Larry Willis – Hard To Handle

Larry Willis - Hard To Handle

Larry Willis is an American jazz musician who was born in New York back in 1942. His first foray into the musical world actually saw him perform an opera by Aaron Copeland under the direction of Leonard Bernstein. However, Willis decided to concentrate on jazz, due to the fact that very few African-Americans ever gained many opportunities in the world of opera.

By 1970 Willis was to record his debut album entitled “A New Kind Of Soul”, fusing jazz, bebop & soul. This week’s selection comes from that very same album and as I’m sure you might have guessed by the title, is a cover of Otis Redding’s classic. This take on it is an instrumental mod jazz arrangement, kind of similar in style I guess to Ramsey Lewis. Certainly one for the dance floor!

As well as releasing his own material as a solo artist, Willis also found fame as a member of the 70s soul/rock outfit “Blood, Sweat & Tears” with whom he played keyboards for seven years. That wasn’t all though – he also played piano alongside the legend that was Nat Adderley and can still be found performing to this day. In fact one of the reasons for this selection (apart from the fact it’s a quality track) is that I recently became aware that I dj’d at a venue last year that Larry played in – the rather cool Berlin Jazz Cafe in Madrid.


Jimmie Willis – Soul Power

Regular viewers of the blog will be aware that I’ve previously mentioned about my vast collection of hammond tracks. Well, in recent weeks I’ve had a number of requests to delve into my record box and showcase another one of these grooves. As a result I’ve bowed to the public pressure and decided to bring y’all this nugget.

This track is something that I’ve only actually bought relatively recently. I had been aware of it for a while but either forgot to look for it or occasionally was outbid for it on that popular auction website (you all know the one I’m taking about).

I’ve seen this record described as many things in the past – r&b, mod jazz, boogaloo, funk etc. The truth is it’s none of them but, it’s all of them. From the opening line you know you’re gonna be in for a treat and it certainly does not disappoint.

So ladies and gentlemen – for your information…… this is Soul Power!!

Stereoscope Jerk Explosion – Bumblebee

I hope y’all haven’t gorged too much on chocolate over the Easter period and have left a bit of room for some deliciously tasty ear candy.

So this week we’re going for something a little bit different, though no less funky. Stereoscope Jerk Explosion are a French jerk/funk combo who formed out of The Strawberry Smell & The Cryptones (two well-known acts in the French jerk & 6o’s beat scene). They formed in 2004 and their first release in 2006 “Sitarmania” was limited to only 500 copies worldwide, (of which I’m lucky enough to have one)

This selection was released in 2008 and featured as the 3rd single from the album “La Panthere Pop”. The song itself features all of the key components needed to create a funky dancefloor shaker. Hammond organ – check, wah-wah guitar – check, pounding drums – check, phasing – check.

This really has to be one of the greatest hammond/jerk/funk tracks released in the last 30 years and Stereoscope one of the finest exponents of the new funk sound of today. If you can manage to pick up a copy of this (or indeed Sitarmania) I’d highly recommend it as the artwork is really groovy, and in the case of Bumblebee, released on see-through vinyl.


The Mohawks – Baby Hold On

This week we’re gonna take you on another little trip down Hammond Street. The Mohawks should be well-known to you all by this stage given that they are one of THE most sampled artists ever, largely due to “The Champ” (the flip side of this record incidentally).

The Mohawks were fronted by the legendary British hammond organ player, Alan Hawkshaw. Hawkshaw was responsible for many theme tunes in the UK including The Dave Allen Show, Grange Hill and Countdown (currently featuring the lovely Rachel Riley). As The Mohawks, he recorded a number of singles and albums featuring many session musicians including Keith Mansfield & Brian Bennett (of The Shadows fame)

This particular selection, recorded in ’68, opens with crashing drums before Hawkshaw’s trademark funky hammond sound  kicks in and a “borrowed” horn section from Etta James’ “Tell Mama” as well as proper 60’s go-go dancer sounding backing vocals.