Welcome to Guitars & All That Jazz
Welcome to Guitars & All That Jazz
Guitars & All That Jazz was a radio station that webcast via Live365 for 11 years, ending in June 2011. The playlist consisted of guitar instrumentals, jazz, big band, early rock 'n' roll, lounge music and classic easy listening.
I hope to share some of this music with you via this blog. Most of it will be taken from the original vinyl (LPs and 45s) , cassettes and the occasional commercially unavailable CD.
Here's hoping you'll find something to enjoy. Please note files are available only for a limited time.
I urge you to purchase the digital version of the albums featured, either on CD or via download, wherever possible.
Listen to the Music
There are now two music streams. Click the appropriate player to the right.
1. Guitars & All That Jazz: Five hours of the best in jazz, guitars and other instrumental gems. New songs are added weekly.
2. Tiki Shores: Music to sweep you away to a tropical isle, a South American dance floor or a bossa nova on the beach at Rio. About 4.5 hours of classic exotica music, Latin rhythms and bossa nova.
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
George Cates (1911-2002) is best known for his role with the Lawrence Welk orchestra and TV show. Beginning in 1957, Cates was arranger and musical director for the show, which meant he conducted the orchestra in rehearsals.
At Welk's request Cates later conducted the orchestra on camera and stayed with the program until it ended in 1982.
Cates did manage to put out a few records under his own name including a fine album of exotica, Polynesian Percussion (Dot, 1961). What made this album unique was the use of a Novachord, played by Buddy Cole.
The Novachord was the first commercially available synthesizer and was put into production by the Hammond Organ Company in 1938. The first instrument was delivered to U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt in 1940 but the 500-pound behemoth failed to find much of a market. World War II halted production in 1942 and no more Novachords were ever produced. Less than 200 of the more than one thousand instruments manufactured are believed to have survived.
The Novachord was used on movie and TV soundtracks, often in horror and science fiction (House of Frankenstein and the Outer Limits TV show are two examples) and it certainly gives an odd and somewhat unsettling dimension to Polynesian Percussion.
Alvino Rey is the steel guitarist on the album and Larry Bunker and Milt Holland are among the percussionists.
I don't believe Polynesian Percussion has had a CD release. There are a couple of download releases floating about but these appear to be of rather dubious origin. The best sounding one is available here. Vinyl LPs appear to be fairly easy to come by and aren't expensive.
Alvino Rey and the percussionists get a chance to shine on the George Cates version of Hawaiian War Chant.
Saturday, July 12, 2014
Although their bluesy mainstream stylings were dismissed by many critics at the time The 3 Sounds turned out some of Blue Note's biggest selling LPs of the 1950s and 60s.
The trio began life in South Bend, Ind., put together by pianist Gene Harris and drummer Bill Dowdy, both natives of Benton Harbor, Mich. Bassist Andrew Simpkins became the third member.
After moving to New York and signing with Blue Note in 1958 The 3 Sounds recorded a phenomenal amount of material. According to the All Music Guide, Harris estimated in later years that the trio had released 35 albums worth of material. More remained unreleased.
The original trio remained together until 1967 when Dowdy departed. The 3 Sounds left Blue Note shortly after and although the group remained together until 1970, its peak had passed.
Here We Come (Blue Note, 1960) is pretty typical of the trio's output from its classic period -- mostly relaxed interpretations of jazz and pop standards. The title track, however, is a jumping original by Harris.
Here We Come
Here We Come's only CD issue as a standalone album was a Japanese Blue Note release in 1995. Used copies begin at about $18 on Amazon and if you're serious about the group's music this is the route to go.
Here We Come is also included in the four-CD out-of-copyright collection The Three Sounds: Eight Classic Albums from the European Real Gone Jazz label. Amazon has new copies starting at under $7, so you may want to take a chance even though these have likely been remastered from vinyl.
Various out-of-copyright download versions of Here We Go also are widely available.
The 3 Sounds' take on Gershwin's Summertime also comes from Here We Go.
Thursday, July 10, 2014
Although Billy Vaughn (1919-1991) recorded with large string orchestras at the beginning of his long stint with the Dot label, it wasn't until he developed his "twin-sax" sound around 1956 that his albums began to sell in big numbers. Titles like Sail Along Silv'ry Moon, Billy Vaughn Plays, Blue Hawaii and Golden Saxophones stayed on the charts for months.
Vaughn was often pictured on the LP covers holding a saxophone (or two). But he never actually played on the albums. The twin-sax leads were double tracked by Justin Gordon, who, like the rest of the Vaughn orchestra, received no credit at the time.
Theme from The Sundowners (1960) came in the middle of Vaughn's classic twin-sax period and followed the usual formula of covering recent movie and TV themes and pop songs. But this LP marked a return to the use of strings on many of the tracks, a fact that was pointed out by the sparse and banal cover notes.
The leadoff track was Theme from The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, a well-received 1960 dramatic film that garnered a supporting actress Oscar nomination for Shirley Knight. The movie also starred Dorothy McGuire and Robert Preston. The music was by Max Steiner.
Theme from The Dark at the Top of the Stairs
Theme from The Sundowners was combined with another Billy Vaughn LP from 1960 on a two-on-one CD by the Collectables label in 2006. It is, of course, out of print and commanding the usual ridiculous prices on eBay and Amazon.
