Today’s post is a playlist by John Corbett, author of Vinyl Freak: Love Letters to a Dying Medium. Corbett is a music critic, record producer, and curator. He is the author of Microgroove: Forays into Other Music and Extended Play: Sounding Off from John Cage to Dr. Funkenstein, both also published by Duke University Press, and A Listener’s Guide to Free Improvisation. His writing has appeared in DownBeat, Bomb, Nka, and numerous other publications. He is the co-owner of Corbett vs. Dempsey, an art gallery in Chicago.
One of my preoccupations in writing about music and curating visual art has been the dialogue between material culture and cultural history. When artifacts move from being available to being unavailable, passing into a phase of having previously been available, their status as part of the historical record shifts. Notice of their existence becomes tenuous. Sometimes things are actively excluded, sometimes they’re rediscovered, or maybe they are lost forever. Just try to find tenor saxophonist Tommy Madman Jones’s LP Madman Speaks—virtually impossible! Susan Hiller’s beautiful, bittersweet video installation The Last Silent Movie (2007-08), which strings together a series of fragments of people telling stories in extinct or nearly extinct languages, brings such an idea to a visceral conclusion, suggesting the loss of entire lexicons and syntaxes and speech patterns. As a world, we are proportionately poorer for such vanishings.
In Vinyl Freak: Love Letters to a Dying Medium, I assembled most of the monthly (and later bi-monthly) columns that I composed for DownBeat magazine over a dozen years starting at the outset of the new millennium. These were dedicated to LPs, singles, and a few acetates or 78 rpm shellacs, all of which had fallen out of print and had never been reissued on CD. My aim, more than fluffing my record collector feathers, was to suggest the ways in which musical culture is written and rewritten in concert with its material self. Along the way, certain subthemes emerged, often unintentionally. For this playlist, I’ve extracted one of them: soul-jazz. In working on the column I was (and I continue to be) quite surprised how many wonderful records in this mode—funky, bluesy, organ-oriented, mostly recorded in the ‘50s and ‘60s, many of them for Chicago’s prolific Argo label—were impossible to find on disc. Indeed some of them are even now inaccessible on YouTube, where so much musical esoterica has resurfaced over the last decade.
Get in the good groove!
The Three Sounds, “Fannie Mae,” from Dangerous Dan Express
Thornel Schwartz with Bill Leslie, “Blue and Dues” from Soul Cookin’
Gloria Coleman Quartet with Pola Roberts, “Funky Rob,” from Soul Sisters
Melvin Jackson, “Bold and Black,” from Funky Skull
Tommy Madman Jones, “Hi Fi Apartment,” 7-inch single
Bill Leslie, “Angel Eyes,” from Diggin’ the Chicks
A.K. Salim, “Salute to Zulu,” from Afro-Soul/Drum Orgy
Jack Wilson featuring Roy Ayers, from Ramblin’
Johnny Shacklett Trio, from Live at The Hoffman House
Cozy Eggleston, “Sweet Merri Dee,” from Grand Slam
Johnny Lytle Trio, “Blue Vibes,” from Blue Vibes