Thursday, May 29, 2008


Back in the ’60s, there wasn’t as big a divide between jazz and R&B as there is today. Sure, currently there is that soft netherworld of quiet storm, a place where smooth jazz and slick R&B intertwine, but back then jazzmen could make people dance, cutting hot singles that rocked the jukebox and climbed the charts, usually Billboard’s R&B-dominated “Black Singles” chart, but often crossing over too. Of these musicians, few were as successful as organist Jimmy McGriff, who died May 24, 2008 at the age of 72. McGriff played to a larger audience because he was all about rhythm and soul, churning out thick, funky, infectious grooves on his Hammond.

This facility with the groove led McGriff to label himself as a bluesman, and there was a fair amount of truth to that. He was rooted in the blues, and compared to such contemporaries as Jimmy Smith – never mind Larry Young, who was in a different sphere entirely – he never quite delved into long, liquid solos, nor did he have consciously-crafted pop crossovers like Peter & The Wolf, either. McGriff, like his peer Richard “Groove” Holmes was all about feel, a feel that was tangible in the earthy, funky grooves that dominated his playing, a feel that was palpable even when he did a session devoted to Count Basie’s swing.

He retained that funky feel even when his records reflected the styles of the time, as they did in the ’70s when "Electric Funk", "Groove Grease" and "Soul Sugar" had fuzz guitars and deep funky grooves that later were mined for samples (they also were graced by some seriously sexy album covers). Such an emphasis on samples is accurate, as McGriff was always about rhythm, but usually McGriff’s music was old-fashioned funk, more about the gritty groove instead of James Brown vamps. This is best heard on those 45s that climbed the charts and earned heavy rotation on ’60s jukeboxes, ranging from 1962’s “I’ve Got a Woman” to 1969’s “The Worm,” sides that defined the sound of soul-jazz in the ’60s and beyond.

Of course, Jimmy McGriff went far beyond the ’60s, or those turn of the ’70s cult classics. He continued to play and record well into the new millennium, putting out LPs on Groove Merchant in the ’70s, CDs on Milestone and Telarc in the ’80s and ’90s. He wound up with a lot of records, most of them easy to enjoy, as almost all of them wound up being true to that blues-saturated soulful sound he created in the ’60s. It’s a sound that still feels soulful and right, whether it’s on the original records or samples or in the legions of younger musicians following McGriff’s footprints.

Below, his famous, oft-sampled track "Blue Juice", which has been sampled by Black Sheep ("Pass the 40") and King T ("Time to Get Out"), to name a few. RIP Jimmy!

Thursday, May 22, 2008



Normally I only post soul/funk/jazz stuff on here, but this is just too funny not to share. Bare with me.

You see, dear readers, back in the late twentieth century we had things called "land lines," which referred to your home telephone line. When we moved into the Haynes Street house in 2003, we were assigned a "home telephone number," which, in the age of cellphones, was rarely used. We mostly just kept it going for emergencies and for the internet/DSL line.

We noticed quickly after we moved in that the phone would ring fairly often--random calls from people asking for the "99 Cent Store." We'd all look at each other confused, but after another good 20-30 phone calls, we realized that a 99 Cent Store had either a) once had our same number, or b) the phone company had the wrong number listed for the 99 Cent store. Either way, neither Mac nor I felt like doing anything about it. Let THEM fix it.

Needless to say, these calls were a source of endless entertainment. Sometimes we'd pick up the phone (as a fictional 99 cent store employee) and have conversations with them; sometimes we'd ignore the calls. Sometimes they'd call at night, some on lazy Sunday afternoons, and, others at 2 or 3 in the morning. Sometimes, when people asked for the address of the store, we'd tell them that we were located on the corner of Riverside and Sepulveda (an intersection that doesn't exist here in LA, but ALMOST does. LA people will know what I mean.) Anyway, mostly we'd just laugh. It was all harmless fun. The months (and years) rolled on, and it just became a staple of life at Haynes Street.

Knowing all this: I am sharing with you the two very best voicemails people left (for the 99 Cent Store) from our house. At one time, we had about a collection of about 10-12 phone calls; unfortunately, these were the only two that survived.

Message #1: An infuriated woman calls complaining about the store's seemingly misprinted (or misread) "9 days a week" policy. (Right in the middle of her rant, the machine cuts her off. My favorite part.)

Message #2: The cashier didn't give him his change. Simple. (Hello? Hello Hello? Damn, she gave me everything but my mothafuuuucking moneeeeeeeeeyyyyyyyy)

These get funnier and funnier the more you think about them and hear them, and I just hope they make you all laugh as much as they did us. They couldn't have been written any better. Big ups to Mac and Nate for saving these before they were lost.

The volume's a tad low, so make sure you can hear 'em proper. Enjoy. They start about :07 in.