New Music for Old People: Ritchie Valens, Maceo Parker, Danny Gatton and More

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Ritchie Valens

This column is like the title says - its intention is to fill the gap for those of us who were satiated musically in the '60s and then searched desperately as we aged for music we could relate to and get the same buzz from nowadaze. iTunes was the answer for me in 2003 and I have been following the new releases every Tuesday ever since I realized there was an endless stream of music I could enjoy there.

I also include older items that I felt were obscure originally and might not have been heard back then. The reason I am writing this column is to make sure others don't miss this wonderful music. These are not top ten items; but they SHOULD'VE been!

Below is a jukebox containing all the songs I picked this week. After you read about them below, go back and listen to whatever you like by just clicking on that title in the jukebox, or stream the whole playlist by clicking on the "play" icon at the top. It's free and it's the entire song. We're not selling anything. We're just in the business of hopefully making your days better by listening to great music.

This week we are nix on the lyrix - all instrumental fare that I’m guessing most of you have never/rarely heard. These are some of my favorites for various reasons, hopefully discussed below. So sit back, relax, and as an incentive, you don’t have to listen to the words!

1. “Fast Freight” — Ritchie Valens (1:55)

I believe this is the only instrumental in Ritchie Valens’ sadly short catalogue, but powerful nonetheless. Valens’ recording band featured the amazing Earl Palmer on drums and one wonders what this track would’ve been like without his primal contributions. Also featuring a rare—for this tempo and groove in rock—stand-up bass solo. I have always loved this unexpected guitar step-out from Valens; that kid had a great feel for a 17-year-old!

2. “Southern Soul Strut” — Maceo Parker (2:58)

Kingpin of James Brown’s career for many years as bandleader, sax soloist, live emcee, Maceo put out many recordings under his own name and as co-leader of the JBs. I kinda love the groove on this one and the way it typifies Maceo’s call-and-response patented solos. This is from the late ‘80s.

3. “Goin’ Out of My Head” — Bill Frisell (2:36)

A great instrumental trio arrangement of Little Anthony’s big hit featuring an unexpected stand-up bass. Frisell puts out albums pretty often nowadays and usually does not disappoint with content, themes, and playing. This is from 2010's Beautiful Dreamers.

4. “Nit Pickin’” — Danny Gatton (2:34)

If you do not know what chicken-pickin’ is, who better to explain than the Jimi Hendrix of said genre? Guitarist Gatton left listeners and concert attendees slack-jawed by the end of each performance. From the same tree as equally obscure Roy Buchanan, they both left an amazing body of recorded work behind before they both took their own lives, comparatively early in their long, strange trips. Danny has a rich YouTube legacy, if this track gets you a little interested. Suggested for rockabilly guitarists who think they’re pretty good. High point of his recording career, in my opinion? A duet album with organ genius Joey De Francesco entitled Relentless. This is from an indie album called Unfinished Business.

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5. “Misty” — Hank Crawford (5:30)

This changed my life when it first was released in 1960. I had never heard an alto sax player quite like this one before, except for certain exchanges behind Ray Charles live and on record, and that was Hank as well. He pioneered the writing of soul horn arrangements as well in his tenure with Ray’s band for decades, starting out as a baritone player and then switching to alto. This was a track from his very first solo album, More Soul, which had a very unusual personnel lineup: it was the Ray Charles band at the time — minus Ray. So that’s nine horns, bass and drums with no instrument such as piano, guitar, organ or vibraphone to play chords behind the horns. So when someone is soloing, either the horns suggest the chords or it’s all in the bass player’s hands. The arrangements are amazing as is Hank’s expressiveness making his alto scream or cry at will. After being influenced so much by him from 1960 on, when I put Blood Sweat & Tears together I chose two trumpets, trombone and alto(!) sax, where a tenor was much more of an obvious choice. Hank ruled, as a soloist, arranger and all-around nice person. I had the pleasure of recording with him in 1993 for my only instrumental album, Rekooperation.

al-and-hank.png 6. “Double Or Nothing” — Booker T & The MG’s (2:53)

A favorite of mine, especially for some of Duck Dunn’s bass lines here. One of the greatest rhythm sections of all time flex their muscles just a wee bit here. An obscure track from their wonderful Hip Hug-Her album of 1967.

7. “Girl Talk” — Howard Roberts (2:50)

From one of the first albums my old friend Bill Szymczyk produced on his way to BB King, Elvin Bishop, Edgar Winter and, of course, The Eagles. This is a great arrangement of one of Bobby Troup’s oft-recorded compositions. I love the organist’s choice of tone settings as well. I can’t remember the name of the original album it was on but it leads off Capitol Records' Ultra-Lounge Vol. 6 - Rhapsodisia on iTunes. This is some moody stuff here.

8. "Beck in Bulgarya" — Al Kooper (2:31)

This is a track I did as a tribute to Jeff Beck about 16 years ago. We both are admirers of Bulgarian folk music so I incorporated a Bulgarian theme melodically and then did my best attempt to get that unattainable Jeff Beck sound whilst playing guitars modestly in his elongated shadow. The result? YOU decide...

9. “The Long Way Home” — 29th Street Saxophone Quartet (3:23)

Altoist Bobby Watson’s unique aggregation records with no backing musicians, forcing the arrangements to provide drum and bass equivalence and that is certainly no problem for them on this moody ballad track. I love this on a rain-filled day when there is no thought given to braving the outdoors. It is PERFECT music for that particular situation and I am sure you can find other uses for it. Gorgeous textures abound on this recording.

10. “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue” — Jimmy Smith w/Orchestra (4:39)

Composition by Richard Rodgers, arrangement by Oliver Nelson, Grady Tate on drums, Barney Kessell on guitar, and the greatest organist of all time in the spotlight. This is also impeccably recorded and mixed by legendary jazz engineer Rudy Van Gelder and producer Creed Taylor. The sound is still amazing for a January, 1964 LP and is better sounding than most records released last week. The content ain’t too bad either — a wonderful closer for Instrumental Week here at New Music For Old People.

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