and everything sounded 'interesting' through a cloud of reverb when you wore headphones ...

The careers of the musicians are mostly a mystery to me and Google, apart from trumpet player Gary Pack, who worked on several albums with Stan Kenton. Several of the players seem to have started off with this album, but haven't gone on to a lot of high profile work.

The title track "Aces" (preview above) has been comped on one of those Kon and Amir collections. It's got a nice loping unison melody from trumpeter Gary Pack and saxophonist John Rekenics - who work really well together in general on this session - against a string synth background multi-tracked with Johnson's piano, leading to a sparse synth solo. "Virunga Dance" and "Life Is a Sweet Thing" are other nice tracks with a similar but more acoustic feel.

Generally, LaMont Johnson is reaching back to his post-bop roots in terms of his arrangements of tracks like "Second Hand Child", while the harmonic structures cross broader fields in tracks like the Kenny Barron-like "Midnite Mind Mosaic", which references Brazilian jazz changes. I'm not too taken with the presence of guitarist Bill Coleman, who really needs to turn off his damn chorus pedal (or Fender amp chorus dial, it's one or the other) - things are generally better when he's shuffled into the background. Nevertheless, some great stuff here, and the best $4 buy I've made in a while.


01. Aces
02. Virunga Dance
03. Nina
04. Europa
05. Second Hand Child
06. Midnite Mind Mosaic
07. Life Is a Sweet Thing (5:24)

All compositions and arrangements by LaMont Johnson


LaMont Johnson - keyboards, vibraslap
Gary Pack - trumpet, flugelhorn, afuche
John Rekevics - soprano, tenor and alto saxaphones, flute
Bill Coleman - guitar
Gunnar Biggs - contrabass
Tim Shea - drums, triangle, apito, african agogo bells


Aces - the LaMont Johnson Sextette
A MasterScores production
Produced by Don Harris and France Johnson
Composed and Arranged by LaMont Johnson
Recorded at Western Audio Recording Studios, San Diego, California
on November 20 and 21, 1979.
Cover Design : Lalo Donfra Concepts
Production and Design Coordinator : Mitzi Lopez
Cover Photos : T.Michael Russell
Cover Photo Tinting : Lee Kromschroeder
Backliner photos : Russell Puls
Graphics : Bonkers Graphic Design, Noreen Bonker


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

LaMont Johnson - "Thunderfist" OST (1973)

A follow-on from the last post, LaMont Johnson's "Nine : A Mystical Musical Allegory".

Blogger Fraykerbreaks responded to my search for the promo 7" single from LaMont Johnson's 1973"Thunderfist" kung fu soundtrack (which features Blue Mitchell) and posted it, but (2014 note) his post is long gone. so now I'm adding it here.

It has three great tracks on one side, and radio promos for the film on the other side. The single itself was initially just manufactured to be sent to radio stations. In this download,  I've added the movie's theme that I ripped from the VHS soundtrack.

Artisan Releasing Corporation was LaMont Johnson's own film production/distribution company. The music here was re-used in the 1978 Jim Kelly vehicle "Death Dimension".

Thus far, I can't find any evidence of a full soundtrack release for "Thunderfist" - the fragment of the film I've managed to see used the opening section of the Temptation's "Pappa Was a Rolling Stone" several times for action sequences after Johnson's opening theme.

Anyway, hope you enjoy it, and thanks to Fraykerbreaks for the original post.