the blue note soul-jazz tribute
When we first explored the idea of re-creating the great recording sessions of the past we looked at some of the most influential and ground breaking periods in recorded music history and the engineers and record labels that took those early chances. Blue Note Records had been around since the late 1930's but it wasn't until the late 1950's, when Blue Note hired Rudy Van Gelder to engineer recordings by an up and coming generation of young black musicians in the NY City area, that the label started to take it's place as one of the monumental jazz labels. Blue Note, and Van Gelder, ushered in a new sound of jazz, riding the crest of the hard-bop wave, that was heavily influenced by soul, gospel, blues and R&B. Centered around the Hammond B3 as the main instrument and repetitive soulful rhythm as the backbone, some of the most influential recordings and performers would emerge from the 'Soul/Jazz' era including Jimmy Smith, Ramsey Lewis, Brother Jack McDuff, Jimmy McGriff, Dr. Lonnie Smith, The Crusaders and many more.
When you're looking for a Hammond B3 master in Boston you look no further than Ken Clark. He's a great player and showman with a vast encyclopedic knowledge of the styles and recordings of the 'Soul/Jazz' era having been heavily influenced by those great Hammond players of the past century. From there we let Ken Clark assemble a quartet that could pull it off with authenticity and precision.
Mike Mele was chosen for guitar. Mele is a great, skillful guitar player that can channel any of the great players of the era from Wes Montgomery, Grant Green, Kenny Burrell to Charlie Christian and make his playing sound contemporary and fresh. Though oft times stoic and quiet in demeanor, Mike Mele lives this music from deep within and when he's lost in the moment on stage the sounds he creates are etched in time.
Brandon Mayes was picked for the drums. Mayes is a Berklee grad that has spent a good chunk of his young career emulating the progressions and rhythmic styles of the early masters from Art Blakey to Steve Gadd and most of what falls between.
The surprise of the evening was the last minute addition of "Sax" Gordon Beadle on tenor sax to complete the group. Beadle is a bit of a local legend on saxophone. He's actually recorded with Rudy Van Gelder and has appeared on countless recordings and stages around the world. A quintessential showman who knows this music inside-out and can stand up to any sax player on the planet, Gordon Beadle was brilliant on this incredible evening of authentic, vintage cool jazz.
'Rock Candy' was originally recorded by Brother Jack McDuff and, not incidentally, appears on most notable lists of the top organ jazz songs of all time. It's technically not a Blue Note recording , it appeared on the Prestige label but it was engineered by Rudy Van Gelder and it speaks to the style and influence of the period. The original guitar solo featured the great George Benson but Mike Mele handles the job quite handily as does Gordon Beadle on the parts originally played by sax-ace Red Holloway.
'Back at the Chicken Shack' also appears on many lists of the great organ pieces and that's no surprise. Originally recorded by Jimmy Smith in 1963 it was the title track from the Blue Note release. It featured an all-star cast with Donald bailey on drums, Stanley Turrentine on sax and Kenny Burrell on guitar along with Smith, perhaps the greatest organ player in history. This version stays pretty true to the original piece and once again Clark and company nail it.
'All About My Girl' is a Jimmy McGriff classic that originally appeared on the Sue Records label but was later recorded for Blue Note in 1969. McGriff was heavily influenced by the early recordings by Ray Charles in the early 1960's and although a prodigy on piano by age 5, McGriff switched to the Hammond B3 and helped write the history of the legendary organ. This arrangement is kicked up a notch from the original.
'Alligator Boogaloo' was originally recorded for Blue Note in 1967 by the great Lonnie Smith on the Hammond along with George Benson on guitar, Lou Donaldson on sax and Leo Morris (Idris Muhammad) on drums.
These recordings are all available and many have been re-mastered and updated but what exists on video is rare and sketchy at best. Our main goal is to keep these recordings and these monumental moments in music history alive for future generations to discover and explore the origins. Enjoy!
THE KEN CLARK FOUR - TRIBUTE TO BLUE NOTE
THE SOUL-JAZZ YEARS
Ken Clark - Hammond B3
Mike Mele - guitar
'Sax' Gordon Beadle - tenor saxophone
Brandon Mayes - drums
The Session Crew
Produced and edited by:
H. Nat Stevens
Dan Busler Photography