Come Back Two Times
I first heard “Come Back Jack” on Henry Butler’s 1990 CD, Orleans Inspiration; but I soon discovered a version from a decade earlier on a Ramsey Lewis LP. I recently found my CD burn of the song from that album (which is currently misplaced) and thought I’d bring it to you along with Butler’s take, which features Leo Nocentelli, the song's composer. I am pretty sure Leo was on the Lewis session, too. For those of you who don’t dig synths or programmed percussion – be warned, both songs have one or both going on.
"Come Back Jack" (Leo Nocentelli)
Rasmsey Lewis, from Routes, CBS, 1980
I’ll start with the earliest cut, which I think may also be the first recorded version of this song (It was not registered with the copyright office until 1990!). Ramsey Lewis’ Routes LP shows two producers, Larry Dunn and Allen Toussaint, and several recording venues, as I recall, including Sea-Saint Studios in New Orleans. Not having the album at hand, I am assuming that several of the Lewis sessions, including “Come Back Jack” were recorded at Toussant’s home base using some of his regular players, who are shown on the listings I found on the web: Leo Nocentelli, guitar; Herman Ernest, III, drums; Ken ‘Afro’ Williams, percussion; David Barard, bass, and Toussaint on keyboards, along with Lewis, of course. I find it odd that Nocentelli, who had considerable of music business experience by 1980, would offer up an un-copyrighted song for use; but, that’s showbiz; and use it they did, not that the album turned out to be very successful, or, overall, very memorable.
To my ear, the simple drum patterns on “Come Back Jack” sound programmed, the dead giveaway being the fake handclaps substituted for snare hits and the wimpy high-hat sound. So, ‘Herman The German’ (as Dr. John has called Ernest) is not in play on this cut. But, I think the cowbell, shaker, and barely discernable congas are Afro’s and go a long way to help funkfy things, along with Barard’s choice bass pops (augmented by a synth bass at times) and Nocentelli’s ax chops. Atop it all, Toussaint and Lewis bob and weave, laying down. syncopated keyboard counterpoints and unisons on the hooky melody line that is stuck in my brain lately.
[Update 12-18-2006: I got the following comment from Danny Jones, who is a producer, engineer and drummer I knew in Memphis. During the late 1970s to early 1980s, Danny was a staff engineer at Sea-Saint Studios in New Orleans and worked closely with Toussaint, many of the great session musicians on the scene, and the performers, both local and national, who recorded there. Danny was on the board for the recording of the New Orleans tracks for Routes and sets me straight on several points:
Dan, Ramsey's Comeback Jack was not programmed drums. That was, indeed, Herman Ernest. Sorry you did't like my "wimpy high-hat sound". Also, the "fake handclaps" were played by Allen Toussaint. As I only had one track open and Allen was alone clapping, I tried to thicken it up with short delays which added to the, I guess, unnaturalness? Leo was the guitar player on all of the Toussaint productions on this album (all done at Sea-Saint). I remember Leo showing Ramsey the song during those sessions. And, yes, there were synths. All the tracking sessions where played with acoustic pianos. Ramsey played on a rental 7' Steinway and Allen on the studio 9' Baldwin. The synths were overdubbed later. I think Allen played all of those parts. These sessions were quite enjoyable as I remember because in addtition to the regular "family" of the New Orleans players, Ramsey was great to work with. Hope you find this of interest. Enjoyed our interview in Memphis some years ago. Danny Jones formerly of New Orleans and Memphis now residing in the great state of Texas. ]
Ooops! I've done offended a great engineer! I just love it when someone who was actually THERE gives us the lowdown. Thanks, Danny, for the clairifications and information, for that interview, which I still have on DAT (I hope to post some of it later, as it was extremely informative), and for introducing me to Allen Toussaint at that NARAS function back then. Please feel free to drop some more on us any time!
"Come Back Jack" (Leo Nocentelli)
Henry Butler, from Orleans Inspiration, Windham Hill, 1990
Henry Butler is an incredible keyboardist from the Crescent City with an amazing mastery of multiple styles: modern jazz, traditional jazz, barrelhouse blues, soul, funk, rock and pop (and probably some others I haven’t heard yet). If you are not familiar with any of his work, get busy. Captured live at Tipitina’s in 1989, Orleans Inspiration, marked the first of his many recorded excursions into the roots music of his hometown, after moving back there. Prior to that, he made some fine modern jazz recordings in the mid-1980’s. On this show, he is joined by Michael Goods, synthesizer, the great Chris Severin on bass, Herman Jackson, drums, and Leo Nocentelli, who simply wails on “Come Back Jack”. This strutting rocker is certainly a different take on the song compared to the earlier studio version. It’s a bit more upbeat and has a lot looser arrangement. Quite frankly, I find the synth playing a distraction on it (I think it’s Butler soloing) and would have much rather heard some horns in the mix – but, again, that’s the business we call show. To me, Nocentelli’s awesome riffing here transcends those petty concerns and makes the whole thing worth hearing.
I know of one more recorded version of this tune, on the Nocentelli Live In San Francisco CD on DJM from 1997. You’ll have to find that one yourself, as it clocks in at over six minutes. While that version is definitely the rawest funk of the lot, Leo’s band seem to play it just a tad too slow. Overall, I find Toussaint’s studio arrangement to have the best groove and tempo of the lot. Maybe that shouldn’t be much of a surprise around here.