The Sundowners is also available as a download from all the major sources, but the quality is likely to be substandard. A slightly better choice would probably be the four-CD set Billy Vaughn, Vol. 2 from the Real Gone Jazz label, which specializes in releases that are out of copyright in Europe. Quality of this company's releases varies, depending largely on the source material, but the price is right. You shouldn't pay more than $10-12 for this set that includes the contents of The Sundowners and seven other Vaughn LPs. A lot of dealers have it, including this one.
Here's the title song of The Sundowners album.
Monday, July 07, 2014
Pianist and organist Floyd Morris (d. 1988, age 62) spent most of his time enlivening rhythm-and-blues recording sessions in his native Chicago and had a very limited career as a solo artist, waxing half a dozen singles and the album The ConSoul of Floyd Morris (Select, 1965) between 1964 and 1972.
In the early '50s Morris appeared with a group known as the Four Shades of Rhythm at the Bar-O-Music in Chicago for several years but apparently did not record with them. He moved on to join bassist Johnny Pate's trio and then vocalist Oscar Brown, Jr. Morris settled in at Chicago's studios backing artists like Gene Chandler, The Impressions and Etta James.
That brings us to The ConSoul of Floyd Morris, a fine helping of organ instrumental R&B that also features the sax of Buddy Lucas, another veteran of the studio scene. Lucas had played on hits such Why Do Fools Fall in Love by The Teenagers and Tears on My Pillow by Little Anthony and the Imperials.
Here's a sample track from the LP, which has not been re-released in a digital format.
Call Me Darling
One of Floyd Morris's most notable appearances isn't that well known. He plays piano on Soulful Strut, which was a big instrumental hit in 1968. The record was credited to Young-Holt Unlimited, formed by two former members of the Ramsey Lewis Trio, bassist Eldee Young and drummer Red Holt. The tune had begun life as a backing track for singer Barbara Acklin's Am I the Same Girl. The vocal was stripped out and Morris's piano was added and the result was Soulful Strut, which sold two million copies.
According to Robert Pruter's book Chicago Soul neither Young nor Holt appeared on Soulful Strut, which was tracked by an anonymous group of studio players. In any case, here it is.
Saturday, July 05, 2014
The one Santo & Johnny song anyone remembers these days is Sleep Walk, their chart-topping hit from 1959. But Santo and Johnny Farina recorded prolifically for the Canadian-American label between 1959 and 1965, releasing 10 albums and dozens of singles. Among the 45s, only the immediate followup to Sleepwalk, Tear Drop, was a sizable hit. Their first several albums also were big sellers.
Santo & Johnny later took their combination of steel and electric guitar to the Imperial label for several LPs and then went on to make many more recordings in Italy where they were immensely popular.
Come On In was released on Canadian-American in 1962 and among the dozen tracks was Along the Navajo Trail, the title song from a 1945 Roy Rogers cowboy movie. Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters had the big hit recording.
Along the Navajo Trail
As you can hear, Come On In backed the Farina brothers guitars with a large orchestra (conducted by Hutch Davie), not altogether successfully in some cases.
Santo & Johnny's Canadian-American recordings have been repackaged endlessly on CD and as downloads. Apparently the label's masters have been lost, so the quality of the reissues varies considerably. Proceed with caution is about the best advice I can give.
A Word About Spelling: You've probably noticed that the title of Sleep Walk is sometimes two words and others it's one. The same applies to the followup, Tear Drop. These titles were two words on the initial Santo & Johnny single releases but when the corresponding LPs were issued Sleepwalk and Teardrop had been condensed into one word. The confusion has endured ever since.
The Farina Brothers tapped into exotica music and tiki culture with their 1964 Canadian-American album Off Shore, which included Ebb Tide. It was also released as a single.
Thursday, July 03, 2014
Johnny Beecher was a pseudonym that tenor saxophonist Plas Johnson used to record two albums for the Charter label in 1963. Johnson was under contract to Capitol at the time.
The title single of the first LP, Sax Fifth Ave., was a minor hit, garnering a fair amount of airplay. It originally came out on the Hollywood-based Omega label before Warner Brothers picked it up for national distribution. I believe Omega and Charter were part of the same company, but for some reason the Charter LPs were distributed in the U.S. by MGM.
The Sax Fifth Ave. single had a "B" side, Jack Sax the City, that didn't appear on either of the albums. Perhaps this stomping piece of crime jazz didn't fit the more laid back vibe of the long-players.
Jack Sax the City
The personnel on the Sax Fifth Ave. LP included organist Bert Kendrix (misspelled as Kendricks on the single but spelled correctly on the LP), Emil Richards on vibes, bassist Jimmy Bond and either Earl Palmer or Wayne Robinson on drums. All were veterans of Los Angeles recording studios.
Both Charter LPs -- the second was On the Scene -- were combined on a 2004 CD from Blue Moon Jazz, an imprint of the Spain-based Fresh Sound Records, and issued under Mr. Beecher's real name. The Warm Sound of Plas Johnson, Tenor Sax, Vol. 1: Midnight Blues can be ordered direct from the company. The single's "B" side, available above, is not on the CD.
Here's the one Johnny Beecher hit. The label shown is the original release before Warner Brothers picked it up.