Current Issue Details

Buy Current Issue

Reviews > CDs

Published: 2004/08/27
by Brian Ferdman

The Original Jam Sessions 1969 – Quincy Jones and Bill CosbyNew Mixes, vol. 1 – Quincy Jones and Bill Cosby

CCD 2257

CCD 2262

Quincy Jones and Bill Cosby: The Original Jam Sessions 1969
Quincy Jones and Bill Cosby: The New Mixes, Vol.1

Thank God for archives. Back in the day, someone had the good sense to start recording and saving as many notes of music as humanly possible, and today we are harvesting the fruits of this labor. When Marc Cazorla, Co-Executive Producer for Quincy Jones Music, was recently moving Jones into a new office space, he discovered several boxes of Jones-led jam sessions from 1969. These jams were by-products of the 52 episodes of NBC's "The Bill Cosby Show." As musical director of the program, Jones formed his rotating band by assembling a powerhouse lineup of jazz ringers, such as Jimmy Smith, Milt Jackson, Eddie Harris, Les McCann, Ray Brown, Joe Sample, and many others. When you gather musicians of this caliber, they tend to stray from the notes on the page, and jam sessions ensue. Thankfully, the tapes were rolling, and several hours of improvs have been sifted through and whittled down to the ten tracks released as Quincy Jones and Bill Cosby: The Original Jam Sessions 1969.

With the exception of sprawling fusion, this collection offers a little bit of everything that was present in the jazz world of 1969. Milt "Bags" Jackson was still a force on the vibraphone, and his silky smooth glissandos gracefully glide through the luscious ballad "Oh Happy Day." Propelled by Jimmy Cleveland's lonesome trombone and Paul Humphrey's minimalist drums, the mysterious "Jive Den" slinks its way around the ever-bending notes of an unknown guitarist. Sadly, Jimmy Smith only appears on the album for one minute and forty-two seconds, but that time is allotted to a swinging solo organ interlude, aptly entitled "Jimmy Cookin' On Top." Speaking of cookin', "Groovy Gravy" absolutely smokes on the strength of Les McCann's dominant piano groove. Employing a style very similar to his driving anthem "Compared to What," McCann brilliantly interlaces his smoldering piano lines with the percolating rhythms of John Guerin's drums and Ernie Watts' caustic tenor sax. Finally, the album is rounded out by two completely different takes on "Hikky Burr," the theme song for "The Bill Cosby Show." Each take employs a dirty Meters-style funk, while the final offering features the future Jello Pudding Pops spokesman vocally riffing in his unique style, creating his own vocabulary of words, buzzing his lips, and scatting away.

With the release of The Original Jam Sessions 1969, producer Cazorla approached a cadre of diverse international artists in an attempt to create "new mixes" of these jams. Shunning the "remix" concept, Cazorla provided the musicians and DJs with elements of the original jam sessions and requested that tracks be "created in the same vibe as the original sessions." Hmm….sounds like a steaming pile of bull designed to market another album to a multitude of fanbases, right? Wrong. While its premise may appear fishy, the results are both surprising and incredibly dynamic.

Stylistically, The New Mixes, vol. 1 is all over the map, but an amazingly vintage sound runs rampant throughout the thirteen original offerings. American DJ Ursula 1000’s "Along Came Mr. Nobody" is a fitting way to begin this diverse album. Incorporating a funky 1969 groove with swirling sounds and modern beats, an infinitely danceable track finds a way to pay homage to Quincy Jones by including one of his signature 1970s police chases. Mario Caldato, Jr. takes "Jimmy’s Theme" by storm while skillfully sampling a crusty Jimmy Smith groove and laying it on top of some modern instrumental tracks. A distinct Latin flair is added by Venezuelan sensations Los Amigos Invisibles as they spice up "Pelando" with lots of percussion. Cornershop add their distinctive multi-cultural sound to "Valeurs Personelles," a cut overflowing with nasty funk, sharp sitar, and seductive French vocals. Stiff’s "Highland Street Hustle" is a creepy change of pace with a dark and brooding vibe that seems destined to be sampled by a hip-hop artist. The release is capped by Mix Master Mike’s incredibly inventive "Hikky Burr (remix)." Demonstrating the flair that has won him a legion of fans, his mix brilliantly downshifts from a chunky mnge of sounds into a beautifully angelic finale.

Speaking as someone who is anything but a fan of electronica and club sounds, it is really a thrill to hear where this new wave of musicians has taken this music. Nearly every offering is able to remain true to the original spirit, and in some cases, the original sound of the 1969 jam sessions, all the while forging a new destination for these themes. The only major disappointment is turned in by Soulive's Eric Krasno and Neal Evans' take on the Jimmy Smith-inspired "Miss Leslie." While Evans' organ is in the right place, Krasno's guitar is tremendously passive, and he is thoroughly outclassed on his amateurish attempt at programming a drumbeat. It probably wouldn't sound so bad if it weren't following the landmark efforts of such top-flight DJs and producers, but Krasno's endeavor sounds horribly out of place.

Cazorla has assembled two wonderful albums demonstrating the power of improvisational music. On one hand, you have the masters of jazz riffing and jamming in their prime. Fast-forward 35 years, and you get the young lions of the next generation, employing the latest technology to shred genres and create new forms. If these two releases prove anything, it's clear that even though video killed the radio star, technological advances cannot diminish the resolute spirit and soul of the jam.

Show 0 Comments