(Pictured – Eric Johnson)
You know how you get in a mood? Musically, that is if not otherwise. For some reason, I keep hearing instrumentals lately and am digging them. Well, I always loved them but lately, I’ve just been in that state of mind. So here are a few for your dining and dancing pleasure.
There are three guitarists whom Guitar Player magazine has nominated to its guitar player hall of fame – Steve Howe, Steve Morse, and Eric Johnson. It was my privilege to jam on stage with Morse and I got to do a video call (along with some other fans) with Howe. (Boy he likes to talk.) And I saw Eric Johnson in concert, just before COVID hit. The thing these three guys have in common is not only their monster chops but also the fact that they don’t sound like anybody else.
Wikipedia: “Eric Johnson (born August 17, 1954) is an American guitarist, vocalist, composer, and multi-instrumentalist. His 1990 album Ah Via Musicom was certified platinum by the RIAA, and the single “Cliffs of Dover” won the Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.
Best known for his electric guitar skills, Johnson is also a highly proficient acoustic, lap steel, resonator, and bass guitarist, as well as an accomplished pianist and vocalist. He plays many musical genres, including rock, blues, jazz fusion, soul, folk, new-age, classical, and country.”
I don’t even know how to classify “Cliffs of Dover.” As a guitarist I know I am much more of a conventional blues and Chuck Berry-influenced guy and none of these licks would ever even occur to me:
I hadn’t heard this next song in years and hadn’t even planned on including it. But it came on the radio and I thought, hmm, perfect for my instrumental thing. Young-Holt Unlimited were a Chicago-based band. A couple of the guys were veterans of jazzer Ramsey Lewis’ band. “Soulful Strut” was a pretty big hit for them…
… sort of. It turns out that, well, here’s what Wikipedia says:
“Although Barbara Acklin recorded the song first, a producer removed her voice from the track, replaced it with a piano solo, and released the track in November 1968 as “Soulful Strut” credited to Young-Holt Unlimited.
It became a gold record. Neither Eldee Young nor Red Holt is believed to have played on the track, which was the work of session musicians identified only as the Brunswick Studio Band. Acklin’s version was released in February 1969 and reached #33 on the R&B chart, crossing over and peaking at #79 on the pop charts. (Wacky, wacky music business.)
If you’ve read this blog for more than five minutes you’ll know that I kinda dig the Allman Brothers Band. This song, “KInd of Bird,” is a Warren Haynes/Dickey Betts tribute to Charlie Parker. It’s from the 1991 album Shades of Two Worlds during what I would call their renaissance period. LIke all the best ABB stuff, it swings:
One of my favorite jazz tunes is by saxophonist Oliver Nelson. It’s from his classic album The Blues and the Abstract Truth and it’s called “Stolen Moments.” I had the rare pleasure of butchering this once or twice in a half-assed jazz band long ago. Couldn’t even tell you what key it’s in anymore: