Some Greasy Holiday Sides and A Dessert Topping
Well, as those of you in the States surely know, it’s coming up on the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. I’m going to take some time off and thought I’d leave your with a few things to get you through. The first two tracks from Jerkuleez and the Gamble Brothers Band are replays of posts I put up back around this time in 2004, when I didn’t have as many people stopping by. So I though I’d give ‘em another spin to celebrate my second full year here in Blogtown. The third treat is a bit of lagniappe from one of Toussaint’s projects. So, as many of you willfully ignore clogged arteries, weight gain, and tooth decay to dig in, have a great rest of the week.
"Gravy Boat" (Jerkuleez)
Jerkuleez, from Jerkuleez, broke dick records, 2002
First up to add some flava to your holiday fixin’s is this Meters-inspired piece by Jerkuleez, an infrequently assembled side-project band of musicians in Austin, TX: Malcolm ‘Papa Mail’ Welbourne, guitar; Bruce Hughes, bass; ‘Scrappy’ Jud Newcomb, guitar; Dave ‘Snizz’ Robinson, drums; and Corey Mauser, keyboards. In 2002, they put out the self-titled CD that “Gravy Boat” graces. Malcolm is the Louisiana connection here, having been raised up (as we say in the Deep South) in Shreveport, LA. He’s spent plenty of time hanging out in New Orleans over the years before and after relocating to Austin. He has one CD out as Papa Mali, the seriously funk infested and humidly atmospheric Thunder Chicken on Fog City Records from Y2K; and I just heard from him that his next CD, Do Your Thing, will be released in January on Fog City and has some very cool special guests.
“Gravy Boat” lays down a tasty sheen of grease with some loosey-goosey drumming that allows these cohorts to take a syncopated ride on the slip ‘n slide. I like the way the tune is structured, kind of a round that keeps turning back on itself, wrapping you up in the groove. Well done gravy, fellas!
When the now out-of-print Jerkuleez first came out, Papa Mali was kind enough to slip me a copy to play on my radio show in Memphis and later to give me the thumbs up to share some of it with you here. So, once again, I’m giving thanks for what I’ve got to give.
The Gamble Brothers Band, unissued, 2002
What kept me interested in the contemporary Memphis music scene, before I headed for the Deep South in 2004, were the few bands that had some New Orleans feel in their repertoire and chops, such as FreeWorld and our featured group here, the Gamble Brothers Band. I got to know these guys though their sax player, Art, when the band was in its early stages of development; and, since the first time I heard them, I have been thoroughly impressed not only by their great musicianship and songwriting, but by their seemingly effortless blend of influences from Memphis and Muscle Shoals soul to Crescent City funk, with some rock, jazz and reggae/ska blended in for good measure. Only a great band can mix such diverse elements to create a sound that they alone own; and I think they do that. The additional twist is that this four-piece has no guitar other than bass. With three CDs out now, available through their label, Archer Records, they continues to evolve and throw down. Try to catch them live somewhere and/or try a CD. You can hear some streaming audio at their myspace site.
While the GBB certainly take inspiration from and do some great live covers of Meters’ tunes, they have their own take on funk, with gifted drummer Chad Gamble being a big part of that. ”Tater Tot” is a good early example of the band’s multi-instrumental poly-rhythmic syncopations. It was cut for their Back To The Bottom CD, but did not make it onto the final table of contents due to an excess of good material; but they played it live a lot back then, and still pull it out on occasion. At the time of this recording, the rest of the band was Al Gamble on keyboards, Art Edmaiston on sax, and Will Lowrimore on bass, who left that year, and has been ably replaced by Memphian Blake Rhea. Not everything they do is like “Tater Tot”, but there are plenty of outright funky grooves and flouishes in and among their hip, diverse material.
Again, I want to give thanks to Art and all of the GBB, along with Ward Archer of Archer Records, for letting me post this unissued track (again). Although they hail from the Mid-South, the GBB are worthy to hold forth in the Home of the Groove. And, as a matter of fact, they gig in New Orleans fairly often and have done stints opening for Galatic on the road. In that capacity, they will be here in Lafayette tonight. Cant wait. Let the feel good music flow, and pass da tots!
"Whipped Cream" (Naomi Neville)
The Stokes, Alon 9019, 1965 (audio sourced from digital)
"Whipped Cream” is one of the more well-known examples of Allen Toussaint’s ability to whip up pop confections. Empty calories though they may be, many are at least fun to listen to; and two in particular, this song and “Java” (which he wrote in the late 1950’s and was covered by New Orleans trumpeter Al Hirt in 1964), became big hits when recorded by other artists.
While Toussaint was in the Army stationed in Texas, having been drafted in 1963, he was still active musically. He continued to write and formed a mainly instrumental band, the Stokes, at the base. Back in New Orleans, Joe Banashak, owner of Minit, Instant, and a number of other labels, who had employed the talented keyboardist, writer, arranger, and producer since around 1960, had set up the Alon label almost exclusively for Toussaint’s projects. Since Hirt had just had a smash with “Java”, Banashak suggested that Toussaint work up more instrumentals for release. The temporary soldier had no problem doing that and soon was recording the tunes for release on Alon. “Whipped Cream” b/w “Piecrust”, both written under the pen-name, Naomi Neville (his mother's maiden name), was the first single from the Stokes, but it didn’t make much noise. Then a couple of months after it came out, it was covered by an ensemble of California studio musicians, Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass. The song went large on the charts in 1965 and was the title track of their LP, Whipped Cream & Other Delights, which sold in excess of six million copies. Alpert’s take on“Whipped Cream” was assured longevity when it was used as the theme song for the TV show, The Dating Game; and I’m sure Toussaint could have bought his Rolls Royce from the royalties from that song alone.
The Stokes, in their own name and as Al Fayard, their drummer, and the Young Ones, had seven singles released on Alon, none of which did much commercially. I think the band also backed Toussaint on his first vocal recording, “Go Back Home” b/w “Poor Boy, Got To Move” on Alon during the same period. Upon his return from the Army, Toussaint was disappointed with the label’s lack of success and left to partner with Marshall Sehorn, form Sansu Productions, and make even more musical history.
In the Stokes’ original recording, you hear some light syncopation and slight suggestions of marching band style drumming from Fayard, who was from the New Orleans area. It’s a well put together little concoction, minutely arranged, as usual, by Toussaint, but nowhere near funky. I’ve added it as just a light topper to our holiday week musical repast. So, you’ve got your grease and your sweet. Enjoy